How To Navigate Office Holiday Parties With Poise
A Holiday Party Gone Wrong
Like many of us, I have a story of a holiday party gone wrong. In 2014, I was young and plucky and working for a menswear-oriented fashionphile’s dream company. I lived in a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-style apartment on the Upper East Side and had my dream position. I had the clout, I had the uniforms, and I was working for a company leading America into a new age of fashion. But like many people navigating their early careers, I was anxious and overwhelmed.
Although I loved my coworkers and enjoyed going to the office every day, I often turned to a drink (or two) to unwind. So when a holiday party with never-ending champagne came knocking, I should have declined to attend, or at least declined the booze. But I was 22, loved my coworkers, and was terribly excited to eat at the Waverly Inn. Of course, I went, and of course, I drank.
It was a quiet party at first. Everyone was chatting gaily in their pristine party wear that hugged the festive setting in all the right places. Sans inebriation, I’m quite good at party talk and was enjoying getting to know some of the employees that I rarely interacted with at the office—pleasant conversation and complimenting outfits is my bread and butter. Glass one down. Time for a refill!
Soon, I was starting on drink number three, and that’s when things changed. Conversations grew longer. Drinks moved more quickly. For the most part, it was fine—fun, even. I connected more with coworkers; we laughed and enjoyed our time together. But then I began talking to upper management. People started to realize I was drunk, which is not a good look on me.
Towards the eleventh hour, I decided to tell my boss, a VP, that I was surely going to be late to the office the next morning. True to my word, I arrived at the office at a soft 11:30 a.m. the following day, with my head throbbing, tail between my legs, and soul full of regret. Mind you—it was Wednesday.
Remember this cautionary tale as you wade into this season full of parties and revelry. There is so much to gain from adeptly moving through fetes during the holidays, especially when they’re connected to your career. Friendships can be made, alliances forged, upward mobility put into motion, and so much more if you enjoy responsibly.
So, how do you navigate office parties with poise? Here’s what I’ve learned throughout the years.
Impress With Your Dress
As themed parties go, “holiday” is quite a treat to prepare for. Velvet, crimson, lace, emeralds—the fashion at one’s disposal makes me giddy. Embrace the holidays, be yourself, and remember that everyone benefits from having a sharp dresser in the room. Clean lines, layers for reveals, industry-standard skin, jewel tones, decadent fabrics, high-waisted white trousers with an oversized red blouse—my ideas for what makes a perfect party outfit are endless. If you have questions, ask in the comments!
To find something beautiful with ease, take a look at wardrobe rental sites. Many of them have edits for these festivities. Clothing rental is so 2020. Your wallet and Earth will thank you.
Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Why not skip booze this year? What harm could it do? If life is stressful, avoid the open bar, as it will probably make stressors more unmanageable. Instead, hydrate, eat, and get merry! Whenever I opt to skip alcohol, I still enjoy having something in hand. Whether that be water, food, kombucha, or a mocktail is dependent on what the party has to offer. If you’re going to drink, definitely don’t pass on the holiday roast beast or fruitcakes. You’ll want to have something in your stomach besides alcohol.
If you are opting out on drinks, don’t be afraid to recruit a sober buddy; It’s always easier to achieve corporate domination with a teammate by your side. One way or another, be sure to watch your beverage intake. Drink water every other drink. Slurred words and a trip in your step won’t match anyone’s shoes.
Be Thoughtful About Conversations
Fashion, literature, art, film. All can lead to the most riveting, and appropriate, conversation! Politics is great if you and your coworkers enjoy productive discussions on current affairs. We’re on the verge of an election, after all. If you find yourself thinking about business 24/7, give it a break. Permit yourself to let it go for five hours. Detach, and see how much fun you can have.
In line with avoiding work talk, remember that it’s not a college party. Coworkers don’t need to know about the feud between you and your younger sister. No one wants to go to the office after being on the receiving end of an hour-long lifer with “the one with the hair in accounting.”
And if you’ve had a bit to drink, it may be best to avoid speaking to managers and executives working above you. There’s no gaze more difficult to stomach than one looking down with regret and embarrassment. Know your crowd. Enjoy your time, but remember: your boss and coworkers count on you to do your job on Monday morning. If they can’t trust you to behave for one night, why should they trust you at work?
Know When To Leave
Come late, leave early. You don’t need to wait around for the second person to arrive, and you shouldn’t see bussers clear out the bar. This is not a night out in Mykonos. It’s okay to be one of the first to call it a night—what is there to miss?
At the very least, make sure you’re not the last person to leave. Unless you’re in charge of the cleanup crew, once the party starts waning, make like Cinderella if she hadn’t lost a slipper; wrap yourself in a thin veil of mystery by pulling an Irish exit–works every time.
To simplify the moral to my holiday horror story, be smart this season. When you leave your coats at the door, don’t drop your judgment off as well. Drink a little less, laugh a bit more, and know that, in doing so, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying what the holiday season is all about: love, happiness, and the timeless gift of a bonus check.
James Francis Kelley is a writer and stylist based in Los Angeles. While he has many interests, he’s most passionate about creating an eco-conscience culture and preparing for a globalized future. If he’s not working, he can be found on Duolingo, biking to electronica music, or browsing Mr. Porter. Find his work on his website, and his musings on Instagram.