'Tis the season to be jolly and the year, like all things, both good and bad, comes to an end. The first of the year-end festivities is usually the office Christmas party, which is held a month before Christmas, before everyone goes on leave.
It's that occasion, where dictatorial bosses pretend to disguise themselves as human beings for the day, where everyone pretends to bury the hatchet and where hormones dictate, causing much whispering around the photocopy machine in the months to come. All of course lubricated by alcohol, that great social equaliser.
At the risk of sounding like an old stick-in-the-mud, just a word of warning. Before you get up on the table, baring your midriff, or decide that one more shmall whishkey can't do any harm – remember you are still at work, among people who might have to decide on whether to promote you in three months' time. People do not forget who fell out of the bus after the Christmas party.
Things not to do at the Christmas party
Hit the bottle. Especially if you are not used to drinking and three or four glasses could make you lose many of your inhibitions. Do you really feel like seeing digital photographs of yourself half-dressed doing a Madonna impersonation on the remnants of the drinks table?
Hit on somebody. If you've been eyeing the new marketing manager for six months, but just couldn't get it together to ask her out, this is not the opportunity. She's not going to take you seriously, and will merely think only Dutch courage made you do it.
Spill the beans about your personal life. Details of your personal life should not be discussed with colleagues. A few drinks may let you tell the wrong person you're having an affair or you don't get on with your stepchildren or your mother has a drinking problem. Tomorrow the story will probably be doing the rounds in the mailroom or on the other floors in your building.
Talk about work. This is a social occasion with your colleagues, not a planning meeting. Don't be a bore. For one day, people want to forget about budgets, sagging sales and looming retrenchments.
Buffet bonanza. Free food doesn't mean it's a good idea to pig out. Have a good time, but don't behave as if you've been stranded on a deserted island for a week. The last thing you want to do is to throw up on the managing director's shoes as you leave the party. This is not a smart career move. More or less in the same vein is stuffing your handbag full of food – this merely makes you look greedy and uncouth.
Ask for a raise. Just because the boss is smiling for the first time in six months doesn't mean this is a good time to talk to him about your increased salary expectations. This simply is not the time and it's also not the place.
Taking a souvenir. This is a killer. Yes, the company has booked out the restaurant for the afternoon, but doesn't give you the right to remove anything. Cutlery, table decorations, napkins – they still belong to the restaurant. Taking them amounts to theft. And how do you explain the spoon cascading from your sleeve as you leave the restaurant?
Picking a fight. Your arch rival is sitting diagonally opposite you at the table and having this person in such close proximity just lets the dam wall burst. If you vent your long list of grievances between the starter and the main course, it will spoil the dinner for everyone. Even if everything you say is true, you're the one to end up looking foolish.
Karaoke crisis. If you can't sing outside the shower, stick to it. If you are a budding Pavarotti, you would have been discovered before this party. A drunken singalong, or even worse, a drunken solo, will do little for your general esteem in the office.
Reciprocate advances from married colleagues. Just don't go down this road. It always ends in heartbreak and drama and will make colleagues lose respect for you. It also complicates the working situation if the person who has to decide on your promotion knows what you look like with no clothes on.
Let it all hang out. If you're usually dressed in semi-formal work gear, by all means go casual for the Christmas party. But don't look as if you're about to audition for a position as a lap dancer at the local strip joint.
Display your exotic dancing skills. Even if you know what you're doing, this kind of dancing best happens behind closed doors between consenting adults. It will be difficult for you to reprimand someone later for being hung over at work, if they can remember stuffing R10-notes into your underwear.
Be antisocial. Even if parties like these are not your favourite pastime, make an effort to be jolly and sociable. Chat to many people and try and have a good time. Don't corner one individual and bore them with endless details of your fly fishing trip.
Drinking and driving. Unless you fancy spending a night or two in the local slammer, sharing a cell with people you wouldn't open the front door to, just don't get in behind the steering wheel if you've had one too many. Call a taxi or get a lift with someone else. Remember there is nothing that sobers you up so quickly as realising that you've run someone over.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated October 2011)
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