Party Like a Pro: Tips for the Design Office Holiday Party

It’s not uncommon for creative professionals to embrace a “work hard, play hard” mentality. But some people take it to extremes—particularly at the annual office holiday party.

photo from Shutterstock

In a new survey from The Creative Group, more than 500 advertising and marketing executives were asked to share the wackiest or most outrageous thing they have heard of an employee doing at a company event. Responses ranged from the mildly inappropriate to the unbelievably absurd:

  • “An employee brought a cocker spaniel to a work event—and the dog relieved himself by the refreshments.”
  • “One co-worker came to a Christmas party with a bag of Tupperware so she could pack up all the leftovers.”
  • “One co-worker brought all of his relatives to the office picnic.”
  • “A person left an event wearing someone else’s shoes.”
  • “Someone drove a golf cart into a river. He jumped out before the cart went into the water.”
  • “My co-workers were competing on the dance floor to see who could do the best moves. It turned into a fight and they both were let go for inappropriate behavior.”

Although you’re probably not apt to come to blows with co-workers at your holiday party, you do want to avoid making any faux pas. Here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward:

DO get the 411.
First and foremost, find out if you need to R.S.V.P. and if significant others are invited. Also make sure you know the dress code. When it comes to party attire, blending in trumps standing out.

DON’T just hang with your usual crowd.
Sure, your closest pals are a blast to spend time with, but try to branch out beyond your regular lunch clique. Use the event as an opportunity to build rapport with people in other departments. Forging connections in different corners of your workplace can help you be more effective in your role.

DO limit your libations.
Many executives surveyed told stories of out-of-control workers who embarrassed themselves after having too much to drink. Learn from these cautionary tales. Play it safe and keep the alcoholic beverages to a minimum. Whether a fancy soiree in a hotel ballroom or a laid-back shindig at the local bowling alley, remember that it’s still a work function.

DON’T put your business hat on. 
Parties are supposed to be fun and relaxing, so squash the shoptalk. Discussing typography trends is one thing, but tracking down colleagues to discuss Monday’s deadline is another.

DO say “hi” to the higher-ups.
If you work at a large firm or within an in-house setting, you might not get many chances to hobnob with those at the very top. Be bold and say hello. While you don’t want to monopolize their time or come across as a brownnoser, casually chatting for a few minutes can make a positive impression and boost your visibility.

DON’T get caught by the grinch.
Quickly excuse yourself if party poopers try to draw you into their web of negativity. You don’t want to be involved in a conversation about the creative director’s horrible fashion sense or the poor selection of hors d’oeuvres. Beyond avoiding guilt by association, you’ll find that it’s far more pleasant to mingle with those who are actually trying to have a good time.