It's sort of a cliche at this point, stories about "ca-raaaazy" office holiday parties gone awry or whatever. But cliches usually exist for a reason, and in this case, the reason is that people really do tend to go apeshit at their office parties. It's the one time of year the thin veneer of propriety comes down between you and the people you spend, oh, a good 50% of your time on this earth hanging out with in order to make enough money to survive.
Which can be a really fun time to relax and get to know the people you work with in a somewhat more real way! Or an opportunity to get yourself fired for a public sex act, which actually did happen at my friend's office last year. Terrible. Before you start swilling eggnog with the interns, maybe brush up on a few ways to get through the whole thing and remain employed (and maybe have some fond memories, if you're lucky).
Obviously. It's the holidays, plus, no one wants to feel like they're at work right now, even if they are, in fact, surrounded by co-workers (and co-workers' boring spouses).
Don't: Wear a Santa Costume
Unless someone has specifically asked you to, that is. Too many weird lap-sitting associations. And definitely don't use this time to break out your "Slutty Mrs. Claus" outfit, if that's your thing. Hopefully it isn't, but either way, don't do it.
Or whoever controls the money, basically, because they're essentially throwing this party for you, which warrants acknowledgment. And, depending on the company, everyone might be too afraid to talk to them, which is a really sad way to spend a holiday party if you think about it. Suck it up.
Don't: Invite Your Boss Outside To Smoke With You
Think of how awkward that rejection will be, and wait for her to ask you.
Maybe you don't like the person whose name you got, maybe you're really fancy and it's just so hard to think of something cool that's within your office's $10 limit. No excuses. Play along, because no one likes a goddamn party pooper.
Do: Use Lotto Tickets As A Fallback Gift
Sure, they're not personalized or particularly nice, but they're still a totally fun gift for literally anyone and easy to pick up at the last second. If you do this, however, you should at least spring for some nice wrapping.
There's a good chance this is their first office holiday party, which is really pretty seminal in a person's career trajectory. Make sure they're having a good time.
Don't: Hit on the Interns
Please, please don't hit on the interns. If there's anything you should take away from this list, it's "don't hit on the interns."
It's an industry that's about to booming, you'd be an idiot not to. And if your co-workers aren't biting, you can always pretend it was just a topical joke. No harm no foul.
Don't: Mention Your Salary
For any reason, to anyone, no matter how much you've had to drink. Shop talk is bad enough as it is, but money talk is totally lethal (and uncomfortable).
It's Christmas, after all, loosen up. But only do this like once. Unless the head of the company, say, offers to shoot tequila into your mouth with a squirt gun, in which case, follow your heart.
Don't: Be Drunker Than Your Bosses
There's no better yardstick for party propriety. Watch them like a festive hawk.
Do: Instigate a Dance-Off
Everyone likes this, after a few whiskeys.
Dont: Use This Opportunity to Grind With Your Coworkers
Oh, still tempted? Remember that every single person in that room has a camera phone and access to the internet. In addition to eyes and memories.
The best way to end a random party conversation is to just casually leave, anyway. People usually don't notice or care.
Don't: Skip Any of the Free Food Being Offered
Chances are you don't make enough money to not go way overboard on food you don't have to pay for, and depending on how you're approaching the party, you may want to line your stomach. Just a thought.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.