“I Got Fired For Getting Plastered At the Office Holiday Party”

At this time of the year, there’s plenty of advice out there on stocking fillers and budget presents for your coworkers. Is there any advice on how to keep your dignity – and your job – after the office holiday party? What happens when you overstep boundaries with the coworker that you otherwise wouldn’t? How do you explain your behavior that next day if you were the one who called your boss a “wuss” or tried to snog Joe in marketing? Most corporations are humor-challenged, so if you still want your job in the New Year try to separate business from pleasure. At least that’s the view of Montana-based HR specialist Karen Rigby, who warns you can get fired for all the alcohol-fueled transgressions at the office holiday party.

Each year HRs throw a fun yet corporate Christmas party and every year a few people destroy their career. The chances are, your ever-so-generous boss may splurge thousands of dollars on food and booze to wash away the twelve months of pent-up frustration. But it’s not a reason to photocopy your bare bottoms, or get high and sled down the stairways. It’s just another business hour and you must be careful.

Nightmare on the Drunken Street

It’s fine to have a couple of drinks with your cube-mates but make sure you don’t end up in the wrong bed at 4 a.m. with a whiskey-and-cigarette tongue or throw up in the stall next to your boss. You’ll eventually need to face the music, or even worse, your colleagues’ laughter, or anger.

office holiday party

Stories get retold, and as soon as the holiday season starts, people will reminisce.

“It’s wisest to treat the office parties more like work. If the overall vibe of the party is too boozy, consider switching to club soda or setting a strict limit,” Rigby said.

Start by asking yourself what is your company culture like? Are drunken-mixers a regular thing? Try to be realistic and get a bit of perspective. If gin in the water coolers is what your company means by work-hard-play-hard culture, then you’re probably okay. But if non-alcoholic mimosas is what those kitschy parties are all about, then your colleagues will remember your sloppy table dance through the rest of December.

Pay attention to who isn’t drinking. Some don’t think because of religious reasons, some don’t drink because alcohol triggers their migraines, or because they want to watch those calories. Home in on a non-drinker and try to have a good time.

Thanks for the handy tip about a booze-less night, but what about public declarations of love and lust? I’ll never get up the nerve to ask Ryan from sales to go on a date with me without a drink! Or sell my CEO on my big idea that could help the company save thousands of dollars.

Public Declarations of Love and Lust, You Ask?

Your drunk self is not funnier, smarter, or more interesting than your sober self. Unless, of course, you want to keep relying on alcohol to make your Jim-and-Pam fantasies come true.

For that reason alone, you don’t want your HR to remind you that the office policy is the same for an office holiday party. This includes everything from unwelcome advances to grinding on 70s classics on the dance floor as everybody else watches in horror. Just avoid being the person your colleagues talk about on Monday morning.

public declaration on office holiday party

It’s wisest to treat the office parties more like work. If the overall vibe of the party is too boozy, consider switching to club soda or setting a strict limit.

Another big no, and as tempting as it may be, is to deliver a pitch on your big idea to your boss. Doing it while drunk can have catastrophic ramifications for your career. The last thing you want to do is reinforce memories of your nightmarish pitch every time you catch a glimpse of your boss.

Not all incidents are easily forgotten. Even if you have the right kind of personality, a bit of notoriety can make you stand out like a sore thumb. In the longer term, it’s advisable to not repeat the same performance the following year.

“Stories get retold,” Rigby says, “and as soon as the holiday season starts, people will reminisce.”

However, if whatever you do is downright embarrassing, and comes right under the “career-limiting” spectrum, then you may look for another job where you can start with a clean slate.

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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