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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Office Party Survival Tips

Dear Readers:

With the holiday season upon us, once again it's time for many of you to attend the annual holiday office party. Memories, good and bad, pop into our minds as we reflect on parties of years past and prepare for this year's event.

The holiday party often is the one event of the year we find ourselves indulging and behaving in ways that we normally would not. Many people assume that the office party is a setting in which "anything goes," viewing it as an opportunity to let their hair down and drink to excess.

Although office parties are intended as social events, they remain business occasions. Act as if your behavior is being observed every minute, because it is. Some people will lose their jobs as a result of their behavior at the holiday party, but many more will not even realize the long-term impact their boorish behavior will have.

Make sure you aren't the one everyone remembers for dancing on the table, flirting with your coworkers spouse or passing out on the floor. If you don't handle yourself well at the holiday party, the assumption may be that you can't handle yourself at any business event, and it may hurt your changes for advancement in the future.

If you have a story about something that happened at your holiday party, I'd like to hear from you and will share more of these stories in the future. I hope you enjoy the following examples of parties gone awry, and can learn something from these experiences as well - I know I sure did!

--I had accepted a position with a small firm. It was my first position following graduation. At the same time I was hired, a senior partner/owner came on board.
After my first week of employment, I went to a bachelor party of a friend of mine that had a stop at a local bar with female strippers. As we were leaving, I saw the new partner with several dollar bills in his hand, receiving a dance from a stripper. I didn't know if he was there for another party or if he was there on his own, so I left without saying hello. The next week at work I told a few coworkers about what I saw, and we all got a good laugh out of it.

Several months later we had our office holiday party at a popular restaurant. It was a small gathering with just employees and their spouses. As the night progressed, a couple of my coworkers began to do shots and have several drinks. In a short time, these coworkers became fairly intoxicated and one of them said loud enough for all to hear, "Hey, Steve, tell that story about when you saw 'M" (senior partner) at the strip club getting a lap dance!" Then the others, who were also very drunk, started reciting parts of my story and details of the incident. This man and his wife were seated right across from me and I have never felt more awkward in my life. If looks could kill, I would have been dead.

From that day forth, there was always a tension between that partner and myself. What a way to start my post college career.

- Steve

--Several years ago, there was a younger, newer employee who joined our company just in time to attend the holiday party. He wasn't much of a drinker and everyone decided to take full advantage of the situation by placing drinks in front of him and encouraging him to drink.

By the end of the evening he was quite intoxicated, so a couple of coworkers decided to drive him home. They dropped him off at what he said was his house and the coworkers drove away. He went to the front door and tried to open it with his keys, but was having a difficult time getting the door open.

Shortly thereafter, the police showed up and arrested him. He had been dropped off at the wrong house and was so drunk that he didn't even know it. He spent the night in jail. This poor kid could never get away from all of the ongoing comments and jokes about that evening. I still laugh when I think about it.

- Laughing

--A hypnotist had been hired to entertain us at our company party. All was going well until one of the volunteers who had been hypnotized was instructed to find the one he loved and give her a big kiss. He did what he was told alright, but he kissed the wrong person! He bypassed his wife and went right for a coworker. Everyone in the room was howling, except for the wife. I'll never forget the look on her face. I can only imagine what the conversation was like on their way home that evening.

- Jim

--The party was moving along just fine and after everyone was into a party mood, and a few people began to roast and toast other people. An inebriated woman stood up and made a rather sarcastic toast to her boss. After she was done speaking, she threw her glass of wine in his face. Apparently she was upset with him and couldn't control her anger. It was an unforgettable moment.

- Witness

--At our company party, we were invited to bring guests. This guy brought a date who ended up getting into a fight with someone else's date on the dance floor. It got so bad that one of the dates bit the other one. It was an awful scene and several people had to intervene in order to get them apart.

After that night, there was ongoing talk about the "biting incident." You were right when you said not to bring a casual date to an office party. You never know what that person might say or do.

- Going stag

Hope you have fun at your party -- but not too much fun! Happy Holiday's to all of you!

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

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