Ask Amber: The company holiday party

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

With the holiday season in full swing, young professionals are faced with yet another learning opportunity involving company culture: holiday parties. In this week’s Ask Amber, I will pass on some advice about remembering the office etiquette component of the office party. 

Enjoying a festive cocktail at the company holiday party can be fun, just be sure not to have too many.

Now I realize, without judgment, that when some young professionals hear the word party it may still bring up the temptation to put on your most flattering outfit (sometimes coincidently your most casual outfit), grab a six-pack and head out with your friends, ready to hit the town. Sure I am exaggerating a bit, but with good reason—holiday party season is the time to start toning down the definition of party.

The top thing to remember at the office party: EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.

Depending on the culture of your organization, there may be alcohol at the party. If you don’t remind yourself of the moderation rule, this could be your biggest downfall. As we all know, alcohol can make you do and say things you are bound to regret. Limit yourself to one drink or refrain entirely, opting to have a drink later with friends outside the office. An article in The Telegraph reminds party-goers that “The day after still counts, so be at your desk on time and make sure your work doesn’t suffer. Crawling in hung over and late (or worse, pulling a sickie) is unforgivably unprofessional.” Just because there are free drinks does not mean you should treat the holiday party like happy hour at the local bar.

Bar dress is also inappropriate for your company party. For some, this is easily avoidable because the holiday party often starts right after work (and hopefully your work attire is already appropriate!). If your holiday party is after work but you want to spice up your outfit for the occasion, bring a couple of accessories that can take your outfit from day to night. While I don’t advise changing into a sequined top or singing holiday tie, a cheery, holiday-colored scarf can easily make your work attire party ready. If your work party is on a weekend or another time when you have not been to work that day, keep in mind typical office etiquette when dressing for the party. No jeans or low cut tops, no flip flops or overdone makeup. Exercise moderation when thinking about how much to glam up or scrub down your holiday attire.

Another problem mentioned in many blogs/articles online is moderating how much you talk about work at your work party. This might sound strange considering it is, after all, a work party, but let me explain a bit further. Some of the articles I have found have noted the tendency of some to become too comfortable with the idea of slipping into “casual” mode, leading them to gripe about work or say other things that are simply unacceptable (sometimes tied to the influence of alcohol, so add this to your list of reasons to cut back). However, even if you are talking about work in a sincere and constructive manner, you may be missing the great opportunity to network with coworkers (one of the reasons for a holiday party). Get to know your coworkers better and show a genuine interest in their life outside of the office. Often this can lead to a greater understanding and bond between employees.

If you remember nothing else from this blog, please remember to use caution at the holiday party. Don’t let my list of “don’ts” stress you out and keep you away from office parties, but do let them serve as reminders that this is your chance to celebrate the year’s accomplishments in a fun, yet professional way.

Have questions for Amber? Send them to


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