How to Survive Your Workplace Holiday Party

Because for some reason you have to drink with Larry from accounting for a bit.

Dec 9 2015, 6:15pm

Image via Mad Men

Whoever said "It's the most wonderful time of the year" never worked a temporary office job at a laser tag company. Workplace holiday festivities (née Christmas parties) are a perfect storm of expected decorum, copious alcohol, and middle aged typing assistants in sequins; they're virtually unrivalled in terms of sheer opportunities to embarrass yourself, learn a terrible secret about your boss, and/or kiss a work experience student. Here's how to navigate that minefield without barfing in a garbage can, swearing at the office Loud Girl, or uploading your nudes to the office Cloud.

Pre-Party Prep (PPP)
If this is your first year in the office, it's important to gather some intel so you're not heading into this party blind. Find out which of your co-workers is a sad drunk, who gets handsy after the tequila goes around, who got dumped recently, and who will try to get you to do drugs with them in the bathroom. It's also not a bad idea to try to figure out if anything better than your office's party is happening in that area on the same night, for reasons we'll get to later. If your boss is the kind of monster who has the holiday party on a weekday and expects everyone to come to work the next day, find out if there's a written or unwritten policy about coming in hungover and late. Does the office provide McDonald's the morning after the holiday party? If not, suggest this. A real job should come with security, and part of feeling safe means knowing a hash brown will be there when you need it.

Dress Code
Obviously the office party is not the time to break out your best pasties, or that bodysuit you bought from a club store that you think might look great "toned down" with a jacket over top. However, a workplace holiday event is a prime opportunity to Laney Boggs your coworkers en masse. You don't want to look like you're heading somewhere actually fun, but you do want to surprise people who see you almost every day with the information that duh, obviously, you look amazing when you're actually trying. The reaction you're going for is a soft "Wow, Barbara, I had no idea," followed by a longing gaze and two to three years of them night-liking your old Instagrams. A body-skimming jumpsuit and some dark lipstick is ideal, although basically any outfit that's not a cardigan and saggy trousers you could refer to as "a pant" will do.

In general, free alcohol is the only real reason to attend one of these things.

Freebies Policy
In general, free alcohol is the only real reason to attend one of these things. Remember: it's perfectly acceptable to make a meal out of tiny versions of regular food, and equally acceptable to make a meal out of a bunch of dry Costco cookies, depending on what's provided. If there's no free food, try to find out in advance so you can bring a purse burger. If there's no free booze, do not attend.

Do Not Bring Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend
They do not want to come.

Personnel Management
The trickiest part of any workplace activity that is not "sitting silently at your desk while on Facebook" is interacting with your co-workers. Remind yourself that it is the holidays and that you only really have to socialize with these virtual strangers once or twice a year. Try to single out the two or three colleagues who you actually like speaking to and corral them near the food. As others approach to grab a cucumber slice or mini quiche, you can make pleasant small talk for a few moments, knowing that soon your conversation partner's mouth will be filled with egg, cheese, and pastry (or cucumber, as the case may be). As the night wears on you may find yourself wanting to "get real" with one or more of your work acquaintances. Resist this urge, steering the conversation towards gentle topics like Ina Garten or how cold or hot it is this year compared to how cold or hot it was this time last year. If you do not know someone's name, simply say "Happy Holidays, my man!" to everyone. They'll get it.

NB: Under no circumstances should you spend the evening in the corner talking closely with your "Work Husband" and/or "Work Wife." This breezy title was invented to cover up the raging, aggressive horn that comes from being seated all day feeding the dregs of your own youth into a keyboard, and is not to be casually experimented with because there is plastic mistletoe nearby.

Leaving the office holiday party with your dignity intact is a feeling rivaled only by undoing your jeans stealthily under the table at a restaurant during dinner.

A Few General No's
No photos; no nicknames; no eating the warm shrimp ring; no giving out of any of your contact information including your secret Twitter handle; no taking off your shoes, modesty blazer, or bra; no asking anyone about their religious beliefs; no telling anyone anything about your sex life; no karaoke; no whispering to your workplace crush you guys could "really make it;" no shots; no shots that are on fire; no suggesting someone photocopies their butt; no learning humanizing details about coworkers you don't like; no raiding the office kitchen and making "rum tea;" no Reply All-ing everyone the recipe; no kissing; no not kissing but hinting frequently and loudly that you might kiss; no telling secrets to Gwen in the bathroom; no pranks; no saying "we should hang out more!"; no mistletoe jokes; no groping; no double dipping if people can see you; no peeing outside a toilet; no arguing with your older male coworkers about the Kardashians, they simply will not get it.

Exit Strategy
If you've had a few polite words with your boss and can't stop making horny eye contact with your Work Husband, it's time to say goodnight. Leaving the office holiday party with your dignity intact is a feeling rivaled only by undoing your jeans stealthily under the table at a restaurant during dinner (but before dessert). A good rule for exiting is immediately after your fourth drink or 9:30pm, whichever comes first. Don't bother saying goodbye to anyone: everyone is drunk and will see you again, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, until you are dead, probably. Merry Christmas!!