Among the weekend's new movie releases was “Office Christmas Party,” a seasonal comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman.
The movie plays the corporate tradition for laughs with raunchiness and over-the-top hi jinks. An entertaining movie, says Florida State University business professor Wayne Hochwarter, but not exactly a guide for your career. At least, not if you want to keep working.
“Tonight the decisions you make will have consequences that’ll haunt you for the rest of your professional lives,” one of the movie's characters says as the office party is about to begin.
It’s a funny movie line, Hochwarter says, but not so funny if it actually comes true. But on the flip side, he says attending your company's annual holiday merry-making could actually advance your career, as long as you do the right things and avoid the wrong ones.
Put in an appearance
Hochwarter says employees should go to the office party. It should not only be enjoyable, it demonstrates to colleagues and superiors that you're part of the team.
“I tell my students the Christmas party is a work party. Look at it as work,” Hochwarter said. “You may not want to go, but you might be ostracized if you don’t go. There’s a certain obligation to it.”
Don't hook-up or get drunk
It might seem obvious, but getting hammered in front of your boss and co-workers can't be a good thing, and Hochwarter says playing the role of “the drunken fool” is the quickest way to kill a career.
One of the dangers of getting drunk at the office party is your judgment could go out the window and you might find yourself getting a little too romantic with a co-worker. That is sure to follow you back to the office when everyone sobers up.
Hochwarter says bosses are increasingly concerned about employee fraternization and the complications it can lead to. It's another reason to switch to club soda after a couple of drinks.
Not everyone is comfortable in social settings. Sometimes they can be awkward, especially when employees aren't sure how to engage with supervisors outside the office environment.
That's why Hochwarter suggests giving some thought to some light conversation topics before arriving at the party. Avoid talking business and steer clear of controversial topics.
“It should be a social function,” Hochwarter said. “If you ask people work-related stuff, why do you need a party? People don’t want to do that stuff at a Christmas party. They just want to get to know people a little bit better.”
Toward that end, Hochwarter says it is important to mingle, trying to speak or say hello to as many people at the party as possible, without getting trapped in a never-ending conversation.
Have an exit strategy with a target departure time and be sure to express your gratitude to your boss and others who may have organized the party.
If all this doesn't sound like a great night out, it probably isn't – and that's the point. You aren't there to blow off steam and have a great time, but rather to make a positive impression on your boss and co-workers.