As cliché as it sounds, how you conduct yourself in the presence of your colleagues—even at social functions—is extremely important, and can have very lasting effects on how you’re perceived at work. That said, there are few big don’ts to keep in mind when hanging with people from the office—looking professional while still clearly having fun is the goal, though toeing that line can be a challenge.
In the interest of keeping your job intact while impressing folks with your charm, wit, and and social savvy, here are 10 things you should never do at your office holiday party—unless you’re itching to get fired.
1. DON’T be fashionably late.
This is a company function, not an excuse for you to make a grand entrance. Nor is it a random house party at which you might not know anyone. If the event is called for right after work, head over with a few colleagues. If it’s later in the evening, make a point of being on time—you wouldn’t be late for work, would you?
2. DON’T only talk shop.
Obviously, every guest has one very specific thing in common: work. However, nothing kills a festive mood faster than droning on about Q4, the status of that past-due spreadsheet, the lack of coffee in the break room, or how the copy machines never work. Instead, ask your colleagues if they have any other fun holiday plans, where they live (if you don’t know), or anything else not office-related. It’s a party, loosen up.
3. DON’T not mingle.
Anyone who’s worked in an office knows that inter-departmental cliques are inevitable, but social events are prime opportunities to get to know colleagues you don’t work with daily, or to introduce yourself to important people that aren’t in the office regularly—the CEO, key clients, folks from another city’s satellite office. A little friendliness goes a long way at work.
That said, DO NOT openly flirt with a colleague or—yikes!—hook up with one openly. Making out at the bar with that cute guy from sales in front of your VP? Not cute.
4. DON’T bring a guest if you were asked not to.
Yeah, sometimes it sucks to have to exclude your significant other from festivities, but parties can get pricey—and your company probably thought long and hard about whether they have the budget to allow guests to attend. That said, don’t bring your boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend anyway and think your office won’t notice because it’s only one extra person. They will.
Also: Do not sneakily have them meet you at the end of the party just in time for one last drink, that’s childish. Use this off-the-clock time to hang with colleagues instead.
5. DON’T gossip.
The office party is not the time to bitch about your unfair boss, your annoying assistant, or the company’s politics at large. Not only do you run the risk of having the wrong person hear you, but it’s also majorly unprofessional. The company is celebrating its employees, and guests should be grateful. Yes, even if the soiree is in the aforementioned break room.
6. DON’T show too much skin.
Festive attire is relative, but the fact that it’s a work event should be crystal-clear, so save the skin-tight sequin backless dress for a party you attend on your own time, not the company’s. If you’re itching to wear something sparkly, try a sequin or beaded skirt paired with tights, a tailored blazer or a chic cashmere sweater. Also refrain from anything too low-cut, too teenager-y, or too flashy. This isn’t your birthday party in Vegas.
7. DON’T get hammered.
Not to be too preachy—we’re sure you know your limits—but nothing can bust your work reputation faster than getting too drunk at the holiday party. Avoid being the subject of next-day gossip (and the dreaded trip to HR) by keeping your intake to what you know you can handle. The biggest tip to remember: If dinner isn’t being served, eat first. Only amateurs show up to a cocktail party on an empty stomach.
8. DON’T leave after five minutes.
You might think nobody will notice if you slip out after a few minutes, but guess what? They will. Showing up for a hot second sends a message that you’ve got better things to do, which doesn’t reflect positively on you.
If you truly have something pressing—your grandma’s 90th birthday dinner, for example—be sure to shoot a note to your supervisors beforehand letting them know you’ll be leaving early, or you’re unable to attend. Likewise, don’t leave before saying goodbye to your boss.
9. DON’T be glued to your phone—or post real-time social media updates.
This is a big one: The act of obsessively checking your phone every two minutes is a party faux-pas—even at a work function. You can bet your boss won’t be thrilled if he’s trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at your iPhone the whole time. Checking Instagram can wait. Similarly, do not post any status updates, tweet about your boss in real time, or snap any candid pics of colleagues when they’re not looking. That’s just weird.
10. DON’T forget to thank the organizers.
Like any good party guest knows, thanking your hosts is good form—you’ll look polite, grateful, and mature. No need to make a big show of it—sending a quick email the next morning to your boss or the team that organized the event is more than enough.