The complete guide to your holiday office party this year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

With the holiday season in full force and Americans everywhere shopping on deals galore, the year is dwindling down in its final month, which means before the year comes to a wrap, there’s still one big event in the office — and it may require your attendance whether you like it or not.

The holiday party.

In recent years, yuletide givings and traditions had stalled around the office due to the after-effects of the recession. Happy times with a little eggnog were not the place after layoffs had toned the way people celebrate the holidays in the office. But holiday parties at the offices have made a comeback, and even a bigger one for the festive season this year. Nearly 76% of companies plan to hold a holiday party this year, according to a survey by coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which is the highest percentage since 2016 and up over 10% from just 65.4% who planned parties last year.

While the survey highlighted concerns about the economy (just 40% of respondents said they felt the economy improved this year compared to 63% in 2018), that isn’t stopping companies from planning or even extending invites to partners’ and families. Almost half (47%) said they will invite families and spouses this year, a number far higher than the 30% from a year ago. But even with this sweet caveat and having a lifeline to avoid awkward chit-chat with colleagues, most workers aren’t looking forward to their holiday party this year.

Is the holiday party the highlight of the year?

In a survey conducted by Monster, researchers polled 440 working respondents finding that barely 14% of respondents said they viewed their holiday party as some larger-than-life event.

In fact, most don’t.

More than 62% of employees don’t look forward to attending their company’s holiday party, with nearly half (40%) admitting they have absolutely no interest in attending this year. Whether it’s avoiding opportunities to socialize with co-workers or indulge in unnecessary juicy inter-office gossip,  workers can find any excuse to opt-out of attending this year, but be wary — the holiday office party might be a required event for most offices, according to one careers expert.

“If you’re not there, they might notice,” Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, told Ladders recently. “They do expect you to go, but they do realize you have a personal life and things happen.”

Of course, there’s also unhappy workers, that one employee who might be so done with their job that their presence brings everyone else down. According to Salemi, if you find yourself with that type of outlook, it might be best to sit out of the festivities this year because you could run into trouble if you say the wrong thing to someone or maybe even if you’re attitude is too strong to hide.

“Normally, I would say go put in face time. You don’t have to stay the whole time — stay there an hour, make the rounds, shake hands, smile, eat some food and then leave,” Salemi said. “However, if you’re at the point where it’s beyond breaking point and you feel it’ll do more damage than if you actually went, in that instance give yourself a pass and sit this one out.”

How to navigate the dos and don’ts of the party

While nearly half of companies plan to offer alcohol at their holiday parties this year, it’s important to know your limits.

The majority (53%) of respondents said they felt about 1-2 drinks was appropriate to consume at a company party or event. More than a quarter of respondents said they don’t find drinking appropriate at any work event, while 10% said they feel 3-4 drinks is fine.

Whether you’re planning to drink or not to, it’s important to know that just because it’s a holiday party doesn’t mean it isn’t a part of work.

“Go into the holiday party knowing it’s a professional environment,” Salemi added. “It’s an extension of having a social event that maybe you’ve celebrated a birthday in the office or a conference room, this happens to be a holiday party that may be offsite. Keep the office first and foremost in your mind.”

Just because it’s a holiday party doesn’t mean it isn’t work. Salemi advised workers to be alert for yourself and for others, and if you see a colleague entering a situation that’s uncomfortable, speak up and have a voice. It’s a professional party, not a personal party, no matter what your relationship with coworkers is.

Salemi stressed to be conscious of social media and keep an eye out for embarrassing photos or videos.

“Go to a party with a lens — number one, it’s a work-related event and a party second,” she said. “This way, if you want to socialize outside of work, maybe there’s an afterparty that a few of you go to after the normal party, it’s still technically a work-related event.”

What you’re missing at the holiday party

Aside from seeing someone dance with their office crush or watching the theatrics of the evening, there’s another benefit to attending your holiday party this year in terms of networking.

Holiday parties allow workers to branch out and talk to other workers who might not be within their immediate working circles. There could also be an opportunity where your boss actually speaks highly of you and could mention a project they want you to work on, which you could use as leverage.

Just be wary with how much you drink.

“You also don’t want to miss something positive that could happen,” Salemi said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to negotiate a better salary in the new year. There could be opportunities you could miss because you had one too many to drink. For people who haven’t had too much to drink, that’s the camp you want to be in.”