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4 Faux Pas to Avoid at the Office Holiday Party

The holiday season is just around the corner. With these happy holiday times come more opportunities to socialize with your colleagues, during working hours and at company-sponsored events. With alcohol in the mix, the normal mental guard that you maintain to keep you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person may become compromised, so here are four faux pas you should do your best to avoid.

4 Faux Pas to Avoid at the Office Holiday Party (Photo: iStockphoto)

Complaining to someone from HR about your boss during a social event
Don’t be a party pooper; leave Jim and Janet from HR alone with your sob story about why your boss is the devil. They don’t want to hear about it, especially during a holiday party, group get-together or happy hour. Make an appointment with them during normal working hours when they can actually help you. All you are doing when you decide to pester HR with your complaining is making a fool out of yourself. I’ve attended many internal events when too much alcohol gets tossed around and suddenly I became the resident psychoanalyst to a poor soul who was just ‘done wrong’ by his boss (I was in HR in my past life). The party is not the time or the place. Don’t be that guy. Please.

Broadcasting the huge bonus you just found out you are getting
Generally, it’s a faux pas to talk specifics about compensation, particularly in professional services firms where you are essentially banned from broaching the topic. Obviously in real life, people do talk specifics, but normally it’s in confidence. Do not speak of the great bonus you expect to get in front of others as this just demonstrates your arrogance and insensitivity. Plan on getting de-friended by the people around who you get turned off by you running your mouth about money.

Interrupting the head of your group (or any senior-level executive) when they are speaking
I have also seen this happen more times than I’d care to admit in the most white-shoe settings that exist in New York; each time I was appalled and looked on in stunned silence. It’s like watching a car crash – you want to look away but you just can’t help yourself. Embarrassing barely covers this.  A manager or junior executive who rudely cuts off or interrupts the boss holding court during a social gathering will no doubt receive a payoff of an icy stare and possibly worse. Let the boss speak and save yourself!

Doing more than one shot of alcohol with your team
This is especially hard for the twenty-something work-hard/play-hard types out there where a party isn’t a party without doing shots regardless of whether you are at a work event or not. But I’m here to give you some words of caution:  limit yourself to just one shot. It’s a swift and downward spiral if you acquiesce to a second, third or heaven-forbid fourth shot with the people with whom you work.  After the fourth round of Jameson odds are you will not know and have no control over what secrets you’re disclosing to the closest ear to you. Don’t jeopardize your past, present and future reputation. Take heed!

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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