Company Christmas party, mind your P’s and Q’s
The typical HR post around this time of year will discuss why we call the Christmas Parties the “Holiday Parties”. Other posts explain why we need to be sensitive to different cultures, blah, blah, blah. I am a minority and I do appreciate the sentiment but this year let’s get real. We all have Christmas Party fails we have witnessed. What career limiting moves have you witnessed?
I don’t want to just talk about “What” behaviors you should avoid, but importantly “Why” you should avoid specific behaviors. Ever wondered what HR and management really think about company Christmas party behavior? I see plenty of lists that say “how not to act”. What I don’t see is HOW this behavior is interpreted and how it relates to your career and the business. See this classic Holiday FAIL.
How do managers and HR really view Company Christmas parties? Each year after the holidays, I hear from HR and Executive colleagues about how some employee displayed behavior at the company Christmas party that will stay with them for the rest of their soiled career. The most common complaint from HR and Senior Managers is when employees don’t show up. The company went through a lot of effort to put on a company Christmas party and usually it is to say “thank you” to the employees. Don’t give them the finger by not showing up. The sad thing is that most employees won’t even know that their lack of holiday party participation is what is holding back their careers. Everyone in HR will.
We might think that getting drunk is OK at the holiday party because no one is fired the next day. Tipsy is OK, drunk is not. Drunk is a straw on the camel’s back and these straws add up. Memorable company Christmas party behavior isn’t just a single straw; it is the entire bale. You could have a Million Dollar 4th quarter, but you will be remembered for dancing on the table naked long after that commission check is cashed. The stories that people remember and talk about YEARS later are not how you closed Acme Publishing, but how you got drunk and embarrassed yourself. Think about the behavior you remember from your past holiday parties.
Top 10 CLM (Career Limiting Moves) at the Company Christmas Party
- Most companies provide alcohol and yes, it is ok to drink. Getting drunk and obnoxious is not. If you are going to drink, try to eat something beforehand so you don’t arrive on an empty stomach. You may see an open bar and Top Shelf alcohol “on the house”, HR sees a train wreck in slow motion. It is usually an hour before dinner is served – alcohol and empty stomachs with management present don’t pair well. This isn’t Friday night at the club where a personal debit card limits your drinking. This is a celebration, and someone else is paying. Pace yourself. The first job out of college usually means the first experience with an “open bar” and the first-year newb’s throwing up. It happens every year like clockwork.
Behavior indicator: Can you be trusted with the company credit card to entertain clients?
- Avoid complaints about your job or your manager. Alcohol always loosens the tongue and it is easy to bitch about something once the party is started and others see the glass half full. Remember that you never know who will be around the corner listening.
Behavior indicator: Every company wants employees who will be supportive of the company, and more importantly, supportive of the customers. Bitching about your manager is a sin only second to bitching about your paying customers. If you are bitching about one, you are probably bitching about the other.
- Wear something decent. Wear what is appropriate for the occasion and follow the dress code. Make sure it is clean and presentable. If jeans are appropriate, wear clean jeans. The “I am going to walk my hem off” jeans are an insult when everyone else is dressed up. Not everyone understands the distressed, ripped, $350.00 Japanese Loom Woven look. There will be people who don’t get that fashion statement and they are usually those who have the influence on your career.
Behavior indicates: If you aren’t able to dress appropriately when asked, do you follow directions? Will you represent the company to the outside appropriately?
- Single Woman? No drunk flirting. Be remembered for your intellect, not your game.
Behavior interpreted: Yes, this means more to women than men and for this, I am sincerely sorry. Don’t hate the players hate the game. Once you are labeled as less than a mind and more than a flirt at a company Christmas party, very few execs will take you seriously. If they do, it will be for all the wrong reasons. Guys are pigs, women can be bitches. Remember, even when the gossip isn’t true, everyone listens.
- Show up. Skipping the company Christmas party is taken as a blatant statement. “I don’t want to spend time with you people, and even free food and free alcohol aren’t enough to bring me out.” Some managers take absence as an insult, in the least they will question your intent. If you have a good reason to be absent, understood but your absence year after year will be noticed. You won’t get fired, but nothing will be said and you won’t get promoted.
Behavior indicates: Do you WANT to entertain clients, onboard new hires, or manage others? The company needs to believe that you not only “can” make an impact, but you “want” to. Let them know you drink the company Kool-Aid.
- Send a thank you card to your manager, department head, or CEO. Depending on the size of your company you should be able to figure out who the appropriate person/ people are. They spent a TON of money on this function. Trust me, 2 out of 100 employees will do this so the bar is low You are not sucking up, you are saying “Thank you”. It is the civilized and right thing to do.
Behavior Indicates: Will you be courteous to the customer? Can you handle our largest customers?
- Make sure your spouse is on their best behavior and dressed appropriately. You want to be remembered for your business mind, not for the fact that your home life is F’d up. Using the dating example, your +1 meeting your manager is equivalent to your +1 meeting your parents. Your department head or VP is the equivalent of an introduction to your grandparent. In the same way “who” you bring to social events makes an impact on your personal friends, it makes the same impact on your co-workers. If you show up with an S.O. that behaves, dresses, drinks, or dines inappropriately, it might as well be you. It’s called gossip and there is a reason The National Enquirer sells.
Behavior indicates: Your ability and significant other’s ability to entertain clients. Does management have to worry about your spouse is supportive of you and the company in public?
- Make introductions. Introduce your significant other to your manager and the department head. If children are present, introduce them as well. Significant others should just take the initiative and introduce themselves, thus avoiding the “I work with them, but I don’t remember their name” scenario. When you leave, say goodbye and thank your manager and department head. Don’t just “duck out” the back.
Behavior indicates: Simple common courtesy and emotional intelligence.
- We said don’t get drunk, but if you must, don’t drive home drunk. Get a ride, call a Uber or crash on the floor.
Behavior indicates: You are irresponsible and a huge liability. No company car here. PS. If you work in HR, provide cab or Uber vouchers.
Here’s the deal. Excessive alcohol or a lot of money will bring out the true inner-self in all of us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know what that true self is until it is too late. Finding out you are a mean drunk after a company Christmas party is a CLM.
See you at the after party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.