Office Holiday Party Etiquette

Office Holiday Party Etiquette | Corporette2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on office holiday party etiquette, but you may also want to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette.

I’m working on a monster post about what to wear to your office holiday party, and in the meantime found all these great articles about office holiday party etiquette, which we haven’t discussed in forever — so I thought we should discuss today, as a bit of a precursor to the “what to wear to your office holiday party” post. (Although of course feel free to share what you plan to wear to your party this year!)

For my $.02, it comes down to some simple rules:

  • If it’s your first holiday party, don’t assume — talk to others so you know what to expect, because there can be a huge variation in office holiday parties. Some offices have a midday Santa hat+suit kind of luncheon; others have a Friday night affair at a hotel ballroom.  (One of my old offices did the hotel ballroom for the low key affair, and another black tie ball in January just for attorneys.) If you can’t ask anyone, look for clues — if it’s a Friday night after work, odds are good that people are going to be still wearing their office clothes (with one small tweak like a party blazer or statement necklace).  If it starts at 5, it may be over by 7.  Another way to gauge the formality: where the event is held.  If it’s chosen for locality (the closest hotel ballroom, the closest restaurant, etc), odds are it’s going to be more low key than an event a bit further from the office.
  • Do not get tipsy, let alone drunk.  Save it for the office after party or when you’re at an event that isn’t affiliated with work. (Many moons ago, we also talked about what your drink says about you at the office cocktail party.)
  • Make it about the people, not the food or drink.  That’s a good hallmark of any party attendee, but it goes doubly here.
  • Talk to everyone.  Fight the urge to huddle in the corner with your friends, or only try to network with the VIPs.  It’s a great time to smile and laugh with your subordinates, as well as support staff.  A corrollary:
  • Don’t just talk about work.  If your boss comes over and needs to discuss a project, that’s one thing — but assume that people want to talk about anything but that.  Politics and religion are still dicey topics, of course, but there are a ton of other party-appropriate conversation topics.
  • If the next day is a work day, it’s business as usual. 

Office Holiday Party Etiquette, Further Reading:

Ladies, what are your best etiquette tips for the office holiday party? Care to share any fun stories about misunderstandings of office holiday party etiquette? 




  1. Wildkitten :

    My #1 work party tip is to have your favorite beverage waiting for you at home – that way when you’re exhausted by making small talk with strangers and just want to get tipsy on a cocktail, you can do so in the safety of your own home.

    • Wild Kitten, you are so smart, I never even thought of this! But you did so I do NOT have to! YAY! Anyway, Kat, my office hold’s a big holiday party for CLEINT’s (in addition to our own internal party), and in past year’s we have had to dress up like ELVES. I convinced the manageing partner NOT to make us do that any more b/c we did NOT look very profesional, and mabye that is why we were NOT included in the NY Magazine’s list of Best Lawyers this year. He said we could dress as we want, but that we HAVE to mingel with all of the cleint’s even those who are behind on their billing’s.

      The manageing partner gave me a special billing incentive for 2 cleint’s who owe us more then $40,0o0. He told me that I can “win” 30% of all of the money I collect from these over due billieng’s. That means up to $12,000! I told him I will get ALL of the money so that I can get $12,000, and if I do, I will DONATE 1/2 of it to NY Cares and 1/2 of it to ME! YAY!!!!! I will tell these two cleint’s EXACTELEY what I am doeing so that I can help them to help NY Cares with me (and me of course!) DOUBEL YAY.

      That is what holiday partie’s are all about–haveing fun and raiseing money for charity and me! YAY!!!!

  2. Here’s a question – if your holiday party is open to guests, who do you bring, especially if you aren’t paired up? Do you go alone (always fun, I know!), bring a friend, or skip the whole thing all together?

    • Anonymous :

      This is a good one to ask the people who’ve been before. At my office, a lot of people don’t bring a plus one even though we can.

      We will also ask get at least tipsy… And it’s totally OK.

      It’s a know your office thing.

  3. What do you suggest as a beverage for a person who can’t drink alcohol because of health or religious reasons? That is, without having to offer a lengthy explanation?

    • Amanda Caudle :

      Club soda with lime. Unless you’re under a black light, it looks like a gin or vodka tonic, and no one will ask.

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