If you think the holiday office party is your opportunity to shine, here’s a news flash: unless you’re in the marketing department, it’s not. Those marketing folks, now they know how to party. You, not so much.
The best result you can hope for is to get through it without doing too much damage to your reputation. As for your dignity, forget it.
After your third drink in 30 minutes – just to calm your nerves, we know – you’ll be on the dance floor or the karaoke machine making a complete idiot of yourself. Your dignity has no hope of surviving the night.
The good news is you’re in good company. Everyone’s got to go and everyone’s terrified they’re going to say or do the wrong thing. The only thing you’ve really got to worry about is waking up with an enormous hangover and a video of you twerking like Miley Cyrus – snake tongue and all – in everyone’s inbox … and on YouTube.
With the holidays fast approaching and all the Evites on their way, here’s how to survive a wild night of partying with your fellow cubicle dwellers:
1. Whatever you do, be sure to corner the boss, slap him on the back like he’s your old college buddy, and give him some free advice on how you would run the department. Nah, it’ll go over great.
2. You’re counting drinks. Great. But when you count to 10, better grab your glass slippers and hop in the carriage before it turns into a pumpkin.
3. If you hear the words, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this” come out of your mouth, you’re right, you probably shouldn’t.
4. I know you’re just dying to try out some James Bond spy moves and find out if your nemesis makes more money than you do. Let me save you the trouble. He does. A lot more. See, you didn’t really want to know, did you?
5. No, this isn’t the time to show off your new tattoo – the one nobody can see.
6. If anyone suggests strip darts, strip poker, strip ping pong – strip anything, for that matter – slip on over to the bar, get yourself a drink, and watch from a distance. And trust me: nobody wants to see you strip.
7. Muster up all your liquid courage and tell that girl from accounting you’ve had a crush on her for the past three years. Go ahead. Don’t worry; she won’t be creeped out or give you that “you’ve got to be kidding look” and run off to tell everyone how pathetic you are.
8. Learn what barely concealed horror and forced laughter look and sound like. Don’t ask why; you’ll get it later.
9. Just because it’s karaoke night, doesn’t mean you and your buddy should get up there and, arm in arm, sing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” I don’t care if the sales guys went wild when you did it at 2 a.m. in a seedy bar last year. Wait, that was me. Never mind.
10. If you insist on putting your husband through a pre-party Q&A, everyone says you know just what to say, and you can get the beancounters in finance to salsa dance, you’ve missed your calling. Put in a transfer to the PR department. You’ll be great.
11. You probably shouldn’t gossip about office affairs – and you definitely shouldn’t take this opportunity to start one. You still have to work with these people, you know.
12. You had a good plan: put in an appearance, have a quick drink and some hors d'oeuvres and head for the door. Now it’s 3 a.m. and the cleaning crew is getting pretty annoyed with your slurred pleas of “Come on, just one more round of shots!” Better call it a night.
13. Don’t even try to compliment anyone. It’ll just come out sounding like a veiled insult.
14. If all you can think to say are dopey clichés like “champagne always goes to my head” and “I wonder what’s in the stuffed mushrooms,” you’re no Kim Kardashian. Stick to your day job.
15. So you’ve been good all night, just minding your own business and laying low at the punch bowl. Good for you. Pat yourself on the back, cowboy – if you can still find your back ... and your hand.
16. If you wake up in the back of a taxi and the last thing you remember is climbing up on top of the DJ table and trying to figure out how to unbutton your top, don’t bother showing up for work on Monday.
Steve Tobak is management consultant, executive coach, columnist, and former senior executive of the high-tech industry. As managing partner of Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting, he's been a trusted strategic advisor to executives and business leaders for more than a decade. Contact Tobak.