British Columbia

Heading to an office holiday party? Here are some do's and don't's

The annual holiday party can be a great place to build camaraderie — but workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman make sure you don't take things too far.

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says annual shindigs are a great place to build camraderie

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says holiday office parties should be fun, but remember, work functions are like being at work. (© Ulrik Tofte,

With Christmas day right around the corner, many companies around the province are in party mode.

The holiday office party can be a great way to build relationships with co-workers, according to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman.

And unfortunately, it's also a place where things can be taken too far.

Newman joined host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition to chat about some holiday party do's and don'ts.

Rick Cluff: Why is it so important to talk about this, during this time of year?

Jennifer Newman: Too many workers find themselves regretting things that happen during holiday work get-togethers.

They say or do things they never would've done, if they thought about it ahead of time. And some don't know how to navigate a holiday work function well.

It's an important skill to be able to enjoy yourself and create the right impression, and some employers are recognizing this too — they've stopped evening parties altogether in favour of lunch brought into the office or a nearby off-site venue during the daytime.

They've limited or ended providing alcohol, and they schedule set beginning and end times for their company party.

It's because the fallout from holiday parties gone rogue — they can damage a company's reputation, create conflict between workers or launch human rights and sexual harassment complaints.

But still, the holiday party continues as an important tradition — it's missed when it doesn't happen, and some workers feel short changed by watered down affairs.

So, to rescue the company holiday party from extinction, what suggestions do you have for workers when they attend?

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman is a regular columnist on CBC's The Early Edition. (Jennifer Newman)

Watch what you choose to wear to the event. Choose to wear something seasonally appropriate. Non-work attire is good.

But, ensure it's not too dressed down or sloppy. Make sure things are clean and don't wear things you'd wear to a club at New Years to your company party.

Keep it casual unless told you are attending a formal function.

Don't get drunk or smoke pot at a work function. If workers get drunk they say and do embarrassing things — things that can be career limiting.

Smelling like pot when you walk into the party isn't a good idea either. It signals you aren't serious or starts questions about whether you smoke weed at work.

Besides what to wear and steering clear of intoxication, what other tips do you have?

Don't hit on anyone at the holiday party. Think of it as your job to ensure your colleagues are comfortable at the party.
So, making advances on co-workers or checking out your colleague's friends or spouses will make things uncomfortable, and it's rude and harassing.

Don't decide this is the time to declare your romantic interest in someone at work, it'll probably backfire.

If you are in a position of authority, don't engage supervisees in raunchy topics of conversation, make sexual jokes or asides. 

Do you have other advice for bosses?

Be a great host. Welcome everyone to the event.

Recognize the team's efforts and thank everyone for their hard work.

Recap a bit about the year and talk about how each area of the organization assisted.

Thank the party organizers, and suppliers.

Ensure anyone who is drinking has a safe way home, maybe the company is providing cabs or designated drivers have been assigned.
Don't stay too long at the party — let your staff have some time to themselves.

Any other tips to make things go well?

Have fun and remember — work functions are like being at work.

The purpose is to enjoy each other's company and get to know each other a bit more — but that doesn't mean over-sharing.

Keep things light and positive

If someone does get into trouble, or makes a social gaffe, don't talk about it with colleagues afterwards, or record it on your phone, or post it on Facebook.

Be polite. Thank the organizers for the event and say goodbye to your colleagues when you leave.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Jennifer Newman: Holiday office party do's and don't's