The invites are starting to come in, and there it is — the dreaded office party. That one time of year when you are forced to mingle with your coworkers and suck up to your boss. What could go wrong?

The answer: so many things! That’s why Women’s Post has put together a few rules to help you navigate this awkward and potentially hazardous social custom.

Rule #1: Go! For those of you who are introverts, don’t get along with your coworkers, or just dread going into the office on a regular basis, this is your time to shine. It may not be your idea of a fun time, but mingling with your coworkers and your boss is integral to your professional success. Think of it as the ultimate networking opportunity. Not only can you discuss your vision for the company, but you can also get to know your superiors as individuals — and this can lead to a closer relationship between you all.

If you don’t attend, you may be singled out later in the new year. There may be inside jokes floating around that you can’t comprehend! Don’t be the one people talk about at the water cooler.

Rule #2: Dress to impress. No, that does not mean wear your low-cut dress that just manages to cover your ass with your six-inch stilettos. My suggestion would be to go classy. If you want to wear something skin-tight to show off your amazing body, feel free — just make sure it is still work appropriate. It is an office party after all. Try a black cocktail dress with some sexy red lipstick. Professional, yet flirty and fun. Avoid white if you plan on drinking red wine!

If classy just isn’t your thing, go all-out cheesy with an ugly Christmas sweater paired with an bold lip colour (purple, blue, or gold). Note — this will give the impression that you want to be the life of the party. Only choose this option if you want to stand out!

Rule #3: Actually talk to people. Sure, attending is good and all, but if you don’t make yourself visible, there is no point. Make sure your boss notices you — and not in an “oops I tripped over a chair and knocked over the Christmas tree” kind of way. Go up to him/her and say hello. If you don’t know anything about their personal life, ask them what their plans are for the holiday.  Be genuinely interested in their life outside of work. Ask questions and actually listen to the answers so you can follow up at a later date. Don’t bring up reports or your last business meeting unless your coworker or boss does first. Try to keep the conversation casual and really get to know the people you work with.

If you get nervous talking to people you don’t really know, come up with a few conversation topics ahead of time that you can throw out in case of awkward silence. Holiday plans are a staple conversation starter, but you can also try complimenting a person’s outfit, talking about the music, or asking what they are drinking. Don’t be afraid to say “Oh, I see someone I haven’t spoken with for a while” if the conversation is really dull and you want to get the hell out of there.

Rule #4: Don’t get smashed. This may seem like a silly, obvious rule. Who would get drunk at an office holiday party?? The answer may surprise you. When surrounded by superiors, some people turn to a glass of wine, pint of beer or a cocktail to ease the nerves. But, know this, the more you drink, the less aware you are of your actions. It’s easy to use alcohol as a way to loosen up, but it’s just as easy to lose track of how much you are actually drinking. My suggestion would be to get to the point where conversation flows, but you can still walk in a straight line. Pro tip — order wine or beer instead of the mystery holiday cocktail the bar is serving. Who knows how much alcohol is actually in it!

Don’t be the person who kisses their boss in a fit of passion or starts to do the Macarena on the bar. There’s no coming back from that.

Rule #5: Time your entrance and exit depending on what you want out of the party. If you are dreading this office celebration, decide what you want out of the evening and plan accordingly. For some, this may involve taking advantage of the free drinks and appetizers, saying hi to the boss, and then quietly making your escape — just enough to show your face so people know you were there.

If you want to network in the hopes of getting more involved in your company, try to go mid-evening after your coworkers are a bit more loose and ensure you actually mingle. Hang out around the bar so you can catch people as they are waiting for their refreshments. If you just want to have fun, arrive late when the “networking” aspect is done and the only ones left are the partiers. Maybe suggest a nightcap with the few stragglers still going strong around midnight.

Remember that above all else, enjoy the party. This is your chance to get to know Sue from the cubicle next door; to meet your boss face-to-face in a casual environment; and to show your coworkers your personality. Enjoy the free food, the company, and don’t forget to have fun!

It is a party after all!

Author

Katherine DeClerq is a contributor to Women's Post. Her previous writing experience includes the Toronto Star, Maclean's Magazine, CTVNews, and BlogTO. She can often be found at a coffee shop with her MacBook computer. Despite what CP says, she is a fan of the Oxford comma.

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