Don't embarrass yourself
at the company party
'Tis the season NOT to make a jerk out
of yourself in front of your co-workers.
Careful what you do, careful what you say, beware
the company Christmas party, it'll blow your raise away -- "Business
Blues" by Marketing Mike and the Suits
Remember the episode of Seinfeld when Elaine
entertains her fellow employees at the company holiday party by
drinking a few too many cocktails and then dancing in a way only
Elaine can? Or what about the episode of Married ... With Children
when Marcie gets wasted at the bank's Christmas party and ends up
sitting upon the copy machine, making copies of her behind?
It's funny material for a sitcom, but even funnier
when it happens in real life -- if you're an observer, not the observee.
But if you're the one dancing with the lampshade over your head,
come time to face the boss and the company rumor mill Monday morning,
the joke is on you.
One incident at the company party "will be talked
about for the rest of the year, and there is very little way to
erase it," says Stephen Viscusi of On the Job, a nationally
syndicated radio show based in New York City.
He says his show gets a lot of calls around the holidays
with listeners concerned about their behavior during their company's
holiday party. Viscusi suggests that you don't misinterpret the
casualness of the party, because, all too often, people look at
the annual party as an excuse to really get wild and crazy.
A Florida woman, who has asked that her name not be
revealed, got tipsy, stuffed a huge balloon under her dress and
bellowed Christmas carols while stretching out on the piano. "The
pictures turned out great, but have since been destroyed," she says.
"Show them that you know how to let your hair down,"
Viscusi says, "but the boss is still the boss." If you aren't careful,
"You may end up with a pink slip on your desk Monday."
He says that Gen Xers have a particular problem with
this situation. They are faced with their first company Christmas
parties and tend to see it as a more relaxed setting. This is certainly
not a kegger in the dorm, so leave the beer bong at home and approach
the party as you would a dinner with a client, Viscusi adds. Don't
forget that you are continually making an impression even if the
open bar is calling your name.
Jeff Fox of W. Palm Beach, Fla., encountered a problem
at his annual Christmas party. However, it wasn't Jeff's behavior
that caused the disruption but rather his date. The party was held
at an upscale restaurant and before dinner, the group met in the
bar. His date, who is a big talker anyway, had a bit too much champagne
and ended up getting really loud and making 'off-color' jokes. Jeff
was humiliated and had to face the wrath of the office the next
"I knew I had to be tortured," he recounts. "It's
not something that is forgotten." One co-worker shook his hand and
others made continuous comments about his dinner guest. The next
year, Jeff went to the party alone.
It's funny how the almighty drink can be the root
of all evil. It may not only embarrass you, but it can also bring
out the little demon you keep inside that holds all the anger you
have against your boss.
Bob Jones*, a national sales manager from Indianapolis,
got drunk and proceeded to corner his boss to tell him all of the
things his direct reports were doing wrong and if he was
the boss, he wouldn't allow it to happen. This incident was one
of the reasons he was fired later.
To combat their employees from taking it too far at
the holiday party, Parvaneah Merat marketing director at a company
in California says her company maintains a fun atmosphere in the
office on a daily basis. She says their office parties have been
without embarrassing incident -- funny, she sounded disappointed
that she didn't have a juicy story to share.
"It is still a business function. As much as you may
want to get carried away, you don't want to do anything that would
not be condoned in the office," adds Merat.
Even if you don't get fired for dancing around
with the lampshade on your head or flirting with your boss's wife,
you may have damaged your reputation as a professional. Come time
to receive promotions or holiday bonuses, you could find yourself
coming up empty simply because the whiskey made you do it.
"We don't see anything wrong with drinking, but you
shouldn't take a bath in it," says Roger Brashears, spokesman for
Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn.
You'd think they'd have a huge holiday party in Lynchburg,
but it is actually in a dry county, so they can't even sell alcohol
there! To celebrate the season, each department has smaller parties
in someone's home or at a local restaurant.
"We drink, but we don't do it in front of each other,"
he says. If someone got a little tipsy at a party, "their buddy
would pull them aside and say something to them. We're like a family
That is actually a great idea. You must have friends
at your company -- if not, you may want to rethink your job. Play
watchdog for each other. If you are getting a little loud or start
showing your ass, your friend call pull you aside and get you some
coffee. And you can return the favor, if need be. Of course this
plan of action puts a damper on sitting around and doing shots of
tequila, but that's probably a good thing.
If you already did the damage, how do you redeem yourself?
Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Take
Yourself to the Top: The Secrets of America's No. 1 Career Coach,
explains you'd be best to "make apologies and get over it. Don't
let it define you. Just get back to doing a great job."
If your date was the problem, you are still responsible
for his or her actions. You chose to bring that person and their
behavior reflects upon you, according to Fortgang. She suggests
that you apologize and assure everyone it won't happen again.
If your co-workers continue to pick on your snafu,
Fortgang suggests that you just laugh it off. If the company bullies
know they can get a rise out of you, they will continue, so you
are best to just ask them to drop it.
So come time to join around the company egg nog, make
a point to have a good time, but maintain your dignity, because
if you don't you may end up standing outside a KMart ringing a bell
for a living.
-- Updated: Dec. 1, 2003