When you think of office holiday party faux pas, drinking too much is probably the first one that comes to mind, says Brandon Smith, a career coach and therapist known as The Workplace Therapist.
However, there's another common, but less stigmatized, mistake many people make at their end-of-year celebrations, he says: talking about work.
You don't want to be that colleague who is analyzing the last team meeting while others are trying to relax and enjoy themselves.
"I would avoid talking about work at the holiday party," Smith says. "This is not the time."
Office parties are usually, by design, not in the office. Take the occasion to get to know your co-workers outside the context of their job.
"Use this as an opportunity to socialize about topics that are non-business," Smith says. "Talk about family. Talk about where the person is from or other interests. Anything that is not specific to work projects."
This will help you build stronger connections with your colleagues, something that is proven to lead to greater workplace satisfaction.
Even though this is a time to let your guard down a bit, you don't want to do anything you'll regret. That's why everyone should go into their holiday party with a plan, Smith says.
"The plan can be, 'I'm going to have fun, but I'm having exactly two drinks,'" he says. "Decide when you're going to leave. Particularly when you're in management roles, you don't want to be the last person there."
Additionally, consider who you want to get face-time with. If there are co-workers on another team or an especially busy manager you'd like to get to know more, this is your chance.
"Think about who you want to spend time with," Smith says. "Who do you want to introduce your significant other or friend to?"
Whatever rules you set for yourself, make sure they are realistic and you stick to them. Because a social misstep, Smith says, "can be difficult to recover from."
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