Holiday party blunders

8 tips to make office parties cringe-free

Wrestling with the chief executive officer or jumping into a bowl of Jell-O are just some of the holiday party horror stories uncovered by a recent survey.

"Company events are meant to be fun, but employees must remember their actions are still on display for coworkers and supervisors to see," said Dave Willmer, executive director of the Creative Group, an advertising, creative and web staffing service.

"Inappropriate behaviour can make a lasting negative impression that's hard to overcome."

The Creative Group asked 250 advertising and marketing executives to describe the most off-the-wall employee behaviour they had heard of at a company event.

Wackiest party moments:

• The president of the company came dressed up as a chicken.

• One guy ate the carnations from the dinner table.

• One colleague set another's wig on fire while it was on her head.

Executive party fouls:

• Someone wrestled the CEO.

• Someone dumped Gatorade on the boss.

• One person did an unflattering imitation of the company president.

Food blunders:

• Someone jumped into a bowl of Jell-O.

• One employee ate 100 fish sticks to win a prize.

• Someone started a food fight at a holiday party where everyone was dressed up.

• An employee fell into a cake at a company dinner.

Dress-up don'ts:

• One person came to a party dressed as a pirate.

• An art director came with a live butterfly in her hair.

• One employee came to the party dressed like a bear.

Office parties, no matter how festive, are still business functions, said Willmer.

"Any indication that you lack good judgment is a strike against you professionally," he said. "Conversely, exhibiting strong social graces can help position you for a potential leadership role."

Tips for making a positive impression:

• R.S.V.P. promptly. Failing to do so makes an immediate poor impression.

• Dress the part. Avoid wearing anything that is too offbeat or revealing. Find out what the dress code is, and follow it. If you're unsure, check in with tenured staff who can fill you in.

• Mix it up. Strike up conversations with those outside of your usual circle. Think beforehand about a few topics that are of broad interest, such as recent movies you've seen or people's holiday vacation plans.

• Don't monopolize anyone's time. Most people want to mingle at parties, so avoid extended conversations, particularly when talking with managers, who may have many people they want to chat with during the event.

• Eat a bite beforehand. Avoid coming to the party with an empty stomach. A pre-party snack will help you focus your attention on those around you, rather than the buffet table.

• Limit libations. Don't let alcohol impair your judgment. It's best not to have more than one or two cocktails, or avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

• Help your guests be gracious. If you bring a spouse or partner to the party, be sure to fill him or her in beforehand on topics to avoid (e.g., the new policy nobody likes), and introduce your guest to others who might have common interests.

• End on a high note. Don't be the first or last to leave, and thank those who organized the event.

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