“Whoa, I’d like to jingle his bells."
“Wow, you look hot!”
Ever stumbled with what to say or do at a holiday office party? They're a great place to bond with colleagues — and also a minefield to navigate when it comes to verbal and non-verbal communication. Tread carefully, or risk harming your reputation or even losing your job.
Want proof? A 2022 Price4Limo survey of 1,000 office workers on office party etiquette revealed that while 60% said such soirees enhanced their coworker relationships, 14% admitted engaging in improper conduct that led to their dismissal.
The survey said that 55% of employees favor dancing at office parties, and 43% believe alcohol is essential for enjoyment. The mix often leads to firings — most commonly for dancing with coworkers, flashing someone, kissing a client, making inappropriate jokes, and kissing a coworker, the survey found.
Another poll by drinks company Four Loko of 2,000 American workers about year-end celebrations showed that 26% of respondents regretted attending the holiday office party and listed hooking up with a coworker, saying something rude, and gossiping as the top causes of remorse.
More surprises from the poll: At holiday parties, HR professionals often hook up with coworkers, insurance workers are prone to rudeness, IT staff are likely to display awkward dance moves, and construction workers tend to flirt. Who knew?
How you manage your verbal and nonverbal communication at work events is vital to your professional reputation and career advancement.
Here’s a brief guide for holiday office party do's and don'ts.
A work party is an extension of the workplace. Keep verbal communications collegial. Avoid sexual comments or sexual innuendos like the "don't" statements below, which could lead you into legal hot water.
Don’t say: “You look hot.”
Do say: “You look festive.”
Don’t say: “Let’s kiss under the mistletoe.”
Do say: “Let’s go get some food.”
Don’t say: “Whoa, I’d like to jingle your bells.”
Do say: “It’s so nice to meet you.”
Don’t say: “I’ve been infatuated with you since your first day on the job.”
Do say: “You’re new here; tell me more about yourself.”
Don’t say: “How about we go to my place and get a little more personal?”
Do think about what people would be saying about you the next day, if you had hooked up with a coworker.
Don’t say: “Let's rank HR, accounts receivable, and sales by the hotness of the female employees.”
Do express gratitude for the contributions of your coworkers throughout the year.
Your nonverbal communication — how you dress, drink, and dance at a professional function — also speaks volumes about your character. Think twice about twerking or slow dancing with anyone you're not dating or married to. (Remember, dancing with coworkers is a top reason for getting fired.)
Don’t confine your interactions to people you already know.
Do use the occasion to walk around and introduce yourself to people you normally have limited opportunities to speak with — you can raise your profile and advance your career.
Don’t hover around the bar all night or get drunk, a signal that alcohol is a top priority.
Do think of free booze as incidental to a good time, and focus on mingling.
Don’t wear nightclub attire, saggy pants, or overly casual clothing.
Do look festively professional — what you wear is a branding statement for you.
Don’t think that people will forget your bad behavior.
Do remember that everyone has a smartphone, so anything you do or say could be caught in a video, voice memo or photo that might spread through the office like wildfire.
How can Reflect AI help you? Alphy's Reflect AI helps you reflect on your communication style and interact more effectively in professional settings. It works in email on desktop, providing real time feedback alerting you to unlawful and harmful language while applauding helpful language.
If you typed the following sentences into an email to a colleague, here's the response you'd get from Reflect AI:
"That dress shows off your best assets — you should wear that more often."
"He's too old for us — you saw how he fumbled with his smartphone the other day, right? "
"What's the point of inviting the Muslim programmers to the holiday party? They don't even drink."
Bottom line: By teaching you to understand the impact of your words in digital communications, Reflect AI also prepares you for complex interactions like work events. The holiday party is a unique opportunity to strengthen professional relationships, not just a night of fun. Navigate wisely and your career will thank you.
Carolyne Zinko is the editorial director and AI editor at Alphy.
Reflect AI by Alphy integrates with email to detect risks prior to sending, and flags conversational missteps and successes in real time. If you are interested in getting Reflect AI for your company, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or download Reflect AI for Gmail or Reflect AI for Outlook.