Don’t Let Holiday Party Antics Hinder Your Career Success

Recently, I saw an interesting post on about regrettable holiday party behavior.  They took a poll asking people if they have ever done something at a holiday party that they regretted.  They received about 3,700 responses.  Here are the results for USA respondents.

  • Extremely regrettable: I’ve been fired for office-party behavior: 4%
  • Somewhat regrettable: I’ve damaged my career/reputation: 3%
     Mildly regrettable: I’ve been embarrassed for a few days: 10%
     No regrets: I’ve misbehaved, but with no ill effects: 14%
     I’ve never done anything regrettable at an office party: 69%

31% of people responding to this poll said that they have acted inappropriately at holiday parties. While the top two categories – getting fired and damaging your reputation – are bad, I worry most about the people who place themselves in the third and fourth categories – “mildly regrettable,” and “no regrets.”

If you’re embarrassed for a few days, or realize that you’ve “misbehaved,” rest assured that others have noticed too.  If you think that your embarrassment lasted for only a few days, or that there were no ill effects of your behavior, think again.  Other people, especially leaders, have long memories.

I have a very successful friend who is a perfect example of this.  He had a few too many beers at a holiday party many years ago.  He got up on stage and sang his college fight song rather loudly.  He was being exuberant.  His school was playing for the national championship in a bowl game on January 1.

He thought it was all in good fun.  However, this little episode got him labeled as “immature.”  He wasn’t fired, but every time his name came up for a promotion, the immature label came up as well.  He finally figured out that if he were going to get ahead, he was going to have to leave his company and start over at a new one.  He went to a smaller company and did quite well for himself.

He is happy, but he learned an important lesson the hard way.  It takes a long time to build a positive personal brand and image.  It can be destroyed in a moment of fun.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have fun at business holiday parties.  Just remember, others are watching—and what you do, or don’t do can impact your career success.

In an article on holiday party etiquette, Susan Bryant of Monster offers the following career advice…

Your company’s holiday gathering is just around the corner — time to let loose and party with your coworkers after a long year, right? Wrong.

No matter how festive the occasion, it’s still about business. Don’t fall off the fast track to success or risk damaging your professional reputation in one night of inadvertent blunders. Here is some advice to ensure a smooth, enjoyable evening.

Eat, drink and be merry — in moderation. Where else but the office party can you find the CEO and the mailroom clerk bellied up to the bar together? But remember: Alcohol plus you and your boss can equal Monday morning’s “I can’t believe I said that.” If you choose to drink, do so minimally.

Dress appropriately for the occasion. This rule especially applies to women who sometimes use company parties to strut their stuff. Leave anything short, tight or revealing in the closet. You’ve worked hard to create a professional image, and revealing clothes can alter your coworkers’ and manager’s perception of you as a competent professional.

Your company party may be the only time you see the president, CEO or VPs in person. Introduce yourself. This is a great opportunity to become visible to your organization’s higher-ups. At the very least, don’t spend the entire evening with your regular office buddies — get in the holiday spirit and mingle with people from other departments.

Find out who can come to the event. Spouses and significant others are not always on the guest list. Check beforehand to avoid a potentially uncomfortable evening.

If you’ve been a star performer in your organization, you may be honored with a toast. Accept the honor gracefully, but don’t drink to yourself or clap when others are applauding you. Also, make a toast to the person who toasted you, thanking him for the recognition.

Pay attention to the time you arrive and when you leave. Even if you don’t really want to attend, avoid arriving 20 minutes before the end just to make an appearance. On the flip side, don’t party into the wee hours either. Coworkers and managers will notice both errors in judgment.

Be sure to thank those who coordinated the party. They likely put in a great deal of effort hoping you would have a good time. Not only is saying thank you the nice thing to do, but it also makes you stand out from the many employees who don’t.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Enjoy your business holiday parties, but make sure your behavior enhances your reputation and personal brand.  Have fun, but take it easy.  Treat company holiday parties as networking opportunities and you won’t go wrong.  I’m getting ready to shut down for the year.  Tomorrow will be my last post of 2011.  I always take off the last two weeks of the year to rest and recharge.  Have fun this holiday season.  I’ll be back with you the first week of 2012.

That’s my career advice on making the most of holiday parties.  Enjoy yourself, but remember to protect your brand.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.


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