The Office Party: Career-Builder or Career-Killer

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Office parties represent both opportunity and risk. On the one hand, you can develop better relationships with your colleagues and get to know people that you would never meet otherwise. Some people use parties for serious strategic networking.

At the same time, however, uninhibited party behavior can destroy your career. Just ask the guy who decided to moon everyone from the top of a staircase. Or the one who wrote “F**k the company!” on a handy whiteboard. Or, much more seriously, the woman who killed two people while drunkenly attempting to drive home.

So whether you view your office party as a career building opportunity or simply a time to relax and have fun with your colleagues, remember that this is not just a social occasion. You may be partying, but you’re still at work.

Career Builder Strategies

The office party provides a perfect opportunity to extend your network of contacts and broaden existing relationships. If you decide to use the party as a career builder, here are some suggestions:

  • Meet people from other departments or functions. Start to build bridges across those “silos” that naturally develop at work.
  • Get to know your boss better. Spend time chatting about topics that might not normally come up during daily activities.
  • Make contact with top executives who are usually inaccessible. High-level managers are often uncomfortable at employee parties because they don’t know what to say, so try to put them at ease. Be prepared with a question to ask or topic to discuss.
  • Learn more about the business. Talk with people outside your everyday circle and ask questions to better understand their work.
  • Present ideas and proposals. Take the opportunity to offer suggestions to the people who could approve or implement them.
  • Build better relationships with colleagues. Learn more about them as people, not just coworkers. Friendly feelings can help to defuse future disagreements.

Career Killer Pitfalls

Most office party nightmares can be traced to a single source: too much alcohol. Unless you’re ready to risk your career, drink only in moderation. Here’s what can happen if you overindulge:

  • You may engage in stupid or offensive behavior. One inebriated young woman entertained a roomful of male colleagues with a highly suggestive dance.
  • Executives may form a long-lasting negative impression. Since top managers don’t see most employees very often, holiday party memories can last a long time.
  • You may never know how you killed your career. The next day, you may be the only person who doesn’t remember that you called your boss a moronic SOB.
  • An unwanted romance may develop. The coworker that you took home for a frolic may decide that you’re the love of their life. And you still have to work with this person.
  • You could be charged with sexual harassment. An office party is still a work situation, not simply a social gathering.
  • You may hurt more than your career. Drive home intoxicated and you could kill or injure yourself or others