No one is too old or too young to attend an office party this year. Some tips for the office party – if you even have one:
According to executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop’s annual survey of 108 firms, company-sponsored holiday parties have hit a two-decade low, the 81 percent hosting parties even dropping below the 82 percent who celebrated during the 1991 recession. That is 19 percent of companies forgoing a holiday party this year, the highest percentage in the 20-year history of the recruitment firm’s Annual Survey on Corporate Holiday Celebrations.
According to Battalia Winston’s findings, 37 percent of companies say that their party has been either canceled or will be more modest because of the current economy. That is nearly double the amount affected by the economy last year (19 percent).
Someone will probably make a fool of himself/herself:
Researchers found that 64 percent of those who attend holiday parties sponsored by employers said the events sometimes included embarrassing alcohol-driven episodes.
Inappropriate behavior witnessed by respondents included coworkers driving while they were intoxicated (58 percent), flirting with other coworkers or supervisors (49 percent), use of excessive profanity (47 percent), and disclosure of inappropriate personal information about themselves or other coworkers (44 percent).
Similarly, bad behavior observed by family members at holiday parties included an intoxicated family member starting an argument (57 percent), excessive use of profanity (44 percent), and overt aggression (35 percent). Overall, 56 percent of those attending family holiday parties reported witnessing a family member under the influence of alcohol behaving inappropriately.
“Dangerous and inappropriate behavior can certainly lead to injury or even death in the case of drunk driving, for example, but it can also lead to a damaged reputation, termination from a job, destruction of relationships, health problems and much more,” Harris Stratyner, regional vice president for Philadelphia, Pa.-based Caron.
The survey found that 34 percent of respondents felt it was acceptable to have three or more drinks at a work party, and 45 percent said it was acceptable to do so at a family party. Stratyner said that such acceptance of heavy social alcohol use may help mask serious drinking problems. “During the holidays, people are particularly vulnerable to drinking in excess and others are willing to look the other way to keep the atmosphere festive,” he said.
Try and prevent alcohol-related problems:
Get the Party Started
- Encourage lively conversation and group activities, such as games that keep the focus on fun – not on alcohol.
- Prepare plenty of foods so guests will not drink on an empty stomach, and avoid too many salty foods which tend to make people thirsty.
- Never serve alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age, and never ask children to serve alcohol.
- Make it clear that no drug use will be tolerated.
If You Choose to Serve Alcohol
- Offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages for those who prefer not to drink alcohol. You could even have a contest to create non-alcoholic drink recipes.
- If you prepare an alcoholic punch, use a non-carbonated base, like fruit juice. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream faster with a carbonated base.
- Don’t let guests mix their own drinks. Choose a reliable bartender, who abstains from alcohol while working and keeps track of the size and number of drinks that guests consume.
Before Your Guests Depart
- Stop serving alcohol one hour before the party ends, because only time sobers an individual who has been drinking.
- If some guests have too much to drink, drive them home or arrange for alternate transportation.
- Keep the phone numbers of several cab companies handy.
- Don’t let anyone who is obviously intoxicated drive. If they insist, take their keys, ask for help from other guests, or temporarily disable the car. If all else fails, call the police. Remember, you can be held responsible!
Facts to Remember
- More than half of Americans are not current drinkers, so not everyone at your party will want to drink alcohol.
- Impaired driving can occur with very low blood alcohol percentages. For most people, even one drink can affect driving skills.
- Almost 40 percent of all holiday traffic fatalities involve alcohol.
- Holidays are especially dangerous because more people celebrate by over-drinking, making themselves susceptible to alcohol-related troubles.
- Coffee cannot sober up someone who has had too much to drink. Only time can do that. It takes one hour to metabolize one drink.
Drinks = calories:
For fewer calories, Reinagel suggests a glass of champagne: “It’s festive, bubbly, and only 75 calories a glass,” she notes, adding that champagne glasses, unlike their martini-bearing counterparts, have stayed a standard size — about 4 ounces — for eons. “Alternate champagne with sparkling water, which can go right in the champagne glass,” she says.
Want something more substantial? Reinagel recommends a Bloody Mary (which happens to have turned 75 years old December 1). There’s enough tomato juice — low in sugar, high in the antioxidant lycopene — to make a difference, she says. And don’t forget the celery stick: Believe it or not, celery helps keep blood pressure in check.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) also shares some better-beverage ideas, most of them gleaned from David Zinczenko’s best-selling book Eat This, Not That!. Zinczenko also steers us toward a Bloody Mary (or a Screwdriver). Zinczenko points out that gin or vodka martinis (with a bit of vermouth) and Manhattans are, in fact, relatively low in calories and fat, at least compared with a Mudslide or other creamy concoction. (See what Zinczenko has to say about shopping mall food-court options in next Tuesday’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column.)
Leave the low-cut party dress in the closet. Yes, you look stunning in it. You’ll wow everyone. You may even be the center of attention—but this isn’t the kind of attention you want.
Still not convinced? Picture overhearing your coworkers talking about how your girls had a night out. Uh huh.
The same rule applies to dresses, skirts, and tops that are too short or too tight.
This doesn’t mean you can’t wear something a little more festive; just remember it should be appropriate. When in doubt, err on the side of conservative.
Watch your alcohol intake. You may think you can hold your liquor, but don’t risk going anywhere near your perceived limit at a work-related event.
For one thing, your true limit is probably less than you realize. And, more importantly, one too many drinks can turn you into a babbling fool or worse.
If you find yourself feeling the effects, switch to a non-alcoholic beverage. Better safe than sorry (there’s a reason it’s a cliché).
Avoid behavior that might be construed as flirtatious. Okay, you already know not to sidle up to an attractive coworker with a drink in your hand while batting your eyelashes.
But other behavior, such as standing too close to the other person, also sends a message.
For more insight into these kinds of signals, read “Single Women and Body Language at Work.”
Resist the urge to gossip. In social situations, the conversation often veers away from work.
One of the topics people tend to talk about is other people. Some conversations are innocent enough, as in, “I met Jane’s sister at the gym. What a lovely person she is.”
Other conversations, however, clearly are not going down a good path. If a person says, “I met Jane’s sister at the gym. She’s not nearly as attractive as people say she is,” it’s time to change the subject or move on to a conversation with another person.
Mind your manners. It sounds basic, but it can be easy to forget some of the simple things, especially if you’re a little nervous.
When your manager’s boss comes up to you and asks if you’re enjoying the party, you don’t want to talk with food in your mouth.
Similarly, you don’t want to wolf down your meal, even if you are famished.
You also want to be polite and gracious to your host. Sure, it’s a work-related event, but you should still thank the person responsible for the party and wish him or her a happy holiday season.
If you sincerely (key word) had a great time and the event was spectacular, you might want to seek out the party planner(s) as well and let them know you enjoyed yourself.
Remember your position. This last point often gets overlooked and, as a result, can be a source of confusion.
In a social situation, people generally become more relaxed. But this doesn’t mean the corporate hierarchy has vanished.
Joe CEO is still the CEO; he’s not suddenly your buddy Joe. Similarly, people who report to your direct reports aren’t members of your new hang-out-and-party gang.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly to one and all. You can and should socialize. Here again, though, don’t lose sight of the big picture.
After the holiday party is over and you return to work, Joe CEO won’t be hanging out in your cubicle. Likewise, you don’t want to give workers who report to your staff members the impression that you are their new best friend.
Party hearty. Once you know how to turn your party animal into a cool cat, you can enjoy the festivities of the season and maintain—perhaps even enhance—your professional standing at work.