It’s Christmas time!
That means time off from work, festive office décor, and, of course, the annual office Christmas party. And since it’s a party, anything goes, right?
Despite often being labelled parties, corporate Christmas celebrations are a minefield of possible human resources investigations, ranging from sexual harassment to bullying to gossip. Drama can and does happen. For management, this can be a stressful time.
Many workers don’t realize that when they attend the office Christmas party, they’re on company time, clocked in or not, and that professional behaviour is expected—just as professional as they would be in the office.
Not every employee knows exactly what to look out for—the maze of potential office party drama can be difficult to navigate because of the informal tone of the event. So to help you out, let’s take a look at these 7 sure-fire ways of getting fired at the office Christmas party.
Don’t do these things.
So your office Christmas party has an open bar. Great! Time to drink all night, right?
Alcohol is the number one reason for trouble during office parties. Excessive drink can lead to directly to nearly every other dangerous behavior on this list, and can lead to words and actions you’ll regret for years to come.
Think about it. Do you really want to get hammered drunk in front of the people who decide your future—how much you’re paid, when you get raises, and even if you’re going to continue on at the company at all?
Probably not. Here’s what you can do. Drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks. This way, you’ll fill up quickly, and won’t be tempted to drink enough to become inebriated.
Remember—you’re floating in a gray area between office etiquette and informal fun. Don’t forget that management is still watching you.
Don’t let the office Christmas party be an excuse for forgetting your sexual harassment training. Human Resources is still watching, and all workplace policies are generally still in effect and enforced, party or no.
The prime rule is this: hands off. You’re still at work, despite how alluring the attire may be. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Again, this is far easier if alcohol isn’t involved. But regardless of that, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security—one accusation of sexual harassment will get you fired. Done. Gone.
Let it wait. If you have a special someone in mind to pursue, do it somewhere else. Even if all goes well, coworkers and management may not take well to seeing what they may deem inappropriate at an office function.
So take care, and carefully consider your actions when you lay eyes on that attractive coworker. This is one area you don’t want to misstep in.
Give an Inappropriate Gift
Another great way to violate harassment policies, this handy method of getting fired involves gifts!
Everybody thinks a gag gift is a great idea. But they’re hardly ever right—usually they’re just tacky or gross. But aside from that, this type of gift can sometimes stray into some uncomfortable territory.
Think of an employee getting his coworker a mug with a sexually explicit slogan on it. Think of an inappropriate calendar or a giant pair of underwear or—for the boss—a book on how much people hate bosses.
People remember these things, and it will affect you.
Or, even worse, think of extremely intimate gifts, such as intimate apparel or toys or overly personal gifts. This is where gifts can actively violate company policy, leaving you terminated after the holidays.
The point is this: you’re giving gifts to coworkers. Choose your gifts appropriately. If you wouldn’t give it to the boss, don’t give it to anyone else.
Get in a Fight
You wouldn’t think this would need to be said. Unfortunately, it does.
The workplace can be a competitive, cutthroat, high-tension environment, and co-workers may not always like one another. That’s okay—they don’t have to. They just have to be able to work together.
The professional environment, most of the time, keeps people acting professionally, and encourages putting away personal feelings for the good of the company.
But all that changes at informal events.
At the office Christmas party, workers may feel relaxed and uninhibited enough to release those tensions in decidedly unhelpful ways.
If you have a problem with a coworker—or, even worse, a manager—this is not a safe time to vent, verbally or physically. It’s most certainly not an appropriate place to become aggressive.
But, when people let their guards down, the unexpected can happen. If you find yourself on the receiving end of Christmas party aggression, try to deescalate the situation. Let someone know what’s going on, and get away from the aggressor. Your job may be at stake.
And if you’re the one with the grudge? Save it for the punching bag when you get home. Venting grievances at what is supposed to be a celebration isn’t wise, and could end your career.
Get too Honest
Been struggling with drug addiction in your off time? Just can’t get over your last relationship? Really dislike your boss’s tie?
Don’t delve too deeply into these things at the office Christmas party. You’ll regret it.
There’s such a thing as being too open, too honest, about your personal life at work. In a professional environment, you’d never mention certain things that didn’t directly have an effect on your work—things that might even be detrimental to your reputation.
Reputation is, in fact, important. Because your bosses are all humans, they’ll naturally see certain traits as desirable, and others, as risky for the company. Reputation is something that you carefully craft over time. It works for you, gets your that raise you wanted, that promotion. And but one slip can destroy it.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security as you confide in your boss over cocktails. They’re still your boss. And they’re not going to magically forget that you told them how much you enjoy getting high after work, and that sometimes you like to dress as a bear and chase people.
Bring an Irresponsible Date
Choose your “plus 1” carefully. This person will be a reflection on you for the entirety of the office Christmas party. Everyone there will associate you with this person, and if they misbehave, you’ll be held responsible. With that in mind, don’t bring someone who is prone to doing the items on this list.
Thinking about bringing that new boyfriend with the drinking problem? The one who takes his shirt off and screams his own name from the tabletop after a few beers?
Yeah, don’t bring that guy.
Considering bringing that girlfriend who gets angry at the slightest provocation, who is as likely to slap your boss as shake her hand?
Don’t bring her, either.
It’s not unkind to intelligently assess whether your date is going to be a good match for your company’s Christmas event. If you’re unsure, have a gentle talk about boundaries, and about what’s appropriate in a work-related party. They might simply not know!
Call in Sick the Next Day
Okay, so this last one is something that happens the day after the office Christmas party, but it still counts.
If you have too much to drink and call in sick the next day, everyone is going to know. You’re not fooling anyone. Do it, and you might be hit with a request for a doctor’s note. And if you simply had a hangover, that note is going to look something like this.
That’s not going to go over well.
If you remember the first item on this list, you won’t have this problem at all. Avoid the booze, and avoid the hangover.
But if it’s too late, pop a couple of pain relievers, and head to work—unless you’re actually still drunk, of course. In that case, you’re pretty much out of luck.
The point is this: show that you can handle fun responsibly. Show that you can go out and have a great time and still make it to work the next morning. Your boss will notice.
The cure for all of these behaviours is simple professionalism—acting with integrity, accountability, and self-regulation.
A good sense of professionalism, along with the awareness that the office Christmas party is still “the office,” will keep your job secure this holiday season.
So get out there, have fun, give gifts, and relax a little. You’ve earned it. Just do so responsibly, and you’ll be just fine.