12 Office Holiday Party Etiquette Rules We’d Like Everyone to Follow (Please?)

It’s a festive time of year, but remember to practice some good manners at your next office holiday celebration.

celebrating Christmas in office
Updated May 28, 2024
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It’s that time of year again for holiday office parties — and holiday office party mistakes.

You may be excited to let loose on the company’s dime or see your co-workers in a more casual setting. But you also may go too far with your food, drinks, or conversation.

Before you head out for this year’s party, make sure you remember some of these holiday party etiquette rules so you won’t have to regret showing your face at work the next day.

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Don’t talk about work non-stop

shutterdemon/Adobe drinking champagne talking and smiling while celebrating in office

Sure, it may be fun to be out of the office at a restaurant or perhaps a hall the company has rented out for the evening. Inevitably, you’ll end up talking about work with your work friends.

But try not to go overboard with “shop talk” and focus on things that you don’t always get to talk about in an office setting like family or local places to go.

Skip the excessive drinking

Prostock-studio/Adobe clinking glasses of champagne in hands at New Year party

This can be an easy mistake to make, especially if your company is covering the tab of an open bar at the party.

It’s a good idea to limit your intake of alcohol so you don’t get drunk or make a bad impression on the higher-ups that may also be attending the party.

You may also want to make a budget for the night that includes a room at the hotel that’s hosting the party or a ride-share to get you home safely.

Dress appropriately

Monkey Business/Adobe group of friends celebrating at new year party together

You may work in a casual office where you and your co-workers regularly wear jeans and maybe a button-down shirt to the office. But your office may require you to follow a specific dress code.

For a nice party, you may have to consider dress pants, skirts, and more instead of your usual casual outfits in the office.

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Think about your plus-one

Monkey Business/Adobe couples dancing and drinking at evening party

Some companies may be generous with their office parties and allow employees to bring along a plus-one like a spouse or significant other.

It’s probably a good idea to prep them ahead of time so they know how to behave around certain people or in particular situations.

A little prep work can go a long way to making sure your plus-one is comfortable around your co-workers and has a good time.

Skip the politics

Microgen/Adobe male speaker on the stage

Whether it's office politics or government politics, it’s good to avoid the topic at all costs.

You may be interested in what’s going on in the world, but politics can be a very opinionated topic of conversation that could cause hurt feelings and potential drama.

It’s better to steer clear of high-intensity topics and stick to more mundane issues if you feel the conversation is getting too emotional.

Avoid chatting up your boss

deagreez/Adobe team building members gathering

Yes, an office party is a good time to relax and let loose a little. But remember that there is still a hierarchy when it comes to the people at the party.

Your holiday office party is not the time to start buddying up to your boss's boss and suddenly act like he’s your best friend from high school.

Instead, be polite and have fun, but try to remember that you are still an employee and this isn’t a party with your outside-of-the-office friends.

Don’t gossip

Syda Productions/Adobe happy women with drinks at night club

It can be easy to let your guard down in front of co-workers after some good food and drinks. But that can also make it feel like a good time to start gossiping about someone in accounting to a co-worker in human resources.

Try to keep the gossip to a minimum or skip it altogether, and find a safe topic to talk about with co-workers instead.

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Keep off social media

Елизавета Старкова/Adobe girlfriends in Santa hats celebrate Christmas holiday

It may be fun to take pictures of your co-workers with drinks in their hands or doing a crazy dance on the dance floor. You may even want to take a photo or two with friends.

But it may be better to keep your holiday-party antics on your hard drive instead of spreading photos and videos across the internet, particularly if you have co-workers who’d rather the party stay off social media.

Take the hint and leave

imtmphoto/Adobe man getting off work saying good-bye to coworkers

You don’t want to be the last to leave because you can’t take the hint that it’s time to go. Keep an eye on the party and when the crowd starts to thin out, use it as an excuse to politely thank your bosses for the lovely night and leave.

It may be a good idea to have an excuse ready before you arrive so you can duck out without hard feelings or awkwardness.

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Remember to say thank you

undrey/Adobe group of people celebrating talking drinking cocktails

There were probably some co-workers who were in charge of finding the caterers and booking the event space. Or maybe you work for a small business with a boss who is also the owner — and the one picking up the check.

Be polite and make sure you thank them for the wonderful evening and the work and money they put into having a successful night.

Stay off your phone

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe female typing in mobile while tasting alcohol liquid

It can be easy to head into a corner with a fancy drink and whip out your phone, but your boss or co-workers may find your behavior rude.

Remember that your holiday is a time to interact with co-workers and celebrate another successful year at the office, so keep your screen time to a minimum.

Go to work the next day

Monkey Business/Adobe businesswoman arriving for work at office walking through door

The night of your holiday party may have been spectacular, but you still have to show up the next day. Don’t be the employee who overindulged in food and drink and then has to call in sick.

And remember to make sure you set your alarm to get up and go to the office no matter how late the party lasted.

Bottom line

Stock_ko/Adobe office workers celebrating winter holidays together at work

These rules may prevent you from completely letting loose at your office party and not going overboard in front of co-workers and your boss. Unless, of course, you want to retire earlier than you expected.

Instead, try to have a fun but pleasant evening, save money by enjoying dinner on the company’s tab, and get home safely.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.