Navigating the Office Holiday Party

At the last really huge holiday party I attended, a young woman who reported to me jumped up on stage just as the B-52s song Love Shack began filling the hotel ball room. There were thousands of people there, and the crowd went wild.

This wasn't the holiday bash of some celebrity magazine or hip record label.

This was Accenture, the big consulting firm.

I leaned over to my wife and said, "I hope this doesn't go on her performance review, or mine"

But it turns out the girl really could sing and dance,

She even knew the words to the line most people are still trying to figure out. I think it's "Tin Roof Rusted" but I could be wrong.

Anyway, her performance was the highlight of the party. And it did end up on her performance review.

But it was the best thing that ever happened to her career. Everyone learned her name and started seeking her out for cool projects. Maybe they thought anyone with that much moxie should be able to sell something.

So you see holiday parties aren't the career killers they are reputed to be. There can be an upside, however rare.

Still, I wouldn't recommend that anyone go to their work party, get drunk and start playing air guitar on the tables. Holiday parties still have plenty of pitfalls that can affect your career, or at least your reputation. Not that you shouldn't go. You definitely should. Co-workers want to see who you're dating, who you're married to, and what you think "festive holiday attire" is.

But here are some pointers to help you avoid having to draft a letter of apology — or even resignation — the week after.

First, it's probably best not to get drunk.

Since no one ever listens to me on this first key piece of advice, pay attention to No. 2: Stay away from anyone with a video camera. You may think you are a good dancer, but you might show up on YouTube the next day, next to a video clip of the classic Seinfeld episode of Elaine dancing at her holiday party.

Three: Never sit with the company lawyers. They are never any fun at these events since they focus on the liabilities of everyone and everything that is happening around them.

Four: If last year's steak and wine has been replaced by goldfish and beer, cut your company some slack. It may have been a bad year — especially if you're in parts of the mortgage or banking industry.

Lastly, don't forget basic common sense, like, leave your Blackberry at home, don't hit on your bosses wife, and don't drive home if you are drunk.

So go and have fun. It's a time to get to know your co-workers in ways never imagined in cube-land. It's time for your date to see who you have complained about all year. It's a time to relax and say, "I made it here for another year." Congratulations.

Rich Moran is a partner at Venrock, a venture capital firm in California, and the author of six books. His latest is Nuts, Bolts and Jolts: Fundamental Business and Life Lessons You Must Know.

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