From Tipsy To Regret: Your Tales From The Office Holiday Party : The Salt Office soirees can be an opportunity for networking and workplace bonding. But drinking with the boss can also lead to embarrassment, injury and litigious outcomes, as the stories you shared bear out.

From Tipsy To Regret: Your Tales From The Office Holiday Party

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'Tis the season of the office holiday party. Love them or avoid them, but most workplaces do have office celebrations every year. And there are many, many stories of what can happen when you mix work with pleasure, especially if there's brandy in the eggnog and rum in the punch bowl. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on how not to blow it.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: If you're a fan of the hit show "The Office," you may remember one of the most viewed episodes ever - the Christmas party.


STEVE CARELL: (As Michael Scott) If I can't throw a good party for my employees, then I am a terrible boss.

AUBREY: With 15 bottles of vodka, Steve Carell, the guy who played the boss character, sets the tone.


CARELL: (As Michael Scott) I want people making out in closets (making noises). I want people hanging from the ceilings, lampshades on the head.

AUBREY: As the antics go from festive to fraught, there's Xeroxing of naked buttocks and, with vodka flowing, group shots.


CARELL: (As Michael Scott) One, two, three (making noises).


CARELL: (As Michael Scott) Kudos to Ryan, king of the party committee.

AUBREY: Now this is a spoof, an exaggeration. People don't really behave like this or drink like this, right? I put the question to an employment lawyer.

NIGEL WILKINSON: Well, you might be surprised.

AUBREY: Nigel Wilkinson is a partner with the firm Manaty, Phelps & Philips in Washington, D.C.

WILKINSON: I do think sometimes employees forget that the office rules apply at an office party.

AUBREY: People start drinking, inhibitions fade away and stuff can happen.

WILKINSON: I don't think it's an overstatement to say that office parties can lead to a litigious outcome.

AUBREY: Wilkinson says the most typical claim is sexual harassment.

WILKINSON: But the relaxed atmosphere can lead to racist jokes, or an employee can injure themselves or injure somebody else.

AUBREY: And you've seen all of these?

WILKINSON: I have seen all of these.

AUBREY: Now these are extreme cases. Oftentimes, the effect of alcohol on people's behavior is just simply embarrassing. Maurice Schweitzer is a professor at Wharton business school who studies how alcohol influences negotiations and professional dealings.

MAURICE SCHWEITZER: One of the things alcohol impairs is our ability to recognize our own impairment. So we tend to think that we might be more funny or more entertaining than we actually are.

AUBREY: And that's a problem, especially if you annoy your boss or colleagues. So what's the best strategy? Well, therapist Patt Denning says, if you have any tendency at all to overdo it, you can do a couple of things before you put on your party shoes.

PATT DENNING: Before you go in there, decide what kind of an impression do you want to make? Do you want to be the life of the party, really?

AUBREY: Denning councils on alcohol-related issues at the Center for Harm Reduction Therapy in the Bay Area. She says the next thing to do is this.

DENNING: Decide how many drinks will be optimal. If you have one glass of wine, are you tipsy, or does it take four martinis?

AUBREY: And Denning says, once you've determined how many drinks you'll allow yourself, stick with it and slow down.

DENNING: Make a pact with yourself or with somebody else that you will take a break before each drink.

AUBREY: And try to alternate between glasses of water and alcohol. After all, there is an upside to the festive atmosphere that comes with a little rum punch. Here's Wharton's Maurice Schweitzer again.

SCHWEITZER: It's a social ritual. It can bond us together.

AUBREY: And being part of the group, just fitting in, he says, can open up new professional opportunities.

SCHWEITZER: The way we mix our social lives and our work is essential for how we advance in our work.

AUBREY: So as you blend work and play, Schweitzer says the goal is to strike the right balance. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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