20 Things NOT to Do at the Office Holiday Party

20 Things NOT to Do at the Office Holiday Party

This time of year, there’s a good chance you’re preparing for the annual office holiday party for your small business. As a small business owner, you need to take the holiday party even more seriously than other employees might. So you’ll want to avoid any major faux pas. Here are 20 things you definitely should not do at your upcoming small business holiday party.

Office Holiday Party Etiquette

Don’t Skip It

First of all, if you’re going to have an office holiday party for your team, you should actually be present. Don’t think of it as something just for your employees or an event where you can just swing by. Actually take the time to attend and enjoy the entire experience alongside your staff.

Don’t Get Too into the Holiday – Er – Spirits

You want your holiday party to be a fun time for your whole team. So that probably means you’ll have some kind of alcoholic beverages available. While having a bit of the spiked egg nog is totally fine, make sure you don’t overdo it and end up making a drunken fool of yourself in front of your whole team.

Don’t Forget to Mingle

Having a holiday party for your whole team also means that you should spend some time with your whole team. Don’t make the mistake of spending the whole time surrounded by just a few of your closest confidants. Take the time to go around and mingle with the employees you don’t get to spend much time with. And if you have any clients or prospects who are also invited, you could use the party as an opportunity to get to know them in a more relaxed setting as well.

Don’t Show Up Late

The first part of your holiday office party can set the tone for the entire event. So it’s important for you as a business owner to be there at the very beginning to welcome people and help to create a relaxed atmosphere where people can really enjoy themselves.

Don’t Participate in Office Gossip

Your holiday office party can be a great opportunity for you to get to know your employees on a more personal level. But there’s a chance some of your team members might spend their time gossiping or even complaining about other employees. As the team leader, taking part in this type of gossip can be harmful to your team dynamic and even your reputation among your employees. So steer clear or even try to shut it down if possible.

Don’t Overload Your Plate

Along with your holiday party drinks, you’ll probably also want to offer some kind of dinner or hors d’oeuvres. And while it’s totally fine — and even advisable, especially if you’re enjoying a few libations — you might want to think twice before stockpiling your plate with one of everything. If your hands and/or mouth are too full throughout the party to greet people and shake hands, it might come across as rude. So instead, consider grabbing a smaller plate and then just going back for seconds later.

Don’t Be Vague With Invitations

For the sake of your party, it’s important that you let your team members know what to expect before they head over. If you have a specific dress code in mind, make that clear. If you want people to bring their family members, let them know. And if you have any other instructions or specifications to make, be sure to just make everything clear beforehand so your employees don’t have to guess what you have in store for them.

Don’t Forget to Offer Some Activities

You don’t necessarily need to create a whole list of cheesy party games and then force your team members to participate throughout the entire evening. But you can create some structure for the party just so people don’t end up standing around twiddling their thumbs. You might consider adding a gift exchange, a party entertainer or even having Santa stop by for the kids.

Don’t Dress Inappropriately

Depending on the tone and type of holiday party you have for your team, it can be an opportunity for you to dress a bit differently than you might at work. Showing up in jeans and a collared shirt instead of your normal suit and tie is one thing. But wearing a shirt with an inappropriate slogan on it or anything that shows off a little too much is another. As the boss, you set the tone for your team. So keep your casual garb at least appropriate and make it clear that you expect the same of your team.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

The office holiday party can be a great place for you to relax and have some fun getting to know your team better. So if you stick completely to your all-business work persona, you could be missing out. So enjoy a drink or two, put those work stressors on the back burner and try to just enjoy the party.

Don’t Cut Loose Too Much

However, you still have to go back to work the next day and every other work day going forward. So aside from making sure not to have too much from the open bar, you should also take care not to do anything that might lead to your reputation taking a hit with your team. For example, if you know you’re a terrible dancer, you can hit the dance floor for a song or two with everyone else. But forcing everyone to form a circle around you while you fail to do the robot is probably a little much.

Don’t Stand by the Mistletoe

While you’re having fun enjoying the office holiday party and getting to know your team, make sure not to step over the line into inappropriate territory. Especially as the boss, you shouldn’t make any inappropriate jokes or advances, even if not serious or intentional, toward any other party attendees.

Don’t Only Talk Shop

Your small business is probably a big part of your life that you talk about often. But you and your team members could all use a break every now and then. So make sure the office party is actually a break for everyone and steer clear of shop talk.

Don’t Look Bored

Along with relaxing and having some fun, you should also make sure that everyone at the office holiday party knows you’re relaxing and having some fun. If you look bored or upset, it could give off the wrong impression to your team or other attendees and set a negative tone for the party.

Don’t Stare at Your Phone the Whole Time

You might be waiting for an important email or want to post a photo or two on social media. But if you spend the whole party on your phone, it shows people that you’re not engaged or interested. So if you have something important that you need to check, do it quickly and then put the phone away and actually enjoy yourself.

Don’t Leave Anyone Out

If you have a decent sized team, the odds are that not everyone necessarily has the same holiday traditions or preferences. While you can pretty safely put up some festive decorations and even exchange Christmas gifts, you don’t want to exclude anyone who doesn’t celebrate a specific holiday. Make sure everyone knows they’re welcome, regardless of their personal preferences. And steer clear of any activities or other items that might make people feel excluded.

Don’t Make Any Major Announcements

Along with avoiding work-related chit chat, it’s also a good idea to steer clear of work-related announcements. Even if it seems like a convenient time to communicate with your whole team at once, save it and schedule a meeting for later in the week so you don’t disrupt the party.

Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

An office holiday party is a great time for you to say thank you to your team members, partners and clients for all they’ve done for your business throughout the year. So don’t pass up the opportunity. You can make a quick speech where you thank everyone and/or thank people individually as you make your way through the party.

Don’t Leave Too Early

In addition to being one of the first people to show up, as the boss you should also be one of the last to leave. Staying for the long haul shows people you care and allows you to spend even more time with people as you mingle.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Finally, as you and your team prepare to leave the holiday party, it’s important to be safe. You might even want to arrange transportation, start a designated driver program or share the number of a local cab company with your team so no one feels the need to drive home after enjoying a little too much egg nog.

Party Photo via Shutterstock

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

4 Reactions
  1. I know that it is important. But what if you’re the type of person who is not really fond of too many people?

    • I think it depends on the type of business you have. If you don’t like being around people, then you probably have a smaller team and it might not be as big of an issue

  2. This list should be circulated as a memo throughout the whole organization before the next office party!