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.

20 Things NOT to Do at the Office Holiday Party

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.

20 Things NOT to Do at the Office Holiday Party

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.

20 Things NOT to Do at the Office Holiday Party


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.

20 Things NOT to Do at the Office Holiday 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.

Setting the Right Tone for the New Year

As you gear up for your annual office holiday party, consider the following tips to ensure a successful event and a positive start to the new year. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Reflect on the Past Year: Take a moment during the party to acknowledge the achievements and challenges of the past year. Share a few words about your team’s accomplishments and express gratitude for their hard work.
  • Celebrate Diversity: Embrace the diversity of your team by incorporating a range of holiday decorations and activities that are inclusive of various traditions and celebrations.
  • Encourage Employee Involvement: Involve your employees in planning the party by asking for their input on themes, activities, and even charity initiatives. This not only fosters teamwork but also ensures the party caters to everyone’s interests.
  • Highlight Team Bonding: Use this festive occasion as an opportunity to strengthen team bonds. Consider team-building activities that encourage collaboration and camaraderie.
  • Express Optimism for the Future: As the year comes to a close, share your optimism and goals for the upcoming year. A short speech about your vision for the business can inspire and motivate your team for the year ahead.
  • Show Appreciation: Express your gratitude to your team members for their dedication. You could prepare small tokens of appreciation or personalized notes for each employee.
  • Promote Work-Life Balance: While celebrating with your team is important, remind them of the importance of work-life balance. Encourage them to enjoy the party responsibly and take time to relax during the holiday season.
  • Capture the Memories: Arrange for a designated photographer to capture candid moments during the event. Share these photos afterward to relive the memories and strengthen team connections.
  • Plan Ahead for Next Year: Use the holiday party as an opportunity to discuss potential goals and initiatives for the upcoming year. This can help your team feel motivated and excited about what’s to come.
  • Provide Safe Transportation: As a responsible leader, ensure that your team has access to safe transportation options if they’ve indulged in holiday spirits. Consider partnering with ride-sharing services or providing reimbursement for cab rides.
  • Spread Holiday Cheer: Beyond the party, consider organizing a charitable initiative as part of your holiday celebrations. Encourage your team to give back to the community and make a positive impact.
Key PointsDescription
Reflect on the Past YearAcknowledge achievements and challenges of the past year. Share team accomplishments and express gratitude for hard work.
Celebrate DiversityEmbrace team diversity with inclusive holiday decorations and activities.
Encourage Employee InvolvementInvolve employees in party planning, including themes and charity initiatives, fostering teamwork and catering to interests.
Highlight Team BondingStrengthen team bonds through festive team-building activities that encourage collaboration and camaraderie.
Express Optimism for the FutureShare optimism and goals for the upcoming year, inspiring and motivating the team.
Show AppreciationExpress gratitude with tokens of appreciation or personalized notes for team members' dedication.
Promote Work-Life BalanceRemind the team of work-life balance importance, encouraging responsible party enjoyment and holiday relaxation.
Capture the MemoriesArrange for candid event photos to relive memories and strengthen team connections.
Plan Ahead for Next YearDiscuss potential goals and initiatives for the upcoming year, motivating the team for the future.
Provide Safe TransportationEnsure access to safe transportation options after the party, promoting responsible behavior and partnerships with ride-sharing services or cab reimbursements.
Spread Holiday CheerOrganize a charitable initiative to give back to the community, extending the holiday spirit beyond the party.
Foster Community and Set the ToneAs a small business owner, create a sense of community, set the tone for the new year, and reinforce a positive company culture through careful party planning and intention.

Remember, your role as a small business owner goes beyond just organizing a party. It’s a chance to foster a sense of community, set the tone for the upcoming year, and create lasting memories for your team. By approaching the holiday party with intention and care, you can create an event that truly resonates with your employees and reinforces a positive company culture.

Conclusion: Embrace the Spirit of Unity and Celebration

As the holiday season approaches, the annual office holiday party offers a unique opportunity for small business owners to foster unity, express gratitude, and set a positive tone for the coming year. By adhering to proper etiquette and considering the key points outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your holiday party becomes more than just an event—it becomes a memorable experience that resonates with your team members.

Remember, your active participation as a leader is crucial. Your presence not only demonstrates your commitment but also encourages a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for everyone. Embrace the diversity within your team by creating an inclusive celebration that respects various traditions and backgrounds.

Encouraging employee involvement and team bonding not only strengthens relationships but also emphasizes the value you place on collaboration. Take this opportunity to reflect on the past year’s achievements, express optimism for the future, and express your appreciation for your team’s hard work. Such gestures go a long way in building a sense of camaraderie and loyalty among your employees.

While the party is a time for relaxation and enjoyment, remember to promote responsible behavior and safety. Provide transportation options for those who may indulge in festive spirits, ensuring their well-being after the event.

By thoughtfully planning ahead, you can create an event that leaves a lasting impact. From capturing memories through photos to discussing future goals, your holiday party becomes a symbol of unity, appreciation, and the beginning of a prosperous year ahead. So, as you prepare for this festive occasion, remember that you are not only celebrating the holidays but also cultivating a positive company culture that resonates throughout the entire year.

Party Photo via Shutterstock

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.