Negotiating the Holiday Work Christmas Party
10 Tips for Your Success
It’s that time of the year. Workplace holiday parties abound. And with them, inevitably come ‘un-come-back-from-able’ moments – those irredeemable office party faux pas moments. Recent studies show that a majority of employees anticipate these holiday social events with dread. There’s a host of reasons for that reaction. Being a little more intentional about how you want to show up will help alleviate some of the typical risk factors associated with the holiday work party.
While you’ve no doubt earned the right to cut loose a little and enjoy the festivities at this time of year, here’s a few tips to help you negotiate these events without morning after regrets.
I Decide WHO you want to be
In advance of the party, decide who you want to be. How do you want people to see you at the event. I recommend choosing 3 words that describe how you’d like to be seen. While there’s no right or wrong answer, it can be a lifesaver to determine in advance what qualities you want to represent and exude. Having these 3 words can ground you throughout the evening and allow you to be more intentional about the image you project.
How you dress reflects who you’re seen as. Be intentional about your wardrobe choice. Be sure it reflects the image you want to project.
II Negotiate Your Mindset
Tied to choosing who you want to show up as, our first and most important negotiation is negotiating our mindset. While we can’t control much of what happens externally, we can choose how we show up and how we react to circumstances around us. Our reality is determined by our thoughts and the meaning we attach to them. Manage your mindset with intention in advance of and during the party.
III Manage stress and anxiety
While this category could have been included under ‘Negotiate Your Mindset’, stress and anxiety are so prevalent around these events that it deserved a special shout-out. Many employees suffer from serious stress and anxiety around this annual event. First, know that you’re not the only one feeling anxious about the shindig.
Monitor your stress levels before and during the event. If you’re feeling tension, allow yourself a few moments to breathe. Box breathing can be a quick fix – simply breathe in for the count of four, hold for four, release/exhale for the count of four and hold for four. Repeat this until your body (and mind) starts to relax and regulate.
Start the event by gravitating to people you know and are most comfortable around. This can help ground you as you work up the comfort to expand outside your usual comfort zone. Set it as a challenge to yourself (or ‘intention’ if you’d like a softer designation) to interact with a pre-determined number of co-workers outside your usual circle (or whatever challenge suits you personally to address your anxiety-inducer head-on). Choose a celebration that you’ll treat yourself with after the event when you succeed in meeting your personal challenge.
And always remember that it’s okay to take a break when needed. My daughter is an introvert and she makes a point to step out of large or stressful social events periodically to find a quiet space to ground herself and regroup.
IV Show Up
Even if you fall in the ‘dread the holiday party’ group, be sure to show up. A lot of work (and money) is invested in these events. Recognize and appreciate that by attending. And with the right mindset they can be an important opportunity for advancement.
Tied to showing up, be sure to RSVP where requested.
Also tied to showing up, ensure you pay attention to guest etiquette. Find out if guests are welcome or not. If you bring a guest who is not your life partner, do so with intention. Don’t bring the hottie you just met at the club last weekend who may look good as arm candy but does not reflect your image or career aspirations.
In addition to showing up at the event, be sure to show up to work the next day. Calling in sick is not cool and will not score you points.
V Manage Your alcohol intake
This speaks for itself … and yet … at virtually all workplace holiday events there’s inevitably someone who becomes the subject of endless gossip due to overindulging at the open bar and the corresponding reduction in inhibition and judgment. Don’t be that person. By all means partake, but do so in moderation.
VI Don’t Gossip (and Manage Your Conversations)
Speaking of gossip, don’t be a gossip and avoid becoming the subject of gossip. It’s always better to be a ‘force for good’ in the workplace. Seek to be the positive influence, not the toxic poison that undercuts workplace morale (and your career in the process). In negotiating your career, as in any negotiation, you want to build rapport and trust, bringing empathy to the table.
On the topic of conversation, the holiday work party is not the place to discuss your favourite hot political topics and views of the day or your workplace gripes (however legitimate they may be). Try to avoid conversational landmines.
VII Play it safe with Secret Santa gifts
On the subject of landmines, in today’s climate, you’ll want to avoid inadvertently stepping into a hot spot with your choice of Secret Santa gift. Avoid offending others by avoiding gift choices that may not be palatable across the board. Sex toys are an obvious no-no, but even gifts of alcohol may cause offence, for example. Choose with care and thoughtfulness.
VIII Mix and Mingle
Under the ‘Managing Stress’ section above, I suggest setting a challenge for yourself about expanding your social circle. This applies whether you’re managing stress or not. Be sure to mix and mingle. Don’t spend the entire event confined to your usual workplace ‘partners’. Take advantage of the opportunity to engage with others who you typically get the opportunity to interact with. And be sure to get some face-time with ‘the boss’ or other key players who may be less accessible in the regular workplace dynamic.
IX Manage social media
Whether you’re a social media guru, influencer or dabbler, remember that this is a work event. Govern your representations accordingly. Even on your personal accounts, be mindful of how you represent yourself and your workplace on public platforms. Be especially mindful of this as your alcohol intake increases. Remember that what you post is out in the ether forever.
X Show gratitude
Finally, be sure to give thanks to the host(s) and organizers. Don’t forget the support staff who made the event possible. A little appreciation goes a long way, yet is often overlooked for work events where people are sometimes lulled by a sense of entitlement or expectation in this regard.
Hope at least a few of these simple tips help make your holiday event more palatable and fruitful. Interestingly, these same principles apply in all your negotiations. All of life is a negotiation. Thinking of this process as a ‘negotiation’ can help you be more intentional about the choices you make and as a result get you better outcomes.
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