How Not to Get Fired After Any Holiday Party

Sexual Harassment is Number 1 Termination Reason at Office Holiday Parties

The holiday season is upon us and the magic is in the air.  Employees are eager with anticipation for a chance to let loose at the upcoming holiday party for your workplace while managers including HR are anxiety ridden. While employees plot spiking the eggnog, managers are drowning their sorrows in liquid antacid to mitigate the impending ulcer the company holiday party brings.  Managers, especially your human resources department walk on eggshells anticipating the next employee investigation, sexual harassment claim, or termination that comes with the annual office soiree.

Not a year has gone by where I haven’t dealt with a holiday party workplace debacle.  From inappropriate touching and sexual harassment complaints, to the holiday punch being spiked, I’ve seen it all.  A few years back I dealt with a male worker who left suggestive post it notes on a female employee’s computer as a result of advances and conversation during the holiday party.  These messages to the co-worker were small yet very direct.   He crossed the line and even began harassing her via text message.  He was promptly terminated for his actions.

The funny thing about holiday parties is that it isn’t always the company or work event that gets you fired.  During this time of year there are a lot of holiday networking events and business festivities that can get you in a lot of hot water.  In the age where social media is so prevalent, it’s important to remember that at any moment you are being watched.  And that those actions can be tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagrammed for all the world to see.  Job seekers, business professionals, and even students should take heed.  Seriously.

Holiday Party Tips

Check out my interview on Huffington Post Live where I discuss holiday office party tips along with etiquete expert, Anna Post.  I enjoyed this segment in particular because of the real-time engagement.  It’s just like your holiday party.  It’s unscripted, on the fly, and you must be prepared.  Avoid the after party workplace holiday drama, an unwelcome trip to HR, and avoid getting fired after your office party by following these five workplace holiday party golden rules.

2 Drink Maximum.  Exert self-control and opt to limit yourself to two alcoholic beverages at your holiday workplace event.  With alcohol inhibitions are increased.  Keep from saying or doing something you will regret come Monday.

Use the Wingman Strategy.  While on the surface your workplace holiday party might look like a social event, it is a political and networking opportunity that revolves around work and your career.  Opt to bring a responsible friend, wingman, or spouse who can help you work the room, elevate your personal brand, and keep you in check.  Prep them before on the politics and game plan before the holiday party begins. (h/t to Anna for “wingman strategy”)

Hands Off and Eyes Up.  Employees are often dressed to the nines showing skin and wearing less.  Keep your eyes up and hands off at all costs.  Don’t check that sexual harassment training at the door, and remember to keep your conversation and compliments professional.  You are on company time even if you are not clocked in.

Your Evening Dress Should Be Professional.  Remember all the world is a stage. Just because an event is after hours, it is still work related.  Conservative evening attire is best.  Keep that in mind as you choose your attire.  What kind of assets do you want to be remembered for during your annual employee review?  I imagine that any manager would have a hard time focusing during any meeting if your employee showed up in the holiday costume above.  Keep it profesh.

Exit Early.  Nothing good ever happens after midnight.  Know your limit and excuse yourself before the inevitable happens by someone else.  Make an appearance, keep it professional, and make an exit.  Consider making plans to meet up with your work friends minus your boss somewhere else after the event.

Humiliated at Work

I once had a regional manager who got sick during karaoke and on stage during a formal corporate holiday event.  While he didn’t lose his job, it was certainly embarrassing. Employees nicknamed him Barf.  It was humiliating.  Successfully navigating the company holiday party is a job because that’s exactly what it is.  It’s work, and we want to keep working.  Give your boss something good to remember you by as the company’s fiscal year comes to a close. Don’t become a January termination statistic as a result of your actions at the office holiday party.


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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