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7 Holiday Office Party Sins You Didn’t Even Know You Were Committing (and How to Fix Them)

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It’s December, which means it is officially holiday office party time. For some people, this is a joyous time of relaxing with coworkers, eating good food, and adding a little extra sparkle to their outfits. But for others, the office holiday party is one big cesspool of awkward moments and screw ups that could potentially damage your career. We don’t want to scare you, but the office holiday party is not your run of a mill party. It’s intricate and full of politics—in addition to delicious crab cakes.

Now if you’ve been on the Internet in the last week, there are tons of articles stating the obvious advice i.e. don’t get wasted, wear a completely see-through dress, just eat cheese all night at the food table (it’s not good for you!), but we know you’re too smart for that. So we’ve come up with a list of more subtle mistakes you can make—with the help of Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert—for some hacks.

1. Criticizing another coworker in front of a coworker or manager.

Commenting on someone’s dancing skills or choice of outfit may seem like just a little fun for you, but someone else could interpret it differently. Every office has a Dwight Schrute, but you don’t need to point it out. Even if the person is doing something totally stupid and absurd, keep your mouth shut. It makes you look like a bitter and angry person. You want everyone to think you’re super nice–kind of like Blaire Waldorf.

Easy fix: Follow your mom’s advice: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And if someone is really bothering you, then go get another drink.

2. Giving a gag gift.

You may think a funny gift is hilarious, but not everyone shares your (possibly very dirty) sense of humor.

Easy fix: Play it safe and get a very PC gift, like a candle or a pair of socks.

3. Exiting early or staying too late.

You don’t pull an Irish exit at the office holiday party and you don’t leave after 10 minutes. This is your job people! Spend some time there, a little small talk won’t kill you. But you also don’t want to stay too late. When the crowds start leaving, you can head out.

Easy fix: Stay for at least two hours and then have a solid excuse, like you have an early morning spin class or something. Whitmore says, “When you make an effort to attend the office holiday party, even for just a half hour, you show interest in and support for your colleagues, organization, and supervisor. ”

4. Only talking to the people you talk to every single day.

We get it. You’re BFFs with your coworker, but this is the time to mingle with other people in the company. Yes, it would be easy to just stick with your friends, but they most likely won’t lead to your next job.

Easy fix: Talk to at least two people you wouldn’t normally talk to at work. You never know what it could do for you on both a personal and professional basis. Whitmore says, “Reach out and introduce yourself to people you don’t know rather than sticking with only those you do know. An office party is a chance to shine and mingle with those you don’t see very often. Have some conversation starters available. Most people love to talk about travel, food, and hobbies.”

5. Not being totally present.

Yes, you can go for the whole party from start to finish, but are you actually being present? Be in the moment when you are there. Whitmore says, “A holiday party is a great time to get to know others on a personal level. Be engaged and don’t spend a majority of the evening texting, talking on your cell phone, or posting photos on Facebook. Put people first and put your phone on silent.”

Easy fix: Leave your phone in your coat pocket then you’ll be forced to talk to people.

6. Holding your drink in your right hand.

This is a rookie move. You may be right handed, but you have to keep that drink in your left hand (or whichever is your dominant hand), so you can keep the other strong hand free for some good handshakes. Whitmore says, “No one likes to shake a cold, wet hand. Avoid juggling your food and drink, and don’t talk with your mouth full of food.”

Easy fix: Whitmore suggests leaving your big bag that could comfortably hold a small litter of cats at home. It will just get in the way (and your coworkers most likely won’t rob you). Opt for a wristlet or a small cross body bag if you insist on having a purse.

7. Not showing your appreciation.

So it’s not like you received an actual present, but if you want to get some brownie points then be sure to thank whoever was responsible for the party. Not every company has a holiday party, so it is pretty nice if you get to attend one. Whitmore says, “Saying thank you is not only cordial behavior, but it’ll make you stand out from those who don’t express their gratitude.”

Easy fix: If you want some major extra credit, then send a thank-you note to key persons who helped organize the event and to those who made the event possible.

Photo: korinrochellephotography / Getty Images

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