Work Christmas parties: how to stay out of trouble - SEEK Career Advice

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Work Christmas parties: how to stay out of trouble

Work Christmas parties: how to stay out of trouble

It’s the end of the year and most of us want to loosen our ties, kick off our shoes and have a little fun. But with two in three workplaces hosting a Christmas party, it pays to be aware of common bad behaviours and how to avoid them.

SEEK research has uncovered what most of us think of as bad behaviour at Christmas parties. We asked SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read how to best prepare for these situations and stay out of trouble this festive season.

Bad behaviour 1: Talking inappropriately about your work, boss or colleagues

Having the chance to socialise with colleagues outside of work can be a real positive. You get to see them in a different context, have non-work conversations and spend time with people you may not ordinarily talk with. But the combination of end-of -year fatigue, the desire to celebrate and the availability of alcohol means our behaviour and words can go unchecked.

A work Christmas party is not the time to bring up grievances or start difficult conversations with or about colleagues. “Such negativity is not only contagious and can bring our mood down, but it can also lead to wondering if the same person could at some stage speak about us in the same critical tone,” Read says.

If you think you’re likely to start talking inappropriately, ask a friend to keep an ear out for your conversations and give you a nudge or interrupt if things are going down the wrong path. If a colleague starts bad-mouthing a co-worker, you can make an excuse to exit (bathroom break or get a drink) or steer the conversation in another direction.

Bad behaviour 2: Drinking too much or appearing intoxicated

“High levels of alcohol consumption take away our inhibitions, affecting our attention, behaviour and decision making,” Read says. “Although our work Christmas parties are social and celebratory events, they are still work functions, and require a level of professionalism.”

If you’re someone who likes a drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with water, make sure you eat enough food and find a buddy to help keep you accountable so things don’t get out of hand. “Making a pre-agreed time to leave the function by pre-ordering transport is also a useful strategy,” Read says.

Bad behaviour 3: Being overly affectionate with a colleague in front of others

It’s never comfortable watching people be intimate, much less seeing colleagues do so . “Public displays of affection can make the recipient and others who witness the behaviour can make for an extremely awkward Monday in the cold light of day,” Read says. Even though it’s a party, you are in a work environment, so the boundaries around physical contact still apply.

Bad behaviour 4: Sharing information that wouldn’t otherwise be shared

It’s tempting to gossip at an office party, but while social functions can help you bond with your colleagues, it’s important to keep a sense of what’s professional. “If you witness oversharing by a colleague that makes you or the recipient feel uncomfortable, call out the behaviour by letting the offender know that what’s been said doesn’t feel right,” Read says. “When we observe and accept other people’s offending behaviour, we send a message that the behaviour is acceptable and can inadvertently normalise toxic and damaging behaviours.”

The festive season is a great time to unwind, but Christmas parties can turn sour if people act inappropriately. The key to an incident-free office party is being aware of your behaviour and how it impacts others, and letting colleagues know if they’re out of line. That way, your team can celebrate the year’s hard work and enjoy each other’s company – without any red faces or repercussions.