Office Party Etiquette (Part III)

Office Party Etiquette (Part III)

11.  Amorousness: keep it in your pants – Some people embrace holiday parties as an excuse to reject traditional norms of discretion, preferring to act like drunk 15 year olds unencumbered by a fear of rejection.  Yes, the presence of an open bar and a buffet will elevate your endorphin levels, but not to the point where you should reveal intimate personal details or express previously repressed desires.  The alcohol, black dresses and festive cheer do not add up to an excuse to try and hook up with a first year analyst.

Life experience –  Typical stuff I’ve seen/heard/done: bragging about inter-office affairs, attempting to start inter-office affairs, lying about the existence of inter-office affairs, lying about the existence of wives/significant others.  Standard stuff.  My favorite moment was obviously when a very drunk female VP was hitting on a junior guy while simultaneously pretending/projecting that he was Latin.  “Are you from South America?”  This guy was as white, or whiter, than a leprechaun.  Maybe an albino leprechaun.

Guidance – If you are feeling any kind of romantic longings, just go home, pop Legally Blonde into the DVD player and enjoy a nice glass of Fresca.

12.  Maintain appropriate social boundaries – Fraternization rules vary from firm to firm.  In the military, officers and enlisted folks aren’t supposed to hang out outside “the office.”  It’s a little different in the business world, as – at least in finance – the senior team members are expected to take the junior team out for drinks periodically.  If the junior team members are actually more responsible drinkers than the senior guys, this can lead to some awkward moments.

At office parties, the most likely situation would be some older, more senior dude suddenly trying to get chummy with some of the younger ladies in the group.  Usually this is not for mentorship purposes.  This is always a tricky situation for the junior people as they have to fear any longer-term ramifications.  There also might be a bunch of people from other offices/countries who are tangentially related to your office but somehow get invited to the holiday party.  Definitely tell them that the after party is at Rawhide’s, that’s always a good one to pull on the folks from London.

Also, some dork MD from the group will inevitably try to amp up his Q score by taking a bunch of the junior dudes to a strip club at the tail end of the evening.  Stay far away from this endeavor – it’s kind of creepy and can come back to haunt you down the road if the PC police catch the scent.  Glitter on your forehead the next day can also be a damning sign.

Life experience –  At my last holiday party, I recall spending some time hanging with the guy who ran the copy room, since he had practically no one to talk to.  Turns out we didn’t have a lot in common, as he liked to sing hymns in some variation of English, and I was preferred to ponder who would win the NFC.  So, I tried to assuage the situation with tequila.  Then I bailed on him mid-drink when I realized people were about to leave.  Going into the copy room was always awkward after that.

Guidance –  Make appropriate small talk with the people you work with but don’t get tied down.  Have a list of excuses teed up to get you out of any conversation: “Where’s the bathroom?/I need another drink/Shit, my blackberry is going off” should all work in a pinch, but you’ll want to establish a broad repertoire.  Decide in advance (with your usual social circle) where you are heading afterwards, then lie to anyone who asks where you are heading afterward. Having a bunch of excuses handy will be helpful (feel sick/have a bunch to do tomorrow/watching the last few hours of Ken Burn’s Baseball) in preventing a full-blown groupterfuck.

13.  Avoid the afterparty, particularly if it’s named after any part of a “special massage” – Averting disaster at the party itself is difficult enough; averting it at the afterparty is practically impossible.  Especially if the club you are going to is called something along the lines of Oil.  Or Happy Endings.  Or Ballgags and Zippermasks.

Life experience –  At my penultimate holiday party, following a violation of rule #2 and stuffed full of white truffles, essentially the entire group (those under age 40, at least) ended up at a nearby bar whose name evoked sensual massage.

I’ve had many drinking experiences in my life, and this particular night was one of only two times that I think I was “slipped a mickey.”  There’s really no other explanation for my poor, poor behavior that night.  I don’t know exactly what I did, but I know it was bad.

I had planned this particular Christmas vacation brilliantly – my first day off was the day after the party and my new Playstation 3 had been delivered that morning!  Unfortunately, I woke up the morning after feeling as if I’d just had 2-3 of those adrenaline shots that Uma got in Pulp Fiction in tandem with the worst migraine headache imaginable.  I was wearing my suit pants and shoes.  I couldn’t find my blackberry or my wallet.  I had a bruised cheek – then a recalled a sliver of the end of the night: fisticuffs with the cab driver due to my having no money and him having driven me like 45 minutes across town.  (This was my second ever lost-my-wallet-so-have-to-fight-the-cabbie bout.  My career record is 0-2.)

I called the bar later as I was hoping to recover my wallet, ‘berry and maybe even my suit coat.  The gentleman who answered the phone came back after checking out their lost and found and let me know, voice dripping with disgust, that they didn’t have my wallet or blackberry, but did indeed have my suit coat and tie.  And my shirt.

Fantastic showing by me.  (Also, my brilliant plan of going from the party straight to vacation predictably got blown up as an “emergent” M&A situation arose, requiring a client presentation before December 29th.  No wonder I haven’t rushed back to work.)

Guidance –  I will reiterate the guidance from point #13, decide in advance where you are going with your friends, and then lie to the broader group about these intentions.

14.  Employing a sound office re-entry technique is critical – If you followed all, or most, of the previous advice presented here, you can just saunter into the office with your head held high, smug in your knowledge that you are not the office jackass.  If not, you are either embarrassed by something you recall doing, or are potentially going to be embarrassed about something you do not recall doing.  A different approach is required for either situation.

Life experience – I essentially had this problem every year, except that year where I took off the next day.  That year I had bigger problems, like getting a new drivers license.  (Which, unexpectedly, takes like ten minutes in NYC.)

Guidance – If you know what you did and it’s going to have long-term ramifications, like hooking up with your assistant, you’ll want to get into the office early, but looking as hungover and sick as humanly possible.  Make self-deprecating comments to anyone within earshot about what a lightweight you are and how you “didn’t know the punch was that strong, ha!”.  Vomit into your trash can if possible.  Confide in people that you were blacked out from like 7:00 PM on.  Laugh loudly when talking to pockets of friends to heighten the illusion that “drunk asses sure do stupid things – hilarious things!”  When there aren’t a lot of people around and the coast is relatively clear – make your way to the person you yelled at/attempted to sleep with/accidentally urinated upon and let them know how drunk you were, how you don’t recall anything and how bad you feel, in general – not specific to them – about anything negative that may have transpired.  Reiterate this general theme any time the party is brought up, enjoy your christmas break, and the slate will be wiped clear come January 1.   I should be a PR guy.

If you don’t know what you did, but suspect you were a complete fuckhead, you’ll want to take a slightly different approach.  Avoid one-on-ones to the extent possible.  Definitely come into the office sometime after lunch, when you can kind of blend in with the masses getting to your cube/desk/office.  Keep a low profile at your desk – you want to avoid some numnuts coming up and putting you on the spot with “man, i can’t believe you fucking did that,” when you don’t know what “that” was.

Try to recall who was the drunkest person (or next drunkest, if you were the drunkest) at the party.  You’ll want to try and get them alone – it will build your confidence when you admit not knowing what you did and they can say “I know, right, I was so wasted. LOL.”  Ask them if they can recall any specific broaches of etiquette, or local laws/ordinances.  If they recall that you did do something truly horrible, leave the building.  Go home, feign sickness and don’t come back until after New Year’s.  Everyone will have forgotten by then.  If that person didn’t recall you doing anything too stupid, continue building confidence by talking to similarly inebriated folks until you are ready to re-enter the population using a variation of the “I was blacked out from 7:00 PM on” as needed when talking to sober nerds.


Chilly17, wasted potential, yo

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