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Office Party Etiquette

Office Party Etiquette

It’s the holiday time of year again, shockingly. (Apparently time flies when you are doing exactly what you want, all the time) In this sooner-than-expected-era of corporate prolificness, that means holiday parties are back, boyeee!  For those interested in networking or just kicking back and having a killer time, there is no better event than a holiday party for briefly intermingling with those senior to you before quickly dissolving back into the anonymity of your normal social circle.  You know, the people you already spend fourteen hours per day with.  The holiday party is somewhat special, though, in that the senior team will generally make every (some) effort to look like they know your name – bring on the Patron, ya’ll!

As someone who has (unfortunately) lived outside the guidelines presented below, please heed at least some of my warnings.  Who’s this dick to be telling me how to enjoy a holiday party? I can hear your doubts so loudly I put them in fucking italics, but allow me to present some credentials: I’m an old man (40+, bitches, and also listening to some Whodini – that is a “Funky Beat”), I’ve been to nine Wall Street holiday parties, and have been the drunkest person there at a record-setting seven such parties.  For any baseball or statistical analysis fans (biostats not included), if someone applied the appropriate metrics to my holiday party record (drunkest+oldest+average level of work responsibility) I would effectively be the equivalent of Babe Ruth hitting 60 homers while other entire teams hit like three.  So listen to what I have to say.  Hopefully I will remember most of what I had in mind, I’ve had a few beers and just cracked open some YT (Pinot – not highly recommended.  That’s the dark purple, go with the regular purple).

As always, this shit here is based on my experiences in the world of investment banking, but should translate to all kinds of shitty jobs, careers or diversions.

How To Survive A Holiday Party

1.  Don’t start too early – The key to any holiday party/open bar drinking event/half marathon is, of course, keeping your pace under control combined with making sure your carb intake is appropriate.  The thing about holiday parties is, the assistants leave about 8 hours before the party to apply makeup, compress themselves into outfits, seek out the newest pheromones, etc so the office will seem dead as shit.  Any reasonable manager will plan nothing for the day after the holiday party, so it’s like an unofficial 36 hour holiday starting late afternoon on Tuesday.  (All good holiday parties are held on a Tuesday – the (misguided) thought being that nobody will get too fucked up on a Tuesday).

Life Experience:  I know a lad, let’s call him Xmashangover, who mistakenly started drinking whiskey at noon the day of the holiday party.  He was later literally propped against the wall at the actual party, albeit wearing a jaunty santa cap.

Guidance:  Don’t have your first drink until 6:00 PM.  Go with your actual work friends and have 2-3 drinks to steel yourself for the awkwardness to come.  Thank me later.

2.  Don’t start too late – Contradicting myself this early?  No – one of the absolute gravest dangers of the open bar is the “catch up” situation.  The ability to order whatever you want (Johnnie Walker Blue and Coke, extra Coke was always funny) can bind you up in a manner similar to starting too early.

Life experience:  A few years ago, I was stuck in a business dinner in New York the same night as the Christmas party.  I was about as bummed as one could be, as I am a huge fan of the Christmas party (my memory only holds for about 350 days, so the embarrassment of the previous year has usually worn off by December).  We were at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC (trivia – not in the Four Seasons Hotel), having dinner with probably our most boring clients, having the most boring conversation I can even imagine having (“You can probably shave 2 bps off your spread with this swap, the accounting treatment is cutting edge”)…the menu had no prices, and I recall eyeballing the White Truffle Risotto appetizer…I don’t know about truffles, but I am down with some risotto…when the three clients fired it up, I joined in….it was pretty tasty, but the truffles were a bit overpowering, so I scraped most of them off….I later learned these apps were $200 each – not an easy expense report to get through even during the heydey.  Anyhoo, by the time that shitty dinner ended, there was only like an hour and a half left in the christmas party.  Code fucking red for Chilly.  Solution: order 12 red bull and vodkas, hoard them at a table, and drink them as quickly as possible.   (I didn’t finish them all, but I made a solid dent.  That, combined with my undoubtedly $80/sip Four Seasons’ wine, had me in the appropriate state of mind.)

Guidance:  If you are going to get there too late, just forget it.  The catch up will hurt you – it’s damn near impossible to gauge it perfectly.  Stop too soon, you’re sober and will hate all the drunk idiots you are dealing with.  Don’t stop soon enough, and you will be calling some bar asking if they have your wallet or underwear the next day.

3.  Dress appropriately –  Gee, Chilly, no shit.  You are a sage. I hear you, but this is largely for the ladies.  Guys, wear a fucking sport coat and you’re set.  Ladies – this is for the lady banker types, mind you – don’t feel the need to try to keep up with what the admins are gonna be doing.  For the admins, this is the Super Bowl, their birthday and the release of the Criterion Edition of Working Girl all in one.  One of the ivy-covered traditions of Wall Street is that it is acceptable for bankers to hook up with admins/assistants/secretaries the night of the holiday party.  It’s just part of the culture, like spaceships in Scientology.  The admins get ready for this like college football players prepare for the combine – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen clocked 40’s and reps of 225 on the bench.  Any silicone enhancements are enhanced even further by the newest in brassiere technology.  Makeup is carefully administered with trowel and lacquer brush.  Lady bankers needn’t enter this fray.  Waste of time.

Life experience:  Not a lot to add to the above.  The admin buildup/anticipation is humorous to hear from a cube (for the first 18 days, the last 15 are pretty much repeats).

Guidance:  Lady banker types and professionals – just wear a nice looking outfit you’d wear to work.  It isn’t halloween.  Gents, a sport coat will class up that Jos. A. Bank shirt nicely.  (Not really)

4.  Eat a lot, starch it up – Carbs are absolutely critical to making it through an open bar situation intact.  If you fucking say “gee, I love scallops, I think I’ll just eat scallops tonight” you are gonna end up engaged to the guy who delivers package in the office because he held your hair as you puked outside of Tens.  (In this example, you could be either male or female, those package delivery dudes are often alternative.)

Life experience:  None necessary – I always get a significant amount of starches.  Thus, fatness.

Guidance:  Go for the white truffle risotto, if offered.  Or a shit ton of rice.  Or potatoes.

5.  Mingle appropriately – Remember, this is a work party.  If you are reading this, you are probably junior or modestly senior, or are pretending to be reading while watching the E! True Hollywood Story: Jenna Jameson.  At this event will be the most senior people in your “group” of colleagues – dudes who make $10 million a year might make an appearance – so be sure to shake hands with MDs you actually work with and offer a guffaw at the jokes of the more senior people who probably think you work in the graphics department.  Then – get the fuck out of there and hang out with your actual friends (the ones who started working approximately the same time you did).  Don’t hang around to the point that you are annoying to the senior people who are unfamiliar with you – this will be approximately the first time they do the “fake blackberry check.”  If immediately followed by the “check of the watch” you have significantly overstayed your welcome.  This will start costing you roughly $1,000/second.  Get out.  Seriously.

Life experience:  This is an area that I’m pretty solid in; I did however see a first year analyst sit at the group head’s table for like three hours a few years back.  She never noticed the open hatred that was emanating; however, she was also hated by her peers, so she really had no option.  She ultimately lost her job and could no longer seamlessweb food for her long-haired, no-job boyfriend (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Guidance:  Be self aware.  (Actually, that is essentially the gist of all my self-help posts)

Part II coming on Thursday, this documentary on PBS is actually pretty interesting.  Feel free to share if you have anything to add, we are trying to advance the species here,