Holiday party with potentially new rules

Q: Our holiday party is soon approaching. We have just been acquired by a larger company. Our past holiday parties have been pretty subdued with each employee bringing in their special favorite dish and then the company picking up the tab for some wine and beer. Everyone leaves around 6pm or 7pm and we have the gathering in one of our conference rooms. We also have had a $10 gift grab which is fun. Our new parent company seems to have shared a different history including rather formal parties with a full dinner at a hotel in Boston. It seems like a lot of drinking. I am really not into this scene. What do I do?

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A: Every company has different norms, rituals and traditions. Some companies throw lavish parties at elegant hotels, while others hold more modest functions within the office. Either way your employer (or new employer) is trying their best to appreciate and recognize employees and their contributions.

Holiday parties can be tough to navigate though. The tone is often set by the senior team members. Is there a lot of drinking and partying at that level? Or is it more subdued?

It is best to take a conservative approach when attending a holiday party. Be careful of your alcohol intake. Be gracious and appreciative of the effort and thank those who organized the event. Dress appropriately since it is still a work-related event. Avoid controversial topics like sex, religion or politics. It is acceptable to exit the event after the formal dinner, especially if the boisterous behavior begins at that time. However, if you are a member of management, you may be expected to stay later but I would ask around.

Drinking excessively and driving after a holiday party is serious. Not only do you jeopardize yourself and everyone else on the road, but you may damage your company’s reputation. If you see others in that position, offer to give them a ride or hail them a cab. It is not worth the potentially disastrous consequences.

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by Pattie Hunt Sinacole

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