The "real world" awaits you after graduation, and no matter how much the real world is maligned, there are undoubtedly fun times that come with it. There's your first real paycheck — which is especially fun to get during your student loan grace period — and then there's the first time you officially hang out with co-workers... well, it's fun as long as you avoid these embarrassing office party moments. Sure, office parties are meant for everyone to wind down and have a good time, but don't get it twisted, it's still a work event. Party smarter, not harder, if you will.
"Remember you're out of college," Maura Koutoujian, a career coach with Jody Michael Associates, tells Elite Daily. "Imagine that you’re coming to the party with your grandmother. That’s how you behave (unless you’re grandmother drinks bourbon and smokes cigars...)."
For starters, do not — I repeat, do not — get suckered into letting the higher-ups influence how much your drink. Yeah, they might signal it's OK for you to get loose, but always remember a few things. First, the higher-ups are always more valuable than any rookie at a company. An embarrassing moment for you is a much bigger hit than an embarrassing moment for them. Second, older employees are likely seasoned at getting lit without getting carried away. You, a noob, still have some learning to do, just like 28-year-old James.
"I remember drinking a few beers and generally keeping my sh*t together, until I noticed that the higher-ups were drinking much single malt scotches and other very-expensive looking beverages that no one in their right mind would order if they were paying their own way," James tells Elite Daily about his first holiday party. "So I ordered a Remy Martin XO, in doing so neglecting the principle of never consuming liquor on a stomach full of beer. The last thing I remember is trying to introduce my girlfriend to my French boss in his native tongue and him looking at her, confused and concerned."
By all means, show off your terrible dance moves, but be skeptical of any thought that you could go further with alcohol than you initially thought.
Here's the thing: You could end up saying something ridiculously funny to your bosses, but that's far from the worst you can do.
Lesley Mitler, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, notes that there are definitely differences between how you can act in a more corporate party versus at a small startup, but either way, she tells Elite Daily, "even though an open bar is often part of the venue, have only one or two alcoholic drinks and take your time consuming."
Have the wrong mix of drinks, or just one too many, and you could cause a scare for everyone else, which is a one-way ticket to lots of stares the next day. By all means, avoid locking yourself in a bathroom or any room, for that matter.
Let this be a cautionary tale:
"I had like five shots of whiskey within an hour and started debating white privilege (hi, every engineering job ever), and I excused myself because I was very drunk and also getting heated," says 26-year-old Jane, whose first office party involved retreating to a "wellness room." "I locked myself in and passed out on the couch in there ... so they had to get a janitor to unlock the door and rescue me."
You definitely do not want to be the center of attention like that. You also probably don't want to fall in the trap of being the sole party planner, either. Sure, you might think it's a an "exciting" thing to do that might impress your bosses and everyone else at your job. But let one thing go wrong, and that's on you.
"My boss was kind of abusive, so when the band I booked crapped out last minute, he made a point to yell at me and embarrass me in front of his employees, as well as his girlfriend who always hung around there," 23-year-old Lizzy says. "Also, I didn't eat all day because I was running around and planning everything, so after a few drinks, the night ended with me stuffing my face with an inordinate amount of sushi. It was probably really gross."
Party planning typically involves a lot of hard work, without the rewards you expected — unless you just love planning and are an expert at it. Regardless, even if you're not already friends with people at the office, you can "use [a party] as an opportunity to network and get to know your colleagues. Then, you can go out with friends from work after if you want to continue the festivities," Mitler advises.
Above all else, though, there is one cardinal rule of office parties you should observe, for the sake of all that is good in the world: Absolutely do not air your dirty laundry at your office party, especially when it involves another co-worker.
"At some point I very near blacked out and spent the night CRYING to a coworker I'd had a brief affair with a few years earlier and telling him I loved him," says one anonymous reader. "Then I cried to everyone else in the bar. Then I cried on the street. Then I ended up passing out on someone's couch on the LES watching The Babadook. 2016 was a rough year."
The bottom line is clear. There are plenty of common mistakes you want to avoid. That being said, they're common for a reason. Lots of people make them, and lots of people recover from them. If you do something that hurts someone's feelings or was totally out of line, Koutoujian suggests finding a way to "have a conversation about what happened" and apologize. Otherwise, if you just did something a touch embarrassing?
"Laugh it off — don’t make a big deal about your embarrassing comments or actions," Mitler says. "It happens. You probably won’t have to bring it up the next day — someone else is likely to do that. View this as a teachable moment and learn from your mistakes."
Still, do your best to watch yourself, because an embarrassing moment at a work event is not as easy to bounce back from as it was freshman year — and it's much better to lose your free college sweatshirt than your paycheck.