Last night was my wife’s company’s annual holiday party. They rent out the banquet room of a local Mexican restaurant for a taco bar buffet. Cash bar serves margaritas and free soft drinks. And of course, with what seems to be a universal feature of company parties, there was some truly appalling behavior.
I always feel a little awkward at these events because there are only about 5 people at the entire store I’ve even said more than a dozen words to. I could probably spend a fair chunk of the night talking to these 5, but they have other friends at the party with whom they want to interact. So I spend a lot of time sitting at the table watching others.
If it weren’t for the free food (I love tacos, and I can eat as many as I want for free? I’m in), I’d probably just skip it and let my wife go by herself. The original plan was to stay until about 9 and then leave. We had a pretty long day with Christmas shopping and other errands so I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of staying power. Plus, around then is when the older crowd would be leaving and I knew it be a different kind of party when the average age of the room lowered to 23. Unfortunately, my wife was having too much fun and we stayed until the end, with me dozing in the corner. So we stayed and I got to watch the age and maturity (and level of sobriety) of the room steadily decrease.
Now, compared to stories I’ve heard, last night wasn’t that bad. But in the age of cell-phone cameras and social media, these behaviors can have a negative on your long-term career.
Dancing (when you really can’t)
I’m going to start with the tamest one here. If there is a dance floor and you can dance, go for it. You don’t have to be Dancing With the Stars caliber to have fun. But if you can only dance like Elaine from Seinfeld, you should probably stay clear of the dance floor. You may be having fun, but others are secretly laughing at you and shaking their head. Their opinion of you is being decreases with each spastic spasm of your arms and each time you nearly knock someone over.
Me, I’m definitely an Elana-dancer. That is why you will never see me on the dance floor. I cover this and my non-drinker status with a small joke: “I have two hard and fast rules. One, I don’t dance while sober. And two, I don’t drink when I have to drive home at the end of the night.”
If there is no dance floor, then there isn’t supposed to be dancing. You just look like a fool dancing at the bar and are in the way of people trying to order drinks.
Personally, I’m not really much for alcohol and I rarely drink in public. I cover this up by claiming to be the designated driver. The reality is really more that one drink I’m feeling a buzz and two drinks I’m feeling the floor. I’m really that much of a lightweight.
It’s my feeling that in a public setting, especially a work-place sponsored event, nobody should have more than 2 drinks. Since alcohol is a disinhibitor, the likelihood of doing something stupid is too great. Your professional reputation is your livelihood. Why would you want to damage it with one night of fun?
Public displays of affection with your significant other are fine as long as they are muted and occasional. The occasional peck or rubbing your hand on their back is fine. Rubbing your hand lower than their back is not! Likewise, nobody wants to see you making out in the corner. Get a room.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but when did dancing turn into dry humping on the dance floor? Bumping and grinding may have its place, but I can’t see how being attached at the hip is “dancing.” And it certainly doesn’t have any place in front of your boss.
There is a fine line these days between a little uncomfortable and a sexual harassment suit. It doesn’t matter that the person on whom your attention is focused is fine with those attentions. The person across the room may not be okay with seeing it. That can create a “hostile workplace environment” and out the door you go.
Have you ever seen inappropriate behavior at a holiday party? What is the worst you’ve witnessed?