This coming December, in a tradition that stretches back literally tens of years, men and women from all over the world will don colourful paper hats and gather in their places of work to sing, dance and press unsanitary parts of their bodies against the glass surface of the office photocopier. Yes, that’s right: it’s Christmas party season, that wonderful time of year when the normal rules of business etiquette are temporarily suspended and you’re free to carouse, cavort and flirt the night away with impunity.
Except for just one thing: you aren’t, really, are you? Office parties might be touted as a rare opportunity for employees to let their hair down, but beneath the veneer of festive fun and frivolity lies the uncomfortable truth: that far from being at liberty to do whatever you want, you are in fact operating under the watchful gaze of upper management, and as such are only ever one ill-advised dance move away from landing yourself in an employment tribunal. So, while it’s important that you have a good time – what else, after all, is a party for? – it’s vital that you remember where to draw the line.
Here, we outline a few rules to follow and pitfalls to sidestep. If you plan on emerging from this annual ordeal with your professional reputation – not to mention your dignity – intact, then you owe it to yourself to read on. If you’re too busy to do so, the entire article can be roughly summed up in the following five words: please, don’t be that guy.