It’s that time of year again, the time that all introverts dread: the holidays. More specifically, it’s time for the annual office holiday party, an event that for some can be stressful and awkward. This is especially true considering the #MeToo movement, which has many workplaces revisiting policies and workplace training.

Feeling uneasy about attention? Have a lot of questions about how you should proceed? Here is the introvert’s guide to the office holiday party.

Should I go?

Obviously, the ultimate decision to attend is yours. No one will force you to be there. Be aware, though, that if you don’t go, your absence will be noticed, and it can work against you.

Remember, the key word in office holiday party is “office.” It is something your employer is organizing. It’s an investment in the staff and the team. Not going can be seen as a sign of disrespect towards your boss and your co-workers. Go, no matter how much it makes you feel uncomfortable.

What should I talk about?

Small talk can be stressful for a lot of people, especially introverts, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to know what to talk about.

To start, leave the work stuff behind. It’s not the time to ask about a project or promotion; it’s a chance to get to know your co-workers on a social level. Think of it as an intra-company networking event; every connection you make can improve your day-to-day job satisfaction.

It’s also a good idea to come a bit prepared. Have your colleagues and superiors had any major achievements during the past year? Now is your chance to congratulate them.

Check out one of my past blog posts for Workopolis for more conversation starter ideas,

What should I wear?

As on Casual Fridays, you should never wear any of the four Bs: Beach, Bar, Boudoir, or Barbell (gym) attire.

Follow the dress code written on the invitation. If it does not have one, the location and time of day will give you some clues for what is appropriate. Fancy restaurant or reception hall? You might want to dress up a bit. Catered lunch at the office? You can probably get away with dressing the way you usually do, but it doesn’t hurt to kick things up a notch either. Adding a little glitter, gold, or red and green can help you transition from work day to party wear. Don’t, however, go overboard with the festive accessories.

The image of you wearing antlers and a red nose could be hard to erase from your boss’ mind come performance review time.

If you’re really not sure how to dress, ask the event organizer or your human resources representative. You will never make a faux-pas when you ask for clarification.

Should I dance?

Worried about looking like Elaine? I don’t blame you.

You’re right to want to show some restraint, but at the same time, the office party is your time to let loose and have a good time with your co-workers. So, don’t be shy to

join in the organized activities, karaoke included. Have fun, but keep in mind that everything that you say and do counts, no matter how dim the lights are.

To drink or not to drink?

It may be open bar, but that doesn’t mean you should get drunk. Have fun but know your limit (and respect it). You don’t want to be held accountable for something you said or did under the influence. After all, it’s not uncommon to hear about an employee who has shared too much information during a holiday gathering.

For safety sake, eat a snack before you go, and drink plenty of water throughout the night.

Is it ok to take photos?

With social media and the rate at which things can go viral, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. So, if you take pics, ask permission before you post them online.

You might also want to consider putting the phone down for a night. Between the temptation to check text messages (which can make you seem standoffish) and the urge to post to Instagram, it might make things even harder to connect with your co-workers.

How long should I stay?

You might be a homebody at heart, but rushing home early (and arriving late), is not a good look. You don’t want to be the office downer.

Do your best to arrive on time and don’t be the last to leave.

More importantly, take the time to thank the organizers and your superiors for the celebration. If you can’t see them that night, send an email the next day. It might not seem like much, but these little touches show people that you appreciate the effort that went into the event.



Julie Blais Comeau is Chief Etiquette Officer at She is a bilingual coach, professional speaker and the author of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Julie empowers organizations with the skills that allow employees to shine at work and boost their business opportunities. A sought-after media collaborator she has been featured on CBC, CTV, Reader’s Digest, TVA and Radio-Canada, among others.


See also:

7 ways to be more likeable at work

10 conversation starters to take the stress out of networking

15 things you should never say at work


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