Remember laughing at the guy who got hammered at last year’s office holiday party and ended up photocopying his backside? Maybe we were a little too hard on him.

Scientific research has shown that alcohol really does have a greater effect on us when consumed at work events.

While alcohol generally causes people to lose their inhibitions, our brains learn how to build up a tolerance for this over time – but only in those environments where we would normally have a drink, such at home, a friend’s place or at our favourite bar. In an unusual environment for drinking, such as at work, that learned ability to compensate for the booze (and control your inhibitions) actually checks out. You’ll feel more buzzed faster.

Apparently your body not only learns how to compensate for the effects of alcohol in environments where you are used to drinking, but also in the company of family and friends whom you expect to have a drink with.

This means that, even if you’re at a bar, consuming alcohol around coworkers with whom you’re normally sober and professional can also hit you much harder than you’re expecting. Your brain’s defense mechanisms just aren’t as geared up to tolerate a few drinks around your work people as they would be with your friends.

Perhaps that explains why nearly a quarter of American workers (24%!?) surveyed admit to hooking up with a coworker at their workplace holiday party. (18% say they found an empty conference room for their shenanigans.)

Canadians are equally susceptible to the effects of alcohol with coworkers, although we are apparently slightly less amorous. In a separate survey last year, nearly 50% of Canadians confessed that having had long drunken conversations with coworkers that they cannot remember the next day. However, only 20% say that they regret making out with a coworker in front of their colleagues. (Note – 20% regret kissing a coworker. The survey doesn’t say what percent hooked up without any regrets.)

Canadians’ biggest holiday party fear? 80% say that it is their drunken antics ending up on social media sites to haunt them in perpetuity. A 2010 study by Adecco found that 23% of employees had been reprimanded for their behaviour work party, and more than one in ten people said they knew someone who had been terminated for getting inappropriate at the holiday celebration.

With all that in mind, here are a few tips for surviving the work holiday party with your professional reputation intact:

Show up

It is important to attend the work party. People have put time and effort into planning the event, and it is inconsiderate of their feelings for you to skip it. Plus it may demonstrate a lack of team spirit on your part to blow off the chance to socialize with your peers. Use the opportunity to network, talk to people outside of your immediate circle.

Don’t get drunk

A work party is still more work than party. You have to keep up your professional appearance throughout. Sure, have a drink, toast the year’s accomplishments, be social. But if you’re going to have more than one, be sure to eat something. Work parties often take place immediately after work, and people end up drinking on an empty stomach. Remember the intro to this article: alcohol hits you harder with your coworkers. I can’t stress this enough: do not get drunk at the work party.

Don’t hook up with a coworker

If this happens, you will almost certainly regret it. You will become the subject of the holiday party scandal stories (like last year’s ‘Photocopier Guy’), and it probably means that you have violated the earlier ‘don’t get drunk’ rule.

Don’t complain

When speaking with someone you don’t know very well, the easiest topic of small talk is often to grumble about minor irritations. The office kitchen, an obnoxious VP, the party itself. Either way, you’ll be giving your audience the impression that you’re a negative person. Plus you never know who’s listening – the hurt party organizer, the obnoxious VP’s best friend. You’ll always make a better impression being upbeat and positive. It is a celebration after all.

Make an appearance, make a positive impression, socialize outside your clique and leave on a high note – and be sure to thank boss and the event planner for throwing the party. If you really want to let loose and go nuts, that’s what private social occasions away from work are for.