This weekend marks the beginning of a month-long marathon of drinking, binge eating and social-schmoozing among the corporate set. Phrases like “that dress will easily translate from day to night” and “liquid lunch anyone?” are commonly uttered in between cubicle walls while the social committee awkwardly invades people’s work space with garish décor.
First, you have the jovial “mother” figure on the team who tops up her festive dish of homemade holiday cookies each day. Then there’s the good-times guy who’s stowing a large bottle of Bailey’s in his desk drawer, for anyone who fancies spiking their morning americano. And finally you have the obligatory, albeit amusing, corporate Christmas party.
Throughout my long tenure in the corporate sector, I’ve been subject to all sorts of career-crushing Christmas party mishaps. Some of the more notable moments include a past CEO drunkenly offering paid days off to employees when the evening’s door prizes ran dry. Or the time I stole a kiss from a senior executive — strictly a festive gesture — while his wife stood idly by a few feet away. I’ve held back beautifully coifed hair while female colleagues hurl into conveniently-placed planters and watched not-so-secret office affairs become brazenly public. It really is a magical season.
One thing I have yet to encounter, though, are party crashers. And I know you’re out there. Just the other day I overheard colleagues plotting their party crashing plans to our own party, having missed the deadline to legitimately secure tickets. Which made me wonder; how many people will be sneaking into corporate fetes this holiday season? It wouldn’t be that tricky to pull-off, especially among the more sizeable companies who most likely aren’t concerned about head count.
So if you’re running a little light on holiday party invites this year, fear not. There’s hope for you yet. Here are a few tips on how to successfully sashay your way into a corporate Christmas party…uninvited:
Dress the part. Don’t show up in Dad jeans and a plaid shirt. Leave your club attire hanging in your closet. Think suit and tie or cocktail dress. Nothing you wouldn’t wear to a wedding and/or funeral.
Blend. While you’ll want to be wearing something stylish, don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself. No Christmas-themed pocket squares or ties. No ironic holiday sweaters. No head-to-toe sequins. Stick to black. It’s safe and corporate types are most comfortable with this hue. See funeral tip above.
Show up late. Most corporate parties kick off with some sort of a cocktail hour, where co-workers introduce their spouses and engage in empty exchanges with strangers from other departments. Then everyone is usually ushered in for the CEO’s thank-you-for-working-your-ass-off-all-year-now-let’s-get-reasonably-liquored toast, carefully crafted by corporate communications, followed by dinner. This is when you make your entrance. Right as people begin to hit the d-floor, but the food is still plentiful and hot.
Don’t coat check. Avoid a paper trail, at all costs. Coat checks usually translate to taxi vouchers, door prize entries or a corporate gift (think branded mug or photo frame). While all of those things might sound nice, it could blow your cover. Forgo the coat check and find an empty chair to hang your coat on.
Be confident. Saunter in like you own the place. Smile and nod at your “colleagues” as you meander to the buffet, oozing sophistication.
Circulate. Don’t be afraid to mingle. Find that quiet couple sequestered at an empty table and become the best friends they never had. Ask about their favorite Christmas traditions and if their kids still believe in Santa. Tell them that you’re new to the company and that you work in accounting. Then polish off their full bottle of table wine and make your way to the dance floor.
Don’t overindulge. Abuse the open bar within reason – tipping your bartender generously — while getting your boogie on to songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Groove Is In The Heart” until you’ve had your fill. Then begin to make your exit, waving goodbye to your new friends and thanking the lonely girl from internal audit who volunteered to man the coat check. Be graceful as you slip into the night like you were never there. Just like Santa himself.
Also published in the Huffington Post.