Tonight is the company holiday party. Don’t fuck it up.
You’ve got a “fun” outfit to change into stashed under your desk even though you’re not totally sure why you’re dressing up for these people you see every day and truth be told don’t really like. No matter! ’Tis the season to drink on the company dime and get loose enough to actually chat with the people you’ve encountered at the microwave for seven straight months but never acknowledged.
The ways in which company holiday parties go horribly wrong can all be avoided by leaving the party early. When you leave the party early, you minimise the probability that you will have more than two drinks. You are less likely to say something indiscreet, to get messy or mean or do something will provoke an HR investigation tomorrow.
How Early Are We Talking?
No one is trying to ruin your good time. The company party is much anticipated with good reason. It is fun to let your hair down with your colleagues, to introduce your spouse to your team (if you have a spouse, and you’re allowed to bring them, which, in this economy, who are we kidding) and to get to know people away from the office. Stay long enough for that.
The time to leave is when the party has been in full swing for an hour or two. The din is just shy of deafening. You’ve had that pleasant experience of realising someone you thought was boring is actually just shy. The buffet is done, you’re pleasantly buzzed and feeling good about things. You haven’t spilled your wine down your front, no one is slurring or crying or screaming, but there is a distinct possibility that they will be soon.
At this point the conversation you’re having winds up and you find yourself momentarily with no one to talk to. You look around at your coworkers and feel an expansive love for them.
You will be tempted to get a refill and do a lap to find someone else to chat with. I mean, it’s been a good time so far and it can only get better! Right? No. Leave. Now is when you leave.
Remember Who You Are
You are a person who has a life outside of this party. You have non-work friends and pets and people who love you. Your life is not here in this banquet hall or bar or private Ruby Tuesday group party room. These are your colleagues, with whom you have a great relationship, and you do not need this to be the most epic night of your goddamn life. That aggro FOMO voice going, “You can’t leave, what if it gets good? What if your nemesis gets drunk with your boss and ends up getting promoted before you? What if all it takes is one more round for people to get that I’m actually the fun one on the team?” is as misguided here as it is when it tells you other people’s Instagram feeds represent their real, glamorous lives.
Things Do Not Get Better Later
There’s always some kind of afterparty for the work holiday party, where the real party people go to some late-night hang and get more fucked up. When I worked in advertising, the party moved to a fancy hotel where the team from a sportswear account all took off their clothes and swam in a fountain. I think one of them was fired.
It’s true that the later you stay, the more likely you are to truly let loose, to see something gossipworthy. But you really don’t want either of those things. Truly letting loose with your colleagues, especially if you’re trashed and won’t remember what you said or did the next day, is a recipe for the most anxious hangover of your life. Think of Future You, waking up in your bed. Do you want to wake up in the morning and go to the gym, stopping to pick up a bacon, egg and cheese to sop up the moderate amount of booze still in your system? Or do you want to burst awake at 4am with the room spinning and no idea what you said or where your wallet is?
Leave on a High Note
When you leave early, while you’re feeling warmly toward your colleagues and are certain that you’ve done nothing you might have to apologise for tomorrow, you’re etched in everyone’s memory of the night as witty, respectable, fun, a person with healthy boundaries who is still a damn good time. As Jerry instructs George in Seinfeld, “When you hit that high note, you say goodnight and walk off.” That’s you. You know that line between an enjoyable time and oh god what I have done. Have a couple drinks, chat and revel, and when the action is cresting, thank the crowd, order a Lyft and go home.