The golden rule of the office Christmas party: don’t be that guy (or girl)

James Douglass
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Enjoy the party, but don't be the type who gets too drunk or makes 70s-style jokes (Source: Getty)

The office Christmas party is a minefield. We know this because every year, about this time, an article appears telling you how the office Christmas party is a minefield.

Sometimes it offers advice, although those tips are usually either spurious (“remember not to drink too much”) or hand-chewingly obvious (“now is not the time to ask for a promotion”).

Frankly, if you’re of voting age and sound mind you probably don’t need anyone to tell you that it’s a bad plan to get pissed and sing songs from musicals, hit on your boss, berate the chief executive, or photocopy your bits. Unless everyone else does, of course, in which case it would look elitist and high-handed not to.

Sometimes the patron saint of tipsy young executives watches over you. Early on in my career I misjudged how much champagne I could drink on an empty stomach and passed a pleasant, if very blurry, night.

The next morning I was comparing notes with a colleague, both distinctly worse for wear. I got a cold, hard, knot in my stomach when she revealed that we’d spent the best part of an hour haranguing our boss’s boss’s boss.

I was starting to wonder if I needed to refresh my CV, when she said: “Oh, you’re fine. I spent 20 minutes telling him our strategy was all wrong. You spent about 40 ranting about Victorian church music. He only stopped you by promising to listen to Henry Walford-Davies.” I kept my job, but gained an additional one as conductor of the office choir.

There’s only one rule worth following and it’s this: don’t be that guy (or girl). Although sadly, it’s not limited to one type. So here, for the curious, is a field-spotter’s guide of what – or who – to watch out for.

Last-Days-of-Rome Drunk

They never usually drink, but they’ll have a cheeky prosecco. And another. And another. Ooh, don’t mind if I do. And now they’re a mess. Crying with hiccups, staggering towards the loos like Sergeant Elias in the death scene of Platoon, angrily shaking off all your offers of help. Oh dear. Never mind, it’ll scrape off nicely when it dries.

The 70s comedian

Come on, it’s only a joke. Don’t be like that. Gor, you can’t say anything these days, can you? Thinks he’s Paul Whitehouse, comes across more Paul Nuttall.

The office Messalina

According to The Searchers, Love Potion No.9 makes you kiss everything in sight. It also “smells like Turpentine and looks like Indian ink”. Curiously, so does the office Merlot. Which is presumably why Audrey, who once hid in the loos when a new person started, has turned into an insatiable vixen.

Tomorrow’s HR headache

Something magical has happened, but it’s HP Lovecraft rather than Harry Potter. At some point in the evening, and it may have something to do with a trail of empties and the seductive pulse of 90s R&B, mild-mannered Matthew left the dance floor and was replaced by Barry the gropey squid.

Brief Encounter

In David Lean’s 1945 classic of doomed love, Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are trapped between duty, propriety, and the mores of wartime Britain. These two aren’t. They’re trapped between the stationery cupboard and the photocopier. They’re having a lot more fun though. Which literally everyone can see.

It may seem like they’re having more fun than you, but the good news is that if you can see most of these people, you’re not busy being one. And at least you won’t be stuck for small talk. Although if you are, it’s worth remembering that very few people know all that much about Victorian church choirs.