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It’s that time of the year again: the Christmas jumpers are out, the trees are going up, and everyone’s beginning to panic about how quickly the big day is approaching. Smaller organisations tend to be more laid back around the festive period and chances are you’ve already spoken with everyone in the office. But at larger corporations the idea of the office Christmas party can be a daunting experience.

“What’s the dress code? How much should I drink? Will I get stuck in an awkward conversation with people I don’t know?”

But don’t worry, Carrot is here to guide you through the work social event of the year. So grab your sparkly dress, polish your shoes, and get ready to enjoy a night of festive merriment.

What to wear?

You’ll probably spend more time discussing what you’re wearing to the office Christmas party and Googling new outfits than actually doing any work in the run up to the day. But you don’t need to over-think this. The number one thing to remember is to dress appropriately - don’t wear something you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing to work, then add a bit of glitter and sparkle, a load of accessories, and voila, you’re ready. Ladies, save that revealing outfit you’ve had your eye on for your next night out with the girls.

The location of the event should help you decide how dressed up to go. If you’re going for dinner and a few drinks then guys can probably get away with smart jeans, a shirt and clean shoes for the office Christmas party. However, if it’s a formal occasion then you might have to dust off that suit that’s been stuffed to the back of your wardrobe since last year’s party.

What to talk about?

If you work for a big company there will no doubt be plenty of people there you’ve never spoken to before (or even seen for that matter). Keep topics of conversation neutral. Don’t talk about office politics, stay clear of gossip, and refrain from spending the night talking to your boss about your performance at work. They probably just want to enjoy the office Christmas party as much as everyone else.

Make sure you mingle. This might be your only chance all year to talk to people you haven’t yet interacted with, is a great chance to do some networking, and, who knows, you could make that connection that’ll help you with your next promotion. However, don’t leave people stood on their own – introduce them to someone else before you move onto your next conversation.

How much to drink?

Even if it’s a free bar that doesn’t mean you have to drink it dry. And just because your boss has their head down the toilet doesn’t mean you should get into a similar state. Remember, it’s still a work event and you will get judged on your behaviour. Even if your boss can’t remember the night, someone there will have picked up on how drunk you were and will no doubt feed the information back.

Should I attend?

You might not normally enjoy socialising with your colleagues out of work, or the idea of attending the Christmas Party really isn’t your cup of tea. But it’s important to make sure you attend – your boss has no doubt spent time (and money) planning the event, so unless you’ve got a legitimate reason why you can’t go, be sure to make an appearance. You don’t have to stay out until the crack of dawn like everyone else, but don’t leave too early either. If a meal is involved stay at least until everyone has eaten, or a minimum of a couple of hours in other settings.

Don’t do something you’ll regret the next day

Karaoke might seem like a great idea after a gallon of mulled wine and a couple of tequilas, but once your colleague uploads a video of you belting out My Heart Will Go On to YouTube and sends it around the office the following week you’ll probably regret grabbing hold of the microphone. If you know you’re an embarrassing dancer it’s probably also best to stay away from the dance floor. And never twerk – almost everyone has access to a video camera and social media these days.

Same goes for hooking up with a colleague. According to a study by hotels.com, 2 million of us have done just that, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. If you wouldn’t hook up with them at another work event, don’t do it at Christmas. And if you do find yourself under the mistletoe with Sam from IT, try and get over the embarrassment the following day at work as quickly as possible, to make things less awkward for the both of you.

Have a free hand

Always have a free hand to shake hands with new people. Although this might lead to a difficult decision (a plate from the buffet or a glass of bubbly?) you don’t want to be frantically looking for a clear surface to put your drink down on as soon as you see the CEO approaching.

The morning after

Not all of us can have our office Christmas party on a Friday/Saturday night, and although some bosses might let colleagues come in a little later the following morning, if you are on your usual start time it’s important not to be late. Set several alarms, plan your outfit, bag, etc. the day before, and leave extra time to pick up that bacon sandwich you know you’ll be craving on your way in.

If you know you’re particularly susceptible to hangovers try and book the following day off as annual leave, although you’ll have to get in quick as the boss won’t want an empty office. Failing that, just be sensible with your drink – you don’t want to be that person being ill in their bin under the desk the following day. You can still have a good time without drinking the bar dry. And your boss isn’t stupid – stumbling into a takeaway at 3am and then calling in sick with ‘man flu’ the following day won’t go down well.

Thank the organiser

Even if you didn’t completely enjoy your night, it’s important to thank your boss/organiser on your return to work, even if it’s just a quick email.

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