With the holiday season upon us and many COVID-19 restrictions over, many organizations will soon be gathering for holiday parties. No matter which major winter holiday, if any, you celebrate personally, holiday office parties are a great time to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and bond with your team or develop deeper networking relationships.

Seasonal parties are a great time to cut loose and interact with your coworkers in a different capacity than usual, but you still must maintain a sense of decorum. Make sure to maintain some professionalism so that your reputation is still intact when the new year comes around. Recall these guidelines during your holiday festivities:

DO: RSVP

The most polite way to respond to any party invitation is to actually respond to the invitation. Whether the party is at the office, a colleague’s home, or a neutral location, whoever is planning the event needs a reasonable headcount in order to get an appropriate amount of food and drinks for the group.

Unless you have a legitimate reason otherwise, try your best to go to the event. Career Advice Expert Randall Hansen says that not attending the event could hurt your reputation and make it feel like you aren’t part of the team. Try to make an appearance of at least 30 minutes to mingle.

DON’T: Bring uninvited guests

Generally, most office parties will invite spouses or plus-ones, but always make sure to check first. Generally, these events aren’t for the entire family, and they aren’t an excuse for a group of people to get free food. Bring only those guests expected to be there, and make sure they are also aware of these etiquette rules.

DO: Dress for success

Depending on your usual office environment, an office party might represent a chance to unwind and “let your hair down.” But don’t be fooled—this is still a business function. If you aren’t sure what to wear, go for a step above what you think everyone else might wear. Going too casually can send the wrong message.

DON’T: Overstay your welcome

We stressed the importance of attending the event and making sure you’re noticed, but don’t take it too far in the other direction and stay too long. The event may have a set exit time, and people will want to clean up before calling it a night. Have a good time, but you don’t want to be the last person there and have the hosts waiting for you to leave. Amy Castro suggests that if you see everyone else making a mass exodus, you should do the same.

DO: Talk about something other than work

Most of your interactions with your coworkers are probably about work. In a party environment, there’s no need to go over the same topics again. A party is supposed to be a celebration and a chance to interact as individuals. Keep the conversation appropriate, but find interesting topics to discuss. Your coworkers may see a fun new side of you!

DON’T: Completely unwind

Don’t swing too far in the other direction, though. It’s a party, but it’s a work party. Make sure to keep the conversation light and playful without getting inappropriate. Keep any grievances to yourself, and don’t mention any questionable activities. CNBC Make It’s Ashton Jackson also says not to be flirty or make advances on someone.

DO: Show gratitude

Your organization is throwing the celebration to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and thank the team for a wonderful year. Be sure to do the same for them by showing your gratitude as well! Thank your team for hosting or planning the event.

“Of course, this is also a perfect time to thank all your co-workers who have been helpful or supportive in the past year.” –Carol Kinsey Goman, Forbes

DON’T: Drink too much

Different cultures have different views on this, but alcohol is commonly served at many office parties in the United States. It’s okay to enjoy a few drinks, but you never want to be the drunkest person in the room. Never feel like you need to drink more, even if the boss is having a few or encouraging you to. Many experts advise a two-drink maximum, but you know your body more than anyone else. Know your limit, and stop well before you need to.

Wrap up

Holiday parties are a wonderful time to relax and enjoy the accomplishments of you and your team, and a little bit of well-earned revelry is good for the soul. But an office holiday party is still a professional event, so you must be aware of your surroundings and be sure to behave appropriately. Once you understand the differences between a work holiday party and one with friends or family, you’ll be able to have a fantastic time with your team!

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