Tis’ the Season to Be Inappropriate

A holiday party is a hot mess.

Whether it’s a gathering with friends or family, such celebrations seem to involve more beer than cheer; more inappropriate passes than clinked glasses. The single guys and gals become painfully aware of just how alone they truly are—and, if you’re me, search the premises for a sprig of mistletoe, the likes of which apparently only exists in Sandra Bullock movies.

And then there is the inevitable family drama.

If Halloween parties are the one time a year when a woman can wear bits of fabric and call it a “costume,” than holiday parties are the one time a year when your creepy Uncle Chester can down a jug of eggnog and invite you to sit on his lap and tell him what you want for Christmas—which, ironically, is a normal family.

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

The seasonal soireesdon’t end there, though. Let’s not forget the office functions!

Whether they’re holiday-related, grand opening celebrations or networking events, such gatherings provide the opportunity to build relationships with customers, prospects and industry partners—or to be the person that everyone gossips about the next day, says Ellen Thompson, Founder and CEO of 4 Walls, Inc.

Following are three people sure to be at your next gathering. Don’t be one of them.

1. “That Guy.” Every business association has one—the vendor who just doesn’t get that it’s a holiday party, and that he should put his sales pitch away for the evening.

When we’re awkwardly trapped in the elevator together—well, that’s a different story.  

2. The Drunk. For an hour or so, The Drunk will usually be the life of the party. Then things quickly go downhill. Slurring words, stumbling in heels, falling into people and spilling drinks won’t help your reputation. Let people talk about your ideas and sense of humor, not your taste for red wine.

Or tequila. 

3. Casanova. We can’t fight biology. Everyone has a crush now and then, and as long as we’re smart and treat people with respect, it can be harmless. But alcohol never helped anyone be reasonable. A drink or two can blur boundaries, and one more can push you across them. Two consenting adults can do whatever they like, but if you plan on asking someone out, be certain they’ll say, “Yes.” If you’re not sure, then walk away.

You’ll spare yourselves a year’s worth of embarrassment—and a month’s worth of blog material.

A business association party isn’t exactly like work, but it’s not kicking back at home, either. You can talk about sports, or your kids, or why you’ve sworn off dancing. You can’t talk about the groin injury you suffered while playing flag football, your kid’s first solo trip to the bathroom, or why you’ve sworn off younger men.

If you don’t know the difference, tend to the Yule log and keep your mouth shut.

For more, check out Management Insider in the November issue of units, which mailed Nov. 11.