Office parties are wildly different from firm to firm. Parties that are held in the office are becoming rarer, due to (1) the large number of photocopied body parts over the years and (2) rising expectations that the company should pay for you to drink somewhere less shit.
Trendy fashion companies hire cool clubs and give you a free bar. Banks can go one of two ways: they either ask management to make speeches as you cry into your water glass or they just get everyone drunk and pay for strippers. Whilst I am no stranger to the gyrations of Tiffany, Roxanne, Tiffany and Tiffany, my company has yet to foot the bill.
The duller the job, the duller the party. The more senior staff in attendance, the more anodyne the affair (unless you have senior staff with nicknames like ‘Uncle Don’ who buys the bar as if it were company policy). By and large, people are less likely to let loose in the presence of managers that can fire you on a whim (unless you’ll get fired for not getting drunk).
Office parties are career minefields, where rumours are born and fantasies borne out. The golden rule for your party is to not do anything you couldn’t explain away by Monday unless it will make you a legend. Alcohol has a habit of unbuttoning the trousers of restraint to reveal the hairy testicles of honesty. Just because you (and your peers) think it’s hilarious to point out how the light reflects on your boss’ bald spot, I doubt he’ll find it as funny as you do.
Company parties for firms with male-dominated cultures based on competition and bravado are always risky: “Hans? His plans are flawed, his work is shoddy and damn it, I’m going to out-drink him.”
If being drunk is a bad career move, find someone who can hold less alcohol than you and let them provide the amusement, offering to get them a drink as you get your next. If you are the lightweight drinker you’ll need to figure out the minimum amount of time you have to stay before you can skedaddle politely or risk vomit stains on some of your clothes.
How you should act depends on what type of drunk you are. Angry drunks should swap vodka for water, stumbling drunks should stay near the walls, leering drunks should go home to their partners or porn, and charming drunks should lead the way. If you aren’t sure what kind of drunk you are then there will always be someone with a camera floating around to fill you in on Monday.
Don’t arrive early thinking you can leave early, it just means you stay longer. Office parties are like sex: the person that comes first is least popular. I have sussed out the solution: the best thing to do is to have kids or grow old. As far as I can tell, aging and breeding are God’s way of letting you leave the office party early.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.