It’s office holiday party season, but that doesn’t mean you can cut loose with your co-workers like you do with your college buddies.”The holiday party is very challenging for people in the business world,” said Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette expert and president of Pachter & Associates. “Part of the reason is that people forget it’s a business activity, and they let it all hang out when they are drinking,” she said.
She shared some pro tips for surviving your office holiday party without making a fool of yourself.
If the party is at someone's home, call ahead and ask about the dress code.
But dress is important no matter where the party is being held. 'You don't want people talking about what you wore the day or night after the party,' Pachter said.
And for women, the holiday party is not the time to start showing cleavage. 'You don't want to dress seductively; it's still a business event,' she said.
'Eat a little before you go to a business social event,' Pachter said. 'If you drink, you'll have something in your stomach, and if the food is delayed, you won't be hungry.'
It's not really optional, said Pachter. And if you're invited to more than one office party, you should try to show up at all of them.
'People will expect you to be there,' she said. 'It's an opportunity for you to meet people, and the person you talk to may wind up being the person who interviews you for your next job in three months.'
This one is key if the party is at the home of your boss or a fellow co-worker.
Opt for a box of chocolates, coaster set, or other trinket, Pachter recommended. Most people also like receiving wine, but if you're unsure, stick to a non-alcoholic gift.
Don't stand in the corner texting your friends or posting photos to Facebook.
'You want to be seen as a team player,' Pachter said. 'Get to know the people you work with outside of the regular work day.'
Don't just engage with the two people you sit next to all day -- mingle and let people know you're enjoying yourself.
If it's a sit-down meal, make sure you arrive on time and socialize during the cocktail hour, before guests take their seats for dinner.
People who are uncomfortable making conversation can even prep a few topics ahead of time, like new movies or holiday vacation plans, Pachter recommended.
'You're not there for the food -- you're there for business, so if you don't like the food, don't eat it,' Pachter said.
And if it's a holiday dinner party, don't send the food back. The rest of the table will have to wait for you, and you'll upset the flow of the meal.
Getting drunk at the office holiday party is the biggest no-no on this list, and the one most people have trouble abiding by.
'I tell people to set a guideline before they go, which is generally one drink,' Pachter said.
She offered another pro tip: order a drink you don't love, and that way you'll nurse it all night instead of guzzling one after another.
'If you are dating someone at the company and still keeping it a secret, this is not the time to start dancing romantically, because then everyone will know,' Pachter said.
'Don't show up fashionably late, and say goodbye and thank you when you leave,' Pachter said. 'You want to take advantage of the time, or have a really good reason why you are leaving.'
If the after-party is standard protocol, it's fine to stop by.
'Sometimes it's good to stay for a little while and leave,' Pachter said. 'But don't be the last person out the door.'
If the party is at someone's home, be sure to send a thank-you note.
A handwritten note beats an email, and if the party was hosted by a co-worker and spouse, be sure to include them both.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.