13 things you should never say to your coworkers at the office holiday party

astarot/ShutterstockSimmer down and remember that it’s still an office party.
  • Office holiday parties can be fun – or disastrous for your career.
  • You’ll want to loosen up a little, while staying professional; the best way to avoid looking foolish is to not drink too much.
  • Here are 13 things you should avoid saying to your coworkers at all costs.

Too much booze, end-of-year stress, and coworkers can be a recipe for disaster.

That’s why office holiday parties are such a minefield of awkward situations.

Many offices are doing away with alcohol or the party altogether. But if your office is having festivities this year, it’s crucial to remember that you’re pretty much still at work, even if it’s a party.

You need to be able to loosen up and enjoy yourself without looking like a complete fool or jeopardizing your job.

Business Insider spoke with HR and career professionals to highlight topics you’ll want to avoid at your office holiday party. Here’s what they suggested:


‘Is that your daughter/son? Can you introduce me?’

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Avoid hitting on your coworkers’ relatives. It’s awkward and it won’t end well.

“Be careful about jokes or crude remarks,” Rebecca Henderson, global group president of HR firm Randstad Sourceright, told Business Insider. “There is nothing like your colleague asking to be introduced to your daughter that really makes the night and subsequent days at work uncomfortable.”


‘Love your outfit! You should really dress like that more at work’

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“Give a compliment that is appropriate and won’t make a coworker uncomfortable,” TriNet director of human capital services Jackie Breslin told Business Insider. “A fair number of workplace complaints regarding inappropriate conduct have an origin at the company holiday party.”

CEO of HR consulting firm OperationsInc. David Lewis agrees, noting that even statements as simple as “You look great” can come across as creepy. “Avoid anything that suggests anything sexual in lieu of the word ‘great,'” he told Business Insider.


‘I’ve had a crush on you since the day you started’

The holiday party is usually not the time to confess your office crush.

“Don’t use the holiday party as an excuse to share your intimate feelings with a colleague,” TopResume career advice expert Amanda Augustine told Business Insider.

Basically, don’t forget that you’re still at work.


‘I love working for your wife! By the way, do you think she’ll give me that promotion?’

Now is not the time to try to butter up your boss’ significant other and learn about your bonus, stock options, or promotion.

“Oftentimes, I find that employees’ spouses or partners will ask me about opportunities for advancement or raise issues of concern at a holiday party,” SAP software company executive vice president of HR Brigette McInnis-Day told Business Insider. “This is always uncomfortable, but even more so during a fun social event which is meant for people to relax and connect.”


‘It doesn’t seem like you’re ok to drive. I’ll drive you back!’

Mark Abadi/Business Insider

It’s obviously important to make sure any intoxicated coworkers aren’t hitting the road.

However, if you’re not sure about a colleague’s level of intoxication, you don’t want to sound overbearing.

“Instead, try, ‘I hate driving home after a party, don’t you? Let’s call it a night and call an Uber,'” “All the Leader You Can Be” author Suzanne Bates told Business Insider.”If alcohol is served, the one thing you don’t want to say is ‘Can I drive you home?'”


‘I hate my boss’

Yikes. The holiday party is neither the time nor the place to whine about your supervisor. Save serious complaints and news for a regular workday.

“Holiday parties should not be used as a chance to vent or complain – no one likes a Grinch!” Adecco Staffing senior vice president Amy Glaser told Business Insider.

Even if you’re just mouthing off to your work buddies, your words can have serious consequences down the road.


‘I’m so drunk right now!’

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Speaking of alcohol, don’t be that person at the party. You know, the one who drinks too much and inflicts terrible karaoke or tearful confessions or some other form of sloppy drama on everyone else.

“It’s one thing to have a drink or two throughout the evening,” Augustine said. “It’s another thing to make it your mission to get drunk at the company party.

“This event is a unique opportunity to network with colleagues outside the office in a fun, relaxed environment,” she added. “Don’t drink too much and say things you’ll regret the next day.”


‘Did you hear about…’

“Don’t engage in gossip or feed the rumour mill at the office party,” staffing agency Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald said.”It’s not the time or place.”

Simply put, spreading office gossip is rude and unprofessional.

“Avoid mean-girl gossip and instead engage with colleagues about their lives outside the cubicle,” Augustine says.


‘Let’s just hang out by the food’

“Holiday parties can feel overwhelming, especially if you work in a large office, but resist the urge to only hang out with the people you spend most of your time with during the work day,” Glaser said.

Instead, mix and mingle.


‘Did you get your bonus yet?’

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Avoid talking about money at all costs.

McDonald said that bonuses can be a particularly sensitive topic, especially because it’s possible that not everyone in your company is getting a bonus this year.


‘I’m quitting!’

Glaser said this is simply unprofessional.

“You should be careful not to divulge sensitive information or start conversations that should be had in a highly professional setting,” she said. “(A) holiday party is not the appropriate environment to share such information with your peers or your supervisor.”


‘Let’s spike the eggnog’

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Deloitte’s Leadership Center for Clients National Director Kim Christfort said there are certain behaviours that can tick off your coworkers.

“At work parties, while there are many things to avoid doing in general (drunken karaoke being high on that list in my experience), there are also things that are particularly unappealing to specific individuals based on their different working styles,” she told Business Insider. “So don’t say ‘shall we spike that eggnog’ to someone who doesn’t like to break the rules.”


‘Everything’s going pretty well in our department …’

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Many of the professionals Business Insider spoke to agreed on one thing: Work is a major topic to be avoided at the office holiday party.

Maestro Health CEO Rob Butler said to treat the festivities as a chance to get to know colleagues on a more personal level. “Encourage your employees to turn off ‘work-mode’ and learn about their coworkers’ passions and hobbies,” he said.

Joe Weinlick, senior vice president at career network Beyond, explained that discussions revolving around work can make people feel uncomfortable.

“Never ask, ‘When will that project be finished?’ at your holiday party,” Weinlick told Business Insider. “The holiday party should be a fun event free from the stress of the job. Save shop talk for when you’re back in the office.”

So, if you can’t talk about work with your colleagues, what should you talk about? LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher recommended doing some research in order to get the conversation flowing.

“If small talk isn’t your strong suit, feel free to look up your colleagues’ recent activity on LinkedIn for potential topics of conversation,” Fisher told Business Insider.

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