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How to avoid cringe-worthy mistakes at the office Christmas party

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The office Christmas party - it's a fun, festive tradition for most UK businesses. And it's something we couldn't do last year, so this year seems like an opportunity to be especially festive. And, maybe your workplace has a big celebration planned.

Employees who are naturally social and extroverted will look forward to an event like this with enthusiasm. But others of us dread the small-talk and anticipated awkward silences. And after so much recent isolation, we may be feeling especially socially awkward.

What is causing the stress?

An office Christmas party can be a source of major anxiety for some employees. That's because we know these events are an important time for contributing to workplace culture and building our own social networks within the business. It's also an opportunity to create a good impression on our employers and top-level managers. That's an added layer of stress for the naturally introverted and can feel like a lot of pressure.

We've also all been dealing with isolation to varying degrees over the last 18 months. And that means some of us will have more trouble socialising than we did in the past. 

If you're not looking forward to this year's workplace celebrations, we've pulled together some ideas to help you cope:

How to combat office Christmas party anxiety:

  • Plan ahead to have a cosy, relaxing time when you get home from the party so you have something to look forward to. Our suggestion: make a plan to light some candles, get into snuggly pyjamas and enjoy your favourite film over some hot chocolate. This (or your own definition of a cosy time) will help you have positive feelings about the evening before you even get to the party.
  • Make sure you know the dress code ahead of time. There's nothing worse than feeling you're over or under dressed compared to everyone else. Make sure you hit the right note and feel comfortable in your attire to set yourself up for a pleasant evening.
  • Once you're at the party, start by remembering it's just a party. A good option is to take all of those network-building stressors out of the equation, hang out with your closest associates and just have fun. You can network with your colleagues later at a conference or on a regular business work day.
  • Alternatively, prepare yourself ahead of time with some scientifically based networking tips. Loughborough University has published a paper on this. You can read about their findings and download the research paper from Imago Venues on their blog.
  • Try not to consume too much alcohol. We know, it's a party, right? But now is not the time to consume as much alcohol as you might at your cousin's wedding for an evening of unbridled hilarity. If you limit yourself, you're less likely to do something you'll regret around your work colleagues.
  • If you're struggling to find something to talk about and entering awkward silence territory, good quick subjects include commenting on the party, decor, food and drinks. You could also ask your companions about their upcoming Christmas plans.
  • If at any point you feel overwhelmed, take a break outside or a quick trip to the loo. Having a few minutes to yourself can help you calm and collect yourself. Take your time. Don't feel you have to rush back. When you head back in, look for some friendly faces to join.
  • Take the focus off yourself. Look around and see if anyone else looks out of place. If so, consider joining them and helping them to have an enjoyable evening. In the process you may find a new work buddy.
  • Remember your attendance is not obligatory. If the thought of attending fills you with dread, you are allowed to just say no. And if you do decide to attend, give yourself permission to leave early if you need to. This can help you feel that you're not trapped, so you're more likely to relax and enjoy yourself.

If you found this content helpful, you may want to check out our other blogs focused on mental health in the workplace.

Finally, if your anxiety is rooted in feeling inferior to your colleagues, you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Read more from our blog about How to recognise and defeat imposter syndrome

We hope these suggestions help you have a more enjoyable office Christmas party. And from all of us at HR GO we wish you a very merry festive season and hope that you get to celebrate in a way that makes you deeply happy.

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