Holiday parties with family and friends are generally events to look forward to. Company holiday parties? Not so much. This especially holds true if you don't like your coworkers or would rather spend your days trapped in a rancid shipping container than deal with the monster you call your boss.
That said, company holiday parties are often an obligation you can't easily wiggle out of, and if you attempt to skip yours, it could come back to bite you. So rather than ditch those parties, here's what you can do to get through them.
1. Show up fashionably late
Unless your company holiday party starts directly after work, there's no reason you can't take all the time you need to freshen up before heading over (read: Sit in front of the TV and bide your time so you're not among the first to arrive). Even if that party is across the street from your office building with a start time that coincides with the close of the workday, lingering at your desk will spare you from having to spend more time chatting with folks you have no interest in speaking with. If anything, chalk up your late arrival to a last-minute client emergency or a looming deadline.
2. Pair up with a like-minded colleague
Chances are, you're not the only person at your office who's dreading that holiday party. If you're able to find someone with whom to commiserate, it'll make the evening far more tolerable for both of you. So identify your buddy for the evening and make a pact to stick together as you navigate awkward discussions and uncomfortable jokes whose punchlines are less than clear.
3. Go easy on the alcohol
This one should really go without saying, but when you're stuck in a room with a few hundred people you don't know or don't like, that extra glass of wine might sound more appealing than ever. Tempting as it might be, though, know your limits and don't drink more than you normally would on a typical night out. The last thing you want is to appear impaired in front of your manager and peers, even if the rest of them are fairly tipsy themselves.
4. Have an exit strategy
Some company parties have a defined end time, especially if your firm has rented out a venue that has no qualms about shutting down the bar and kicking you all out at a preset hour. But in the absence of that, you could wind up in a situation where that party rages all night and your attempts to leave are met with undying resistance.
That's why it's crucial to go in with an exit strategy that your boss and colleagues can't argue. The old "My spouse is away and the babysitter has to head home" trick generally works, provided you actually have kids. You might even get away with the tried-and-true "If I don't go home to let the dog out, he'll ruin my hardwood floors, and then I'll never get my security deposit back." Either way, the key is to have a sound excuse, and one that doesn't apply universally. In other words, "I have to get up early for work tomorrow" isn't going to cut it.
Company parties are an unavoidable part of the holiday season. Follow these tips, and you'll have an easier time getting through the next one you're forced to attend.