8 Holiday Season Mistakes That Can Hurt You at Work

Author: Maurie Backman | December 07, 2018

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Enjoy, but don't put your career in jeopardy

The holidays are a time to be generous with friends, visit loved ones, and spread some of the joy that tends to go missing during the rest of the year. But wonderful as the holidays can be, they also offer ample opportunity for you to mess up at the office -- big time. Here are a few holiday mistakes that can damage your career if you aren’t careful. 

ALSO READ: How to Use the Holidays to Repair Your Network

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1. Ditching the company holiday party

Though company holiday parties aren’t always terrible, if the idea of attending yours sounds like a nightmare, you may be inclined to concoct an excuse and ditch that gathering instead. Don’t. Chances are, your employer gave you plenty of notice as to when that party would be, which means barring a bout of the flu and a note from your doctor to prove it, you don’t really have a valid reason not to attend. Furthermore, company holiday parties offer a great opportunity to network, which can help your career on a long-term basis. And by going, you’ll send the message that you’re glad to be a part of the team you’re on, which is an important one to convey to your boss.

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2. Behaving inappropriately at the company holiday party

Drinking too much alcohol when you’re hanging out with friends can be embarrassing, but drinking too much alcohol in front of your manager and peers can be downright detrimental to your career. Over-imbibing shows a serious lack of self-control on your part, and that’s not the type of message you want to send -- so tempting as that open bar might be, pledge to keep your booze intake under control. If the party is truly painful -- meaning, loaded with awkward conversations -- fake a headache and excuse yourself early. 

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3. Taking too much time off

It’s common for people to take time off around the holidays, but chances are, you’re not the only person in your office who wants it. So don’t make the mistake of being greedy. Rather than bank all of your vacation days and request two weeks off in December, prepare to be content with a few days out of the office to spend with friends or family. Taking too much time off could cause your colleagues to get none, not to mention put you in a position where you risk falling behind on deadlines. 

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4. Waiting until the last minute to request time off

The convenient thing about the holidays is that they arrive at the same time each year -- no surprises. But if you wait too long to ask for time off, you’ll risk having that request denied. At the same time, you’ll be putting your boss in an uncomfortable position where he or she might have to say no. Even if your last-minute request is approved, by not planning ahead, you risk missing deadlines and angering your colleagues who are inevitably forced to pick up your slack. And that’s hardly fair. 

ALSO READ: 3 Reasons You Need to Take a Vacation

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5. Not checking the company calendar

Though Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are considered federal holidays, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not. As such, there’s no reason to assume your company is giving you those days off unless it expressly says so. Furthermore, don’t show up to work those days assuming your manager will let you out early. If there’s lots of work to be done, that may not happen, in which case you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment -- and if you make that disappointment evident, it could hurt you professionally. If you want time off for the days preceding those recognized holidays, ask for it in advance. 

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6. Not reciprocating on the gift-giving front

It’s awkward and expensive to have to exchange holiday gifts with colleagues and manager, especially when you don’t feel you know those folks very well. But while you don’t necessarily have to proactively kick-start the gift-giving cycle at work, you also shouldn’t make the mistake of not reciprocating when people are generous with you. If money is an issue, suggest a grab-bag type exchange or secret Santa-style setup, where you draw names from a hat and each person in your office only buys a gift for the person who name he or she pulls. But try to make that suggestion before the gifts with your name on them start rolling in.

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7. Not pitching in when your team is short-staffed

Chances are, many of your coworkers will be taking time off around the holidays. If you aren’t, don’t be that person who refuses to help out in their absence. Pitching in can buy you some major goodwill among your colleagues, which means they’ll be more likely to cover for you the next time you want a break from the office. At the same time, it’ll show your boss that you’re a team player who’s willing to go above and beyond. 

ALSO READ: Employee Potential Does Not Always Equal Workplace Performance

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8. Being a downer

Not everyone enjoys the holidays, and for some folks, they’re actually a difficult time of the year. But don’t let your personal holiday baggage spoil the fun for everybody else at the office. While you might chalk the holidays up to nothing more than commercialized hoopla, your officemates might genuinely enjoy the whole gift-giving, cookie-swapping extravaganza. Ruining it for them with a bad attitude is a good way to not only get on their bad list, but solidify your long-term reputation as the resident office grump. 


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