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An office party is the celebration of a holiday among coworkers, and sometimes their families. They are intended as social events, usually to raise coworker morale. Although it is technically a party, it is still a business event and should be treated as such.
Committees are often formed to plan and host the office party. The company may choose to host the party at a cocktail lounge, hotel banquet room, restaurant, or the house of a higher-up in the company. Although, they are sometimes held at the job location, often times people want to avoid the office altogether in order to have a more festive atmosphere. Decorations are usually kept neutral, as not everyone celebrates Christmas.
Planning an office party means choosing a menu that can be enjoyed be everyone, from carnivores to vegetarians. Serving alcohol can get expensive, so decide in advance how many free drink tickets to give each employee. Any additional drinks will have to be paid for by the employee himself. If you are serving alcohol, it is recommended that you provide your employees with a way home. This is best done by distributing taxi coupons to all employees, even if they aren't planning on drinking.
When attending an office party, there are several things to keep in mind. Office parties are expensive, planned events that are coordinated and paid for by your place of business. On this note, don't bring uninvited guests. The party is usually planned on a per person basis and bringing an extra guest will stretch the food and space limitations.
It is always best to attend the office party, as you can damage your reputation if you don't. Make sure to attend for at least an hour and dress to impress. Although it is a party, your boss and other executives will be watching you. Under-dressing will demonstrate that you don't care, while overdressing might make people think you are overpaid. Women should avoid wearing dresses that are too short or flashy clothes with plunging necklines.
Remain professional at all times. An office party is not the place to gossip, blow off steam, or whine about your job. Try to hold positive, upbeat conversations without bragging about yourself. Make sure to keep your hands to yourself and don't flirt.
Office parties are the perfect time to get to know people who may greatly influence your career. Take the time to network with management and executives from other departments. Stay sober during the office party, or drink in moderation, so you are able to make a good impression.
I plan most of the parties for my department, and I have to second what Scrbblchick said: alcohol is a bad, bad idea. People have gotten fired because they got drunk at an office party and did something completely out of line. People can do stupid things when they're sober, obviously, but the kind of stuff that gets you fired almost always stems from too much alcohol.
I usually plan things during the day so people can come and go. I get snacks and sweets and we may have a get-together in the afternoon. That seems to work best for us. It may not for every business, certainly, but it does well for our environment.
Serving alcohol at an office party is a one-way street to big trouble. I would never do it. If it were something like a New Year's Eve party, maybe everybody gets a champagne toast at midnight, but that would be *it.* Too many bad things happen when you mix alcohol and office parties. People who can't control themselves will inevitably drink too much and do stupid things. It's just a lot easier if you don't do it.
I'd rather do something like a picnic where it's daytime, don't serve booze and have a nice barbecue or something. You can do games, or whatever, but mostly, people should be free to mingle and kind of choose their own level of party.