Denver Bar Association
December 2008
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Say Yes to Holiday Spirit; Say No to Many Holiday Spirits

by Becky Bye

Aah, the holiday season has come at last. Your office is probably festively decorated and, one hopes, your co-workers are feeling care-free and cheerful because the holiday season is a time of giving and joy.

Or not.

The holiday season often is the most stressful, painful time of year to work. Whether it’s the billable hours or projects due by year’s end, or stressing over work etiquette regarding office gifts or finding excuses to leave the office so you can go to the battlegrounds at the malls to fight over holiday gifts while avoiding the chaotic post-5 p.m. rush, the holiday season can be a stressful and not-so-joyous time of year — particularly at work.

Adding to the stress, you are likely to be invited (or required) to attend your organization’s holiday party. Supposedly, this is a time to forget about your work woes, office politics and stress, and enjoy each other’s company. That might sound good in theory, but realistically speaking, the "office party" can be the most detrimental aspect of a young lawyer’s career.

To some, attending the office holiday parties is a test, perhaps more difficult than the Bar exam. The party tests a young lawyer’s poise, social tact and quick reflexes to potentially awkward situations. As we all know, a holiday party will only harm you; if you don’t mess up too badly, then maybe you can stay at status quo. This article serves as a warning for dealing with common holiday party dilemmas. I have made these conclusions based on stories I’ve been told and my own observations.

I would be remiss if I did not first mention drinking and the consequences of drinking. Many holiday parties may tempt you by having an open bar with a variety of premium beers, wines and liquor. Young and old lawyers alike find their biggest weakness in open bars and failing to stop visiting them during the night. I recommend trying to slowly drink one or two libations over the course of the holiday party and no more. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a conversation with a person whom you are trying to impress and making nonsensical or incomprehensible statements such as,"Yo quiero Taco Bell," or randomly laughing hysterically for no reason at all. And, of course, you would never want to be known as the person who ended the party by, let’s say, purging all of your holiday cheer in front of the crowd. No, this would not help your work situation.

I know it is difficult to stop yourself from delicious (and free) drinks. I, too, have found myself saying "yes, please" to one or more too many bottles of delicious Fat Tire beer. But remember, it will be more difficult to face your colleagues the following Monday if you don’t stop after only a couple … or maybe a few.

Many other situations you might encounter are typically aggravated or triggered by drinking, as well. Usually, if you find someone at a holiday party (hopefully not yourself) acting foolishly — such as dancing while wearing a tie around their forehead and yelling out, "Rambo!" or making out with their date (or even worse, another person’s date) — you know that the actions might be a consequence of too much drinking. Unfortunately, this short-lived fun could also be reputation-breaking. Even going so far as to hit on your co-workers, albeit you think it might be flattering to them, is not the way to make a good impression on your colleagues.

Your ultimate goal is to make it through the night, unscathed. Seek to avoid any situation that might put you in awkward territory, and please refrain from excessive drinking. If you get through the holiday party without any major party fouls, falling down, or sleeping under a table, you will likely pass the test of the holiday party — at least for this year.

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