Office Christmas parties can be a tough line to walk, because you're basically drinking and letting your hair down while you're at work. Ask anyone you know who's been employed for at least five years — all of them have at least one bad work party story, guaranteed.
But take it from those of us who have been there: it's actually relatively easy to have a good time and not feel incredibly embarrassed the next day. Here are some easy, painless ways to not be a dick.
1. Don't be the drunkest person at the party
If you take no other piece of advice from this list — or from any list, or from anyone, ever — please heed this one. We're not going to tell you not to have a drink (or two), we're just telling you not to be the drunkest. Someone is going to be the drunkest, that's just the nature of work parties. Don't let it be you.
2. Don't hit on anyone
This should be obvious to anyone who's been following the news even slightly over the last year and a half, but: don't go down the hitting-on-people-at-work route. Yes, successful and happy office romances have existed and will continue to exist, but they definitely don't start when you're surrounded by your co-workers, three martinis deep, thinking, "I've never wanted to do this before, but maybe I do now." Worst case scenario, you're crossing a major ethical line. Best case scenario, you'll feel skin-crawlingly awkward on Monday.
3. Ask in advance to see if you're allowed to bring a plus-one
Often it will be specified in the invitation, but if not, make sure to check with your boss. The only thing worse than your partner being turned away at the door is wishing your partner was there with you while you're stuck in a boring conversation with your annoying co-worker's terrible spouse.
4. Check in with other people about the dress code
Again, in an ideal world this would be on the invitation, but many office Christmas parties exist outside of an ideal world. Is it black tie? Work wear? Ugly Christmas sweater-themed? You'll probably want to know.
5. Don't air your grievances
Do you work in an environment where conditions are sometimes sub-perfect? Congratulations, you're a human with a job. It might be hard to not bring up complaints when you're around people who share your sub-perfect work conditions. But try to curb your urge to gripe to your coworkers. If anything, when something comes up, offer a location change: say something along the lines of, "We need to get into this. Want to get a drink next week?" Now you've avoided the chance of other co-workers overhearing you complain, and you have a new work friend.
And whatever you do, definitely don't bring up salary.
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6. Try to talk about things other than work
This can be tough, since sometimes work is the only thing you have in common with your colleagues. But if you can, before you get to the party, try to prepare a few questions based on what you know about your co-workers. And bring up neutral, topical subjects for conversation. Christmas movies are always a good bet. (Which is better, "The Princess Switch" or "The Christmas Prince 2?" Where do you stand on the age-old "Is 'Love Actually' good or bad?" question? Is Kevin McAllister from "Home Alone" a child sociopath?") And when all else fails, experts suggest the classic "What are your holiday plans?"
7. Be thankful
The only kind of office Christmas party confession that's actually appropriate is telling people how much you appreciate them. Yes, work parties can sometimes be weird, but draw on your inner Bob Cratchit and let the people around you know how much you value them (and their willingness to give you free holiday booze).
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