I always have a hard time deciding whether to go to the office Christmas party. It is not that I don't like my co-workers, because I do. The problem is that they are the people I work with and it is often hard to change gears and all of a sudden become social with people I don't normally socialize with. You also don't want to get too relaxed and drink too much because even though you are at a party outside the office, these are still the people you work with and if you have plans for your career then what you do at the office party counts.
So why bother going?
The office party can be a good time for some networking with the different people in your organization. Interactions can be casual, but you also want to show your social skills and should try to greet as many people as you can. It doesn't have to be a long conversation, just a short introduction and if you work in a large company you might want to say which department you work in.
This can also be a good time to strengthen your relationship with your team members. It is nice to have that outside-of-work social connection to make working with someone more pleasant. You may also come to understand your co-workers better and find common interests. This will certainly help in your day-to-day working together.
If you are not able to attend the party, it is always a good idea to let the organizer know and your boss. You don't want to leave the impression that you don't want to be there, although some people choose not to go and that is perfectly fine. You just don't want your absence to become something it is not and give people a reason to wonder why you don't want to be a part of the group. A simple RSVP should solve that problem.
You are invited, plus a guest...
There is also the question about who to bring to the office party? Our party this year included our "significant other". I am single and don't have a significant other so my dilemma was, should I invite a date to the party or go solo? I think care should be taken on who you invite or whether to invite anyone at all. This year I went on my own and many others made the same choice. The office party would not be a good time for a first date.
Make plans to get home
There is never an excuse to drink and drive. Most offices have taxi chits available to make sure employees do not drive home if they have been drinking. If you do not have that option, then get a friend to pick you up or decide on a designated driver amongst your co-workers and have that person drive you home. There may also be other programs available to get people home such as Operation Red Nose. Whatever way you decide to get home, please don't drink and drive.
We had a nice time at our party. I only started with this company in July so I don't know my co-workers that well, so it was a good time to get to know them outside of the office. It was held at my boss's home and was very casual and relaxed. The office party doesn't have to be dull and our wasn't, but you should be on your best behaviour.
Merry Christmas everyone and have a safe and happy holiday and a prosperous New Year.