Workplace Culture

Attitudes Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go to the Company Holiday Bash

By Alexis Carpello

Nov. 29, 2017

The Dick Clique
Holly Caplan

To attend or avoid the annual company holiday party — that is the question confronting millions of employees as the holiday party season fast approaches.

While the vast majority of workers will revel and mingle with their colleagues, there are distinct schools of thought on employee attendance.

Employees should plan to go, wrote relationship and communication expert Patty Ann Tublin on HuffPost. An employee’s absence will be noticed at the party. Plus, it’s an opportunity to network with co-workers, she added, even if that means having a conversation that is nonwork related.

On the flip side, author Holly Caplan explained that missing the company holiday party doesn’t hold as many consequences as some may think.

“It is OK to say no this year, or any year,” said Caplan, who authored the 2017 book “Surviving the Dick Clique.” “Depending on your company’s culture, you can make a decision that will be best for you. Some companies choose different paths for these events, but if you feel yours will lead to a bad hangover and potentially some awkward and regretful conversations or activities, just say no.”

Nearly 80 percent of companies plan a holiday party this year, according to the 2017 annual “Holiday Party Report” from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. And a recent survey by staffing firm Office Team noted 28 percent of professionals view their attendance at company holiday parties as obligatory. However, Caplan said that workers can politely decline and let the boss know that they won’t be attending the holiday party this year without offending them.

“Say you are taking a rain check this year,” Caplan said. “It doesn’t mean you are not a team player, it just means that you would like to find another way to celebrate the holiday and your colleagues. Your professional reputation and relationships are what should prevail and be your legacy, so not attending the party may be the best choice for you. But it is your choice.”

John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, explained the benefits employees can find by attending holiday workplace parties.

“You have an opportunity to build relationships with people that may make your job easier because you know each other better. It also gives you the opportunity to see people inside the company that may have a decision in future roles or assignments you might have,” Challenger said. “You have a chance to connect with them on an authentic basis.”

Brandi Britton, district president at Robert Half Los Angeles, agreed there are positives that workers can take away from a corporate party.

“It’s a great place for employees to network. Network with people and get to know the different sides of them,” Britton said. Still, she added, “People need to remember that it is still a work function and things can come back to haunt them.”

Business Etiquette
Barbara Pachter

For those concerned about what to wear, how to act and who to talk to, it’s important for employees to remember that this is a business activity, said Barbara Pachter, author of the book “The Essentials of Business Etiquette.”

“The holiday party is a business event and people need to remember that,” Pachter said. “Business rules apply.”

Appropriate attire is critical, she added.

“Men (and women) need to find out if there is a dress code for the event. And if there is, they need to follow it,” Pachter said. “If not, ask other people what they are wearing or make your wardrobe decision based on the location of the party. And make sure your clothes are cleaned, pressed, no holes, no frays.  When you are out of the office your clothing choices still matter.”

There are unwritten holiday party rules that seem obvious but are often forgotten, Pachter said. “In today’s world of social media don’t post any negative opinions about the party. Don’t post photos of people who are doing inappropriate things.”

Another unwritten rule that is often forgotten: Do not get drunk at holiday parties.

“One young man got so drunk at his holiday party, he cursed out his boss, got fired on the spot and then couldn’t figure out why his badge didn’t work the next day,” Pachter said.

Employees not only should act professionally at holiday parties but if spouses are allowed to attend, they should be prepped on how to behave as well, Pachter said.

“If significant others are a part of it, prepare them, let them know who they will be meeting,” Pachter said. “Tell them something about the people they will meet.”

It may seem obvious that an employee should greet their employer and managers at the party, but sometimes people can make a simple mistake like forgetting to say goodbye.

“Make sure you say goodbye and thank the person you need to thank, don’t sneak out,” Pachter said.

Whatever choice an employee makes on attending won’t be a bad one, Caplan said. “You just have to know what is best for you,” Caplan said. “Be your authentic self and listen to your inner voice. If something makes you feel uncomfortable about attending, than certainly opt out. Your job will still be there waiting for you to slay to the best of your abilities.”

Alexis Carpello is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email

Alexis Carpello is a Workforce intern.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with


Join over 52,000 of your HR peers

Don't miss out on the latest tactics and insights at the forefront of HR.