12/30/2010

Corporate Survival Guide: The Holiday Party

On the battlefield, the importance of entertaining the troops is paramount; always keep the guys with the guns happy. Without this goal and the USO, how else could we have kept Bob Hope overseas and off of our television shows for as long as we did?

The corporate battlefield is no different; the soldiers of bureaucracy must occasionally be entertained by the company, to keep their spirits high, their attitude productive, and their guns at home.

Thus comes the annual holiday party at work. This affair can range widely in the particulars. At the low end, it might be a stilted and awkward gathering in a break room to have a carefully-rationed glass of the cheapest box wine available. On the high end, it can be a lavish, stilted and awkward orgy of booze and food that makes you wonder if you're in the right place. Either way works; as long as there's alcohol to help you forget your pathetic existence in the cube farms for an evening, it's better than crying yourself to sleep on the floor of your mother's kitchen. Again.

But the real question for the corporate warrior is: how can you use the situation to your advantage? The savvy soldier always looks for the opportunity to strike the killing blow, and having all of your peers and managers in festive spirits is the perfect time. Here are some strategic party tips:

Helpful Holiday Hints

1) Drink Far Too Much
First of all, realize that they are giving this food away, and a good solider always packs in the free stuff.

But more importantly for your career, it's critical that your management see you diving head-first into the walls of opportunity that they provide for their employees.
You could say, "Oh, I don't drink," which would appear socially responsible. But it would also come off as aloof and, frankly, tedious. Unless they asked you here to drive everyone else home, do you really think they want to hear about your abstention habit?

You could also simply have one drink to appear social. But that's not much better; they didn't provide all of this free booze just to see it politely consumed. They might as well have offered candy bars or breath mints; where's the fun in seeing everyone sip quietly?

No, the alcohol is provided for one purpose and one purpose only. Okay, two. One of the reasons is that they want to give the outward appearance of having provided something nice to the staff, so that you'll remember the $4 bottles of wine the next time they ask you to stay late off the clock. But the main reason is that they want a party. Alcohol, like jello, is a social lubricator, designed to loosen lips and break down stuffy barriers. If they'd wanted a polite conversation, they'd have offered crackers. No, they want an all-out rave. So give them one that everyone will remember, even if you don't.

So help them out; get completely schnockered.

2) Booze schmooze
Networking with your co-workers is best done when you're drunk. For one thing, they will see you as companionable, fun, and harmless, which is exactly how you want them to feel as you undermine their careers to further your own interests. Also, you probably won't remember these conversations the next day, so you don't have to clutter your mind or memory with them and can focus on the important things going forward: managing your career and curing that splitting headache.

3) Suck it up
As always, the most important thing for you to do is to find the nearest executive and suck up to them. Being drunk helps with this critical task, because it breaks down inhibitions and enables you to say things that you otherwise might not, like "Thank you [wipe tear away] for being such a great leader this year!", and "What a great Christmas sweater!," and possible "Sorry for throwing up on your great Christmas sweater!"

If the opportunity arises, don't be afraid to get into a fight to defend the honor of an executive. Pretend that a co-worker says something offensive about the company and take a swing at the detractor before they know what's happening. Your managers will be impressed at your willingness to defend the corporation, even to the point of getting completely beaten up, as will surely happen in your drunken state.
It is important, as you suck up in your inebriated state, to remember to do this with the Right People. Don't waste your compliments on mere co-workers. Likewise for the hat stand, mistaken for your boss in the dim office lighting.

4) Pass out
Your management will know that you completely enjoyed and appreciated the party when you pass out in the guacamole dip. It will be clear that you not only had a great time, but that you prefer the socially acceptable result of sleeping it off at work instead of driving home drunk. Besides, you will get credit for sleeping at the office and pulling an all-nighter (be sure to submit the overtime request to Payroll).
Put this strategy to use as you navigate the treacherous waters of this year's holiday parties. I think you'll be amazed at what will happen to your career. At the very least, you can be happy that you maximized the free booze benefit. And if you did make a complete fool of yourself, at least the alcohol guarantees that you won't have to suffer memories of the debacle.
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