The Office Party can feel like a playground or a prison, depending on the company culture of your workplace. BUT there are some easy ways to capitalize on the good times and avoid potential land mines, no matter what kind of holiday party gets thrown at you:
1. The Stuffy Corporate Office
You work at a law firm or a big company where your boss's boss hardly knows your name. The "Holiday Party" takes place in the office, which the despised HR woman has been charged with throwing. Booze are scarce, the lights stay on, and small talk is aplenty. Don't try to butter up the boss, since he doesn't want to be there either. Steer clear of work talk or politics; instead, stick to neutral topics like the holidays, the weather, and people's kids. And most importantly, don't pass the two-drink limit. This isn't a boozy crowd, and everyone's going to remember when Lenny from accounting gets drunk and kicks over his computer monitor.
2. The Yuppie Firm
These are the advertising and consulting agencies that only hire from the "ambitious" 35-and-under crowd. (If you're 40 and you work at one of these, you're likely the boss.) The Office Party usually takes place at a bar or karaoke joint to facilitate team bonding. Take the Office Party as an opportunity to chat up your young boss about his golf game, and get a few words with Cute Girl You Never Speak To. Don't be the first or last to leave, and stick to the two-drink rule. Only sing karaoke if Young Boss or Cute Girl insists.
3. The Girl Squad
If you've ever worked in fashion or PR, you know the Office Party is designed for boozing. There won't be many men around, so you don't have to tiptoe around a potential hookup. Instead, take a shot with the bitch from Marketing (maybe she'll stop give you the stink eye) and snap some selfies with your Alpha Female boss, who's feeling pretty good on account of getting a nanny for the night. Stay late, since there's definitely going to be an after party.
4. The Startup
Your work uniform is jeans and a flannel, and your office is your boss's apartment or a "progressive" communal space. Entrepreneurs like to feel edgy, so be wary of getting caught in a conversation with One-Upping-Guy. Avoid the self-important small talk, have a few beers and don't neglect the food table (you're underpaid, anyway.) When you leave, make sure you have a valid excuse. You can't afford offense in a small scale operation.
5. The Frathouse
Your boss wears a leather bracelet to work, and even though he's 45, he dresses like he's 20. He's always talking about "company culture" and at the annual picnic two guys puked. This is the Office Party of no rules. The drunker you get, the more you'll be respected. Make out with the receptionist, do a keg stand, and don't turn down a joint from the Company President. Go big or go home.