How to Handle an Awkward Office Party

Face it, at some point in your career, you’ll be invited to an office party. Will it be awkward? Definitely.  Do you still have to go? Absolutely. But fear not, Modern Manners Guy has 3 tips for how to properly handle an awkward office party.

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #256

I previously wrote an article called How to Talk to Strangers where I mentioned (as I have in the past) how much I love an awkward situation. Apparently, I’m not alone. I've gotten so much email from loyal Modern Manners Guy readers about being stuck in uncomfortable situations in the office that I figured I needed to delve into this topic a bit deeper.>

In my new book, Reply All… And Other Ways to Tank Your Career I talk about how your coworkers can become a big part of your social circle, even if you are new on the job. Just give it some time. And with that come office parties of all shapes, sizes, and themes, which can lead to any number of awkward encounters. So before you find yourself creeping closer and closer to the exit, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for properly handling office parties:

Tip #1: The Benefits of Flying Solo

The band Three Dog Night once sang, “One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do.” I think about this line every time I show up to an event and realize I don’t know anyone in the room. Even worse is when I realize that I actually don’t want to know anyone in the party either.

This usually happens when you're the office newbie. I know what youre thinking, but no, do not use this as an excuse to skip the event. Even if you're an outgoing person, attending an office party alone can be tough - brings back memories of middle school when you walked into the cafeteria all scared and alone with your tray.  But then again, you can use this as a positive. In fact, going solo is the better way to get through an event because it allows you fly under the radar and watch the dynamics of the company unfold unobserved.

If you go to a party with a friend/date/coworker who likes to shake everyone’s hand and make verbal promises to “keep in touch” or “get coffee next week,” it can greatly delay your departure. This is when flying solo at an office party comes in handy as long as you make a proper appearance. For starters, always make sure the event organizer and/or the star of the party sees that you were there. You never want to be the one that was accused of not showing up because you clung to the corner nursing your cupcake and lukewarm sparkling wine the entire time. Wile you're at it, set up your departure in advance so you don't have to stay any longer than you want. Try this, "Hey Susan, I’m so happy for you. You’ll probably be super busy at the party, so if I don’t see you before I leave, congrats again!”

This way, when you do feel it’s time to leave, you can simply, and slyly, sneak out without making a big scene or spending anymore time than you want to. Done and done.

Tip #2: When You’re the Star