Drunk at the Office Christmas Party – How to Avoid Embarrassment

Mariah Carey blasting out, mistletoe being waved around and there’s more tinsel than dress! That’s right, it’s time to party. But what if you get drunk at the office Christmas party and embarrass yourself? We look at how to avoid drinking to excess, and deal with the aftermath if you don’t!

A high point of the year is the annual work Christmas party. It’s discussed months before the event and will be looked back on for a long time. It’s a time when hardworking staff let their hair down, forget the stresses of the office and bond with their colleagues over some drinks.

How much is too much when it comes to drinking at the office Christmas party? Is there etiquette you should stick to? Is getting drunk deemed as unprofessional?

How to Play The Office Christmas Party This Year

Your outfit is sorted and you’ve chosen your meal – office Christmas party here you come! Employers throw these parties so that their staff can unwind, destress and enjoy each other’s company in a non-working environment.

Such events boost morale in the workplace and make employees feel valued. This in turn makes for a more positive team of people, so throwing a Christmas party is a great time for all.

It is important, however, to remember that it is still a work event, albeit a boozy one! There are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. No, that chair is not a dance floor and you do not need to dance on it to the Macarena!

Balancing Work & Play Keeps HR Away!

Here are our top tips for enjoying some drinks during your Christmas work do but also maintaining your professional status (and dignity) at the same time.

Follow these tips to have fun at your Christmas event, without copping the festive gift of a chat with Janice from HR on Monday:-

  • Water is your friend. It’s hydrating, good for the skin, blah blah blah… it also slows your drinking down! Not only will having a glass of water between drinks keep you on a more even keel, but you’ll also thank us for the next morning when the hangover is bearable. Have a bottle of water on you during the evening and take regular sips.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Work parties usually come with food, even if it’s just snacks. Sometimes though, it’s worth having something beforehand, just to line the stomach before those drinks. If this isn’t feasible then pop a little something in your bag so if you are getting squiffy, it’s there as an option.
  • It’ll soon be Monday again! However much fun you are having and however loud and bolshy you are being, remember you have to see these people again Monday morning. If at any point, you think you are crossing the proverbial line, then you most likely are so reign it in a little.
  • Dress appropriately. Remember this is still a work’s do, so dress so you feel good, and comfortable and aren’t showing every inch of your flesh. You can still add some sparkle and glitz – it is Christmas, after all!
  • Don’t become overconfident. No one likes a cocky coworker and sometimes drinks can make us feel braver than usual. A Christmas party is not the time to let your boss know what Tina said about her. Nor is it the time to say anything you will regret the next morning. You have to work with these people, it isn’t worth losing your job over.
  • Decide your arrival and departure times. By pre-booking your taxis there and back, you are sticking to a schedule and less likely to go crazy. Also, you’ll owe less money to the babysitter – win, win!
  • Stick to singles. We all know the drill, you get to the bar, the bartender says shall I double it up for you, you say yes why not and then the evening fast becomes a blur! You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a hazy recollection of what happened.

Handling The Aftermath of Getting Drunk at a Work Party

So, the above just didn’t go to plan, perhaps you had one for Dutch courage at home and it just went downhill from there!

First things first, don’t panic, often we overthink these situations and make things worse than they are.   Speak to a trusted colleague first, someone you trust and who will be transparent with you. If they feel you overstepped the mark and need to grovel, then there is a good chance you do.

In the event, you need to address the evening’s shenanigans then:-

  • Don’t be tempted to call in sick. It will be very tempting to avoid any backlash by calling in sick but this will look painfully obvious to everyone in the office. Grit your teeth, put your brave pants on and face the music head-on. Chances are it won’t be as bad as you imagine.
  • Make sure you don’t drive if you had a skinful the night before, that won’t end well. Make sure you shower, do your teeth, gargle and look as fresh as you can for the work day ahead. Make sure you are sober by having lots of water and some breakfast.
  • Don’t be late – this will only draw more attention to yourself. Arrive early, plaster on a smile and get the coffee made before everyone starts piling in.
  • Social media check. Did you post anything embarrassing last night or any dodgy videos? Spend some time checking your newsfeed and those of your work colleagues and removing anything unsuitable.
  • Apologise. If you said anything that crossed a line or you now feel uncomfortable with, the best thing to do is approach this head-on by apologising.
  • You don’t need a full confession of your party’s sins! Yes, it’s important to apologise to anyone that needs one but don’t go telling your boss or colleagues all your sins, some things are best left unsaid if they aren’t mentioned.
  • Accept the ramifications. Your boss may need to take the matter seriously and make an example of you. With humility accept this and learn from your mistakes. You might get a warning, for example.
  • Stay productive. Bounce back quickly from any embarrassment by working as productively as usual and the day will pass much more easily.

When to Apologise

In case it’s not obvious what you should and should not apologise for. Here’s a few examples of party behaviour that might have gotten you offside with your boss and coworkers.

Instances where you might need to make amends after a drunken work do:-

  1. You were sick and not in a discreet way.
  2. You became over-amorous with a colleague, or worse, your boss.
  3. You have no recollection of the evening.
  4. There is a tense atmosphere in the office around you.
  5. You were a little too honest with a colleague and offended them.
  6. You have bruises from when you fell off your dancing chair. Note to self:  there is no such thing as a dancing chair, that’s what the dance floor is for.
  7. You declared your undying love to someone at the workplace.
  8. You danced inappropriately.
  9. You decided it was time to tell some home truths to your colleagues.
  10. You got into an argument or fight during the evening.

Let’s be honest, none of the above is ideal and is pretty much the last thing you want to do when partying with your work people.

But, sometimes things don’t pan out the way we’d like, we are human and we make mistakes. Sometimes, people can get anxious about these events and drink to feel more comfortable.

Can You Get Sacked for Being Drunk at the Office Christmas Party?

It’s done now, you’ve got a clearer head and it’s now time to face the repercussions of being drunk at the office Christmas party.

Hopefully, any backlash will be relatively tame and you’ll simply be reminded of the importance of professionalism. At the end of the day, work parties are still classed as company time so any wrongdoings can be dealt with using the same disciplinary actions as a normal work day.

You can be sacked for exhibiting drunken behaviour at the Christmas party. This behaviour would need to be pretty extreme though.

When You Might be Dismissed

Here’s a few examples of behaviours that might mean you’ll be looking for a new job:-

  • Being violent towards another member of staff will likely go down as gross misconduct.
  • Any behaviour that impacts health and safety such as being in charge of locking up and forgetting.
  • Bringing drugs to the Christmas do – is a big no-no.
  • Turning up still drunk the next day may well result in dismissal and can be dangerous, e.g. machinery work.
  • Any behaviour that could be regarded as sexual misconduct or harassment.
  • Starting the party early and have a few drinks while still doing your day job.
  • Damaging equipment through drunken antics.
  • Causing negative reputation to the company as a result of your behaviour.

If your worst drunken crime was your dodgy dancing or telling your boss you are worthy of promotion then your job is most likely safe.

But if any behaviour affecting the reputation of the company can come with the expectation of disciplinary action.  Most companies will have policies in place which reinforces the above.

Christmas Party Etiquette – The Do’s and Don’ts


  1. Enjoy yourself but remember you are representing the company. This is especially important if your party is in a public place.
  2. Enjoy a few drinks but know your limits and stop at a respectable time.
  3. Don’t let any tensions become a focal point of the party, you have to work with these people.
  4. Look out for coworkers and keep a level head.
  5. Set a time for going home and stick to it.


  1. Declare your undying love for a colleague or your boss.
  2. Drink more than you can handle.
  3. Arrive in an inappropriate outfit.
  4. Decide to have a liquid dinner – just don’t, enjoy the food.
  5. Photocopy your derrière – it’s not going to be a fine point for your career!

Can I refuse To Go To My Work Do?

Work parties have the potential to be an HR nightmare and can be very stressful to arrange. Finding a venue, making sure everyone’s needs are catered for, when to hold it and so on. Organising such an event can cause many a sleepless night for managers. Most of them recognise the importance of celebrating their staff’s achievements though and are keen for them to attend the Christmas do.

But what happens if you are one of the 25% of employees who dread the invite coming and would rather not attend? Is it considered rude to decline? At the end of the day, socialising isn’t everyone’s thing,  particularly with a roomful of people you may not have much in common with.

It’s perfectly fine to turn down an invite to the office party but it’s probably handy to have an excuse at the ready. You could say you’ve got something else on that night or you can’t get a sitter. You could also be non committal and say you aren’t sure, then if you don’t turn up it won’t be a surprise.

It can be worth forcing yourself to attend, even just for an hour or two. Sometimes, not attending such events can leave you feeling out of the circle so to speak. If this doesn’t bother you, however, then there’s nothing to worry about. If you do say no, maybe try and go to the next event because it will be noticeable if you duck out of every social occasion.

Tip: If you feign illness as your reason for not going then be careful not to blow your cover by being all over social media at another event.

Further Reading

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