You open your inbox and see the email.
from Social Committee, bcc: me
Subject: It’s time for the office holiday party! Are you ready?
Well, are you ready?
Some people spend weeks looking forward to their office party, while others have mixed feelings about chit-chatting with their office mates over cups of punch. A fair number of people approach this annual tradition with trepidation, and a mindset of just surviving[1-3].
Regardless of how you typically approach your end-of-year shindig, you might benefit from a change in perspective.
What if, instead of looking at this year’s holiday get-together as a fun party, or as a night on the town on your company’s dime, or as something you need to endure, you regarded it as an opportunity?
You see, office parties are a marvelous opportunity for you to form what academics call “high-quality connections” with those you work with. These are genuine bonds that can improve your and your coworkers’ work experience by reducing conflict, raising energy, and promoting a sense of unity that makes everyone excited to work with each other[4,5].
So, how can you make the most of this once-a-year opportunity?
First, you shouldn’t feel like you have to talk shop at this gathering[1,2]. In fact, it’s best if you avoid it. Conversation about ongoing projects can easily turn to stress-venting sessions, or even the blame game, Holiday Edition. The resulting tension can spoil an event that’s meant to be fun. If you can, try to politely steer conversation away from work whenever it comes up.
What you should strive for instead is relaxed, social conversations with your colleagues. Growing comfortable with one another and developing interest in each other’s lives supports mutual care and commitment to teamwork[4,5]. Bonding over the festive atmosphere and learning about each other’s lives goes a long way. And remember, people love to talk about their kids.
You can also develop your connection with your boss at the company party! You can certainly engage them in personal conversation, even if you feel anxious about doing so. Bosses are human. Topics like family, holiday plans, and favorite seasonal activities are just as appropriate for your supervisor as for your colleagues, and your relationship could benefit from sharing these life details with one another.
If you find yourself genuinely engaging with your boss in a casual setting, you are building a high-quality connection. Just keep in mind that trying to engineer a friendship for personal gain could backfire. If your boss or colleagues sense your intentions are self-centered, they will likely distance themselves from you.
Personal conversations are great for building high-quality connections, but so are fun party activities[4,5]. Games, friendly competitions, joke-telling, and even karaoke help coworkers let their guard down with one another.
In fact, regarding the last, research shows that singing in a group can lead to warmer feelings toward each other, and promote acts of kindness. This furthers the growth of high-quality connections in the future.
So, if you have the chance to join in and sing some holiday classics, embrace it—along with the rest of the evening. After all, it’s the holidays. You should have fun. Grab a cozy sweater and RSVP yes.
1. White, M. C. (2013, December 2). 6 tips to for surviving the office holiday party. Time.
2. Giang, V. (2012, December 16). 13 ways to survive the office holiday party. Business Insider.
3. Rothbard, N. (2014, December 15). Why some co-workers dread the office holiday party. Psychology Today.
4. Dutton, J.E. (2003). Energize your workplace: How to create and sustain high-quality connections at work (Vol. 50). John Wiley & Sons.
5. Stephens, J. P., Heaphy, E., & Dutton, J. E. (2011). High quality connections. Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. New York, NY: Oxford University Press
6. Cain, A. (2016, December 14). The most obvious conversation at your office holiday party should be avoided at all costs. Business Insider.
7. Smith, J. (2013, October 16). 14 tips for improving your relationship with your boss. Forbes.
8. Dillon, K. (2014, November 28). Can you be friends with your boss? Harvard Business Review.
9. Stewart, N.A.J.,& Lonsdale, A.J. (2016). It’s better together: The psychological benefits of singing in a choir. Psychology of Music, 44, 1-15.
10. Valdesolo, P., & Desteno, D. (2011). Synchrony and the social tuning of compassion. Emotion, 11, 262-266.