5 Ways to Make an Impression at Office Holiday Parties

This time of year is filled with earnest advice on what not to do at your office holiday party. If you follow those tips to the letter, you will lessen the possibility of being excused from your position. You will also miss a great opportunity to show the boss you have some personality — and score major points over your timid competitors.

Can you handle the truth? Your boss doesn’t look forward to the party, and their spouse absolutely dreads it. They would rather be cornered by a pack of wolverines than make mind-numbing small talk with you and your overly earnest ilk in the uber-safe space of the office party. So why not roll the dice a bit and show you have some personality, all while standing out from the other office drones? I am not talking about bobbing for apples in the punch bowl, but be fun, and make an impression. Your boss will love you for it.

Here are five tips on how not to fade into the wallpaper at your holiday party this weekend.

1. Talk to the spouse of your boss. I don’t mean just mumble, “Hi, nice to meet you,” while staring at your Dr. Martens. Really talk. There is something they are passionate about, and it is your job to find it and obsess over it along with the spouse, no matter how lame it is.

2. Wear one “go-to-Hell” item. If it is formal attire, throw on a Kriss Kringle bow tie along with the black tux. Or wear a candy cane pocket square. Some snappy, vintage wool tartan pants look good with a blue blazer for business casual or the same in skirt and sweater for women. If you are a bit “husky” and really funny by nature, toss on a Santa hat. You get the idea. However, the rule is only one kitschy item per outfit. More than that you look like a municipal-course golfer in Fort Lauderdale. Not good.

3. Listen to the boss. See rule No. 1. Really listen. The key to making an impression is not to drone on about your interests outside of work, like Xbox or “Game of Thrones,” but to let the boss impress you with theirs. Even if you barely say a word other than to encourage their storytelling, they’ll walk away thinking you two are “close” because of your shared interest in African butterflies.

4. Bring a cigar in your pocket. Even if you never touch tobacco, at some point you might be standing outside, and some senior partner will be grumbling about the no-smoking fascists in the office. Present them with the stogie for a present. They’ll remember you.

5. Talk about religion and politics. This is for when you are stuck with a couple of your boring peers. If you want to escape, launch into some rant about how we should tax dogs, or adopt the Mayan calendar for daylights saving time. They’ll think you’re crazy and walk off, giving you more time for chatting up the boss’ spouse.

Have a great holiday, everyone! Thanks for your readership and commentary during 2015. Now, let loose at the holiday party, and send me your stories.