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How to survive the office party

Your career : Christmas bash

This year, the festive season is being celebrated with fewer office parties than usual as global economic uncertainty takes its toll. Whether this is good or bad news is a moot point, however. Anyone who has ever flung caution to the wind after a few beers and decided to share their innermost thoughts - and criticisms - with their boss, or hogged the karaoke machine with heartfelt renditions of 'My Way' will greet the news with relief.

All too often, Christmas is the season of terminal embarrassment rather than goodwill to all men. So, if your firm is still determined to go ahead and spread a little Yuletide cheer, what are your best tactics to survive the good old office bash? Here are some top tips for maximum enjoyment and minimum regrets.

lDon't automatically let your hair down. Getting drunk is tempting, but going completely mad won't do your career any good. And while it's acceptable for soldiers on the eve of battle to get so plastered that they have to be carried out of the door, civil engineers on the eve of another day on site are not generally considered in the same light.

'Often it's the reserved people who can't look anyone in eye one minute, who are dancing on the table the next, ' says business psychologist Judi James, author of Body talk at work (Piatkus).

'There's more temptation to think - what the hell, and really go for it if you're usually pretty constrained at work.'

Find out what kind of party it will be. Some firms are saving money by merging their client party with the staff do, so getting plastered is an even worse idea.

If clients are coming, be prepared to play the host. 'You do need to learn some skills such as how to work the room without feeling a complete fool, ' says James.

'Also, make sure clients' glasses are full, help them with food from the buffet and so on.

There's more emphasis on social skills for engineers now - doing this could boost your career.'

Listen to people. Don't fall into the trap of being the party bore and drone on and on about your job. Even colleagues who are as fascinated by the details of your job as you are in the hours of daylight might want to talk about something else in their offduty moments.

Take your cue from the person you are talking to. If they have a passion for David Beckham or antique clocks, let them have a turn at talking. You can always come back to your obsession later.

Beware of boozer's gloom.

Drink lowers our inhibitions but it's also a depressant. Take a tip from party expert Carole Stone, author of Networking - the art of making friends (Vermilion), and don't make the mistake of treating a drinks do as an excuse to offload all your moans and groans about life, the universe and everything. 'Keep to yourself detailed accounts of your unpleasant rash, or other medical symptoms - or worst of all, your food allergies, ' she says.

Make plans to go on. Whether it's a knees-up for colleagues or a formal party for clients, knowing that you are going on to a club or bar where you can really get the beers in will mean you are less likely to go over the top now. But don't invite the boss to come along, even if you have just decided he or she is a truly wonderful person.

'Make sure you spend the end of evening with people on the same level as you, ' says James.

'Inviting the boss defeats the whole object. A few people, such as rock stars, are paid to behave badly in public. Sadly, most of us aren't. Ending up demanding a pay rise or saying you're working too many hours when you're bevvied isn't going to get you anywhere.'

Key points

Find out what sort of party it is going to be

Don't get completely plastered

Don't be a party bore

Beware of boozer's gloom

Don't behave badly in public

Don't demand a pay rise from the boss

Play the host to clients

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