If you work for a company, this is the final week to prepare for the holiday office party. Beginning in December, employees and management start bracing themselves for this annual seasonal event. While the minority looks forward with anticipation to the occasion, most drag their feet deliberating over whether they have to attend, how long they need to show face, and what genius excuse they can use to slip out quickly if necessary.  We spend most of our waking hours with our work mates, is it really necessary to celebrate the holidays as well, especially when we’ve seen how fast they can go awry?  Do we really need to watch Angus from Accounting guzzle his fourth bottle of beer atop the bar counter or catch a glimpse of Marsha from Marketing getting too chummy with her coworker in the corner booth?  The answer is YES.  

The holiday office party exists for two simple reasons. First and foremost, to show upper management you are jazzed about your job, and secondly, to mix and mingle with colleagues and prove you are a team player. This is not the time to let off steam from a hard year of slogging in the trenches and no matter how strong the holiday punch, you may never badmouth the boss. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to network, advance, and shine. Here are seven tips to surviving the holiday office party and keeping your career.

1. Dress Up!  Style experts say to dress for the career you aspire to and the holiday office party is the perfect time to debut your new look. Dress festive, but professional. Refrain from wearing anything revealing and this goes for women, as well as men!  No low declotage or plummer’s cracks please.  Leave the questionable Christmas sweater and Santa hat for the family party. This is not the time to let your freak flag fly as they used to say, especially if it will give your officemates the impression that you have an alternate career in the circus. 

2. Ration the Booze.  I generally advise partygoers to down a few espressos and some protein bars before arriving to any work gathering (followed by copious breath mintage). Even if there’s an open bar stocked with top shelf bottles, and you can only afford bottom shelf, make that highball last all night. Keep filling it with ice and water. A series of alcoholic beverages will leave you slow-witted, tongue-tied and a little over-affectionate. You won’t be sorry the next day when you hear the story about Dan from Distribution who was dancing on the conference table and drunkenly mimicking the CEO.  

3. Beware of Overstuffing. Eat a little something beforehand to layer your stomach so you are not famished and overstuffing yourself at the buffet table. You are not stocking up for a hurricane. It can get weird watching officemates gorge themselves like it’s their last meal, especially when they try to talk at the same time.  No cutting in line and please refrain from eating until you arrived at your table.  Remember, the focus should be on socializing, not filling your belly with food. 

4. Have Fun Without Being Too Friendly. The holiday office party is your in to freely socialize with higher-ups. Don’t ruin it by hitting on your office crush with everyone watching because you’ve downed a bucket of liquid courage (liquid insanity!). Have fun, but avoid getting too friendly. Experiencing a particularly rough holiday season? Keep it on the QT. There is no place for personal business at work.  Save your sorrow-drowning for the privacy of your own home. This is your career on the line. 

5. Keep Your Lips Zipped. This is one time of the year where upper management and employees mix and mingle. Don’t let loose with your opinions, the ones you’ve kept bottled up, all year, under lock and key. And never utter an ill word about the company or co-workers. Avoid talking about politics, religion, money matters, health issues, relationship problems and gossip of any kind. Good topics to get the convo going?  Ask a question or offer a compliment.  Talk about the weather, upcoming plans for the holidays or travel to visit family or friends, timely cultural events and exhibits, holiday movies, music and books.  

6. Sane Gift Exchange. When it comes to gifting policies, it never hurts to consult the HR department or somone who oversees office protocols to make sure it’s acceptable. For the boss, nothing too personal or pricey, and nothing that touches the skin (no jewelry, perfume, clothing, intimates). Steer clear of personal gifts unless you know the person very well. Food items such as a fruit basket, bread delivery or coffee/tea gift card are practical and thoughtful. Books or magazine subscriptions make the perfect gift as long as the content is appropriate. Stay away from alcohol gifts, they may be frowned upon. Hand your boss a gift at the office or during the holiday party. Never send a gift to the home. 

7. Send Old School Thank You’s. Being charming, thoughtful and kind is always be welcome at holiday time. A handwritten holiday card to accompany a gift or a heartfelt thank you note to a colleague takes precedence over a quick text or post on social media. Don’t forget to send a special thanks to the person responsible for organizing that lavish, splendiferous, superfun office holiday party. There is no better way to make a lasting impression and ensure your job security in the new year.