Any time you gather with fellow employees in a large setting, you put yourself on display for others to review and pass around opinions. It doesn’t have to be a company party, it can be a leadership retreat, a training event, a celebration for someone else retiring. What they all have in common is a lot of fellow employees thinking it is okay to let their hair down.
Not only do these events stir up the gossip hounds within your work environment, it actually provides for new fuel for their conversations. We have all seen the person who drank too much at a party and let loose with a few comments they regretted later. Then there are the stories being shared in light-hearted conversations that reveal more about you then may be good to share.
I have always avoided events like these when possible, and when I am forced to attend I keep very quite. Of course that too can get people talking, but at least they are short conversations. I learned to keep quite because I heard too many people the day after the event talking about what someone said or did. And, we all know that stories grow with each telling.
I’ve also witnessed people being passed over for promotions and special projects because of something they said 6 months prior at the holiday party. People hold on to these transgressions forever, and insults never seem to get minimized over time.
My advise if you want to attend is to avoid drinking, avoid being the story-teller, and do a lot of listening instead. Get involved, smile, and be on your best behavior. Don’t let one event override a talented career that can advance you.