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Column How to stop the work Christmas party ending in disaster

Ill-advised smooch with a colleague? Candid chat with the boss? They’re all too common – but both can be avoided, writes Lisa O’Hara.

IT’S HARD TO believe that Christmas is nearly upon us once again. If you’re still having an office party, you may be fortunate enough still to have your boss footing the bill, or you may now be paying for it yourself. The office party is still seen as the one occasion where people can let their hair down and where rules that govern us at work are put to one side.

Usually accompanied by vast quantities of alcohol to help get us into the spirit, you hear of stories of people telling the boss what they really think of them or find themselves getting closer to one of their colleagues than they had intended (the dangling of the mistletoe overhead can be very seductive). For some though, it might be the perfect opportunity to get together with someone to whom they’re attracted if neither are in relationships.

There’s no doubt that people do mad things at Christmas parties that seem like a great idea at the time, only to find paranoia setting in at dawn and the dread of facing the inevitable slagging and whispers when they get into work. It’s futile to believe that what you did or said will go unnoticed or will be forgotten. There are no secrets at the Christmas party … someone will always see something. And people have long memories!

Over the years in my role with Relationships Ireland, I’ve noticed in January and February that there is an increase in couples who come into counselling following an office affair that may have been going on for some time, but only comes to light after the Christmas party.


Parties tend to be without the partner for the most part, but the affair will have been found out because they didn’t come home, or the phone was left on, or the betrayed partner may have noticed they are getting more/less attention after the night out and became suspicious that something has happened. It rarely happens because someone owns up. It is a tough enough time of the year for families but this is like putting a bomb under their lives.

Inevitably we will meet people at work with whom we become close. It’s a place where we spend much of our day and our colleagues will often see more of us than our families. On the flip side, we will also meet people who irritate us and whom we find it hard to like and respect. The Christmas party does unfortunately have a tendency to do away with inhibitions and although we might feel drawn to having the ‘in vino veritas’ chat, common sense would tell us that it is rarely a good idea (long term anyway) to address issues with someone when one or both have been drinking.

So, if we are going to the office Christmas party this year is it possible to head off to it and have a great night out, landing home in one piece with dignity intact? To be fair, some people don’t like these kind of parties and they head home early if they go at all. The rest will make an effort by dressing up and determined to have fun.

1. Drink plenty of water

It’s always good to have a friend to keep an eye on you, someone whom you can trust. If they say they think you’ve had enough to drink, humour them and have a glass (or more) of water and see how you feel then. You won’t miss out on anything by not having that extra drink. If you find you drink quite a lot when you’re out, set your phone to go off on the hour and have a glass of water then.

2. Remember to eat

It’s easy to get carried away with the chat and drinking alcohol can curb your appetite but food will slow down the absorption of alcohol.

3. Watch what you say

This may be hard to do especially if you have been drinking. But if you have been taking water breaks and eating, you are more likely have more control over what you say. If you fancy someone who is married or in a relationship and you know the attraction is mutual, ask yourself; “who’s going to win here? “ Affair partners rarely do well out of it – they are left with loss and yearning that eats away at self-esteem. You do have a choice.

If you are in a relationship and yet you feel drawn to one of your colleagues, it may seem like it’s exciting and you can’t help it, but anyone who has ever been caught will tell you the guilt they feel at the hurt they’ve caused is just not worth it.

4. Prepare yourself

Make sure you know where your keys are, that your phone is with you (safety) and that you have a lift home. Try to make sure you have a friend with you if possible. We hear every day of people going missing. You are responsible for your safety, so be sensible.

If you are lucky enough to be going to a Christmas party, I hope you enjoy it. It’s been a tough year for this country and you deserve it.

Lisa O’Hara is the author of When a Relationship Ends: Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster of Separation and a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland offers confidential counselling and support services – for more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380 or email

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