Ahh the office party. Perhaps the most elusive and baffling component of the workplace. If you are like me, it can be nice to keep your work life and social life separate (sorry you had to find out like this, guys). It can be an awkward situation. You have to see these people in a professional capacity, which makes it hard to let your hair down and have a good time.

At the same time, the company is picking up the tab, so there is this unspoken agreement that everyone is going to try to catch something of a buzz on the boss’ dime – a risky situation to say the least. Not to mention the fact that office parties are one of the few opportunities employees get to see how their bosses behave in an after-hours setting. It can be a great chance to make some powerful friends – provided you don’t make it weird.

So how do you keep all these balls in the air and make the most out of the next office party?

Don’t get drunk

This is, hands down, the most important rule to follow. I know that there are free drinks and other people are doing shots at the bar like the world is on fire, but don’t be one of them. Remember – you are going to have to see all of these people again on Monday. Don’t give them anything colorful to remember. The worst thing that can happen after an office party is coming in the next week to your boss going “rough night Friday, huh?” because now that is how he sees you – a drunk.

That said…

Have a few and cut loose

Don’t be some timid guy who nurses the same beer all night long. Have fun. That is what the office party is for – letting all the animals out of their cages and seeing which ones run wild. Order a fancy cocktail, do a shot with your boss, hit the dance floor and cut a rug with Ann from HR. As long as you are having a good time and not making an ass out of yourself, all is good.

office party

Schmooze with other departments

Sure, you could spend the whole party just hanging at the table with everyone else in sales, but that is pee wee league. You know those guys. Why not go get a drink with the dudes in IT? Or wait in the buffet line with some of the ladies in accounting? Talk with the people you don’t normally interact with – it shows that you are not only personable and willing to meet people outside your comfort zone, but it could also end up earning you some brownie points.

Now, next time your computer crashes, you won’t just be calling down to IT. You’ll be calling down to Greg who plays Battlefront, loves everything Deadpool, and is coming right up to see what the problem is. Or next time you have to put in a check request, it won’t just be some form going out to the accounting department, but a letter you are sending to Amy, who watches the Mindy Project, thinks Taylor Swift is overrated, and doesn’t give a shit that you took a client out to that expensive steakhouse – you’re approved.

And speaking of making friends all over the office, one thing you should absolutely try to do, if you see the opportunity present itself:

Chat with Your Boss (or Your Boss’s Boss)

The crown jewel of the office party – genuine human interaction with the people cutting your checks. That said, a lot of other people at the party probably have the same idea. The key to beating them, however, is simple – appear to not give a shit.

It’s not like your boss doesn’t know what the score is – employees want to get on his good side because it puts them in an advantageous position. So don’t just waltz up to your boss with some half baked conversation starter, because then your motives are all too clear.

One thing that usually works is to feign a disagreement with your friend in close proximity of your boss – something you know both you and your boss share an interest in (i.e., football). Ask your boss to settle the dispute by weighing in, and there you go. Conversation started. Now all you have to do is be the charming, engaging person we all know you are.

Offer to Help the Drunk People Get Home

office party

If you’ve done everything right, you should be in a position where you can assist those who overindulged. Let their folly be your fortune. Everyone loves the guy who helps out. It makes you look like a hero – especially to the people you are helping. In this one simple gesture, you have cemented your standing as “office fun guy who also has his shit together.”

And that is exactly where you want to be.

Also, if we ever work in the same office, thanks in advance for the ride home. I really needed it.