Dis­graced your­self at the of­fice Christ­mas party? Rhymer Rigby of­fers some advice on how to keep your dig­nity — and even your job.

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Dis­graced your­self at the of­fice Christ­mas party? Rhymer Rigby of­fers some advice on how to keep your dig­nity — and even your job.

At this time of year there’s plenty of advice out there telling you not to get ab­so­lutely slaugh­tered at the com­pany Christ­mas party. But what hap­pens if you don’t heed it? What hap­pens if you’re the guy or girl who is two drinks ahead of every­one else, not two be­hind? How do you ex­plain your be­hav­iour the next day if you were the one who called your boss an arse or tried to kiss Robert in sales?

Bad be­hav­iour is sur­pris­ingly preva­lent at com­pany do’s. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey, one in 10 work­ers knows some­one who has been dis­ci­plined or sacked for in­ap­pro­pri­ate Christ­mas party be­hav­iour. The top three trans­gres­sions are fight­ing, threat­en­ing be­hav­iour and sex­ual ha­rass­ment (and we all know about the last one now, don’t we?)

So, you wake up with a pound­ing head and a gummy mouth, to which your shriv­elled brain quickly adds the mem­ory of some­thing aw­ful. You want to crawl back un­der your du­vet and hide un­til Jan­uary, but un­for­tu­nately this is not an op­tion. There’s the rest of De­cem­ber to get through and you need to face the mu­sic, even if the mu­sic will be col­leagues’ laugh­ter or, worse, their anger.

“If you be­haved very badly, you have to hold your hands up and ad­mit you were in the wrong,” says Jen­nifer Hol­loway, a per­sonal brand­ing ex­pert. “Putting your head in the sand and pre­tend­ing it didn’t hap­pen is not an op­tion.”

Start by ask­ing your­self how bad your be­hav­iour re­ally was. Be re­al­is­tic and try to have a bit of per­spec­tive. If you’ve just been a bit stupid or an­noy­ing, you’re prob­a­bly okay. Also, how drunk was every­one else and what is your com­pany cul­ture like? These are im­por­tant as they sup­ply the con­text: if every­one else was al­most as drunk as you and your com­pany has a work-hard-play-hard cul­ture, you might still get away with it. Your ta­ble dance that ended with 30 bro­ken glasses might be for­got­ten by the New Year.

If in doubt, sound out a trusted col­league. They will also be a good port of call if you can’t re­mem­ber what it is you did and just have a black space and a nag­ging sense of dread where the end of the evening should be. Next up, the apol­ogy. Richard Maun, au­thor

of Bounc­ing Back and How To Keep Your

Job, sug­gests there are two ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els of apol­ogy, depend­ing on the sever­ity of the of­fence. The first, for se­ri­ous but not mon­u­men­tal mis-steps, might be a bot­tle of wine (or other gift) and a sin­cere face-to-face ac­knowl­edge­ment of your poor con­duct: “Say some­thing like, ‘I’m sorry, I was an id­iot to say that and I’d like to apol­o­gise.’”

The sec­ond level, he adds, in­volves writ­ing a let­ter. “This lets you get your thoughts down on pa­per, for­mu­late what you want to say and al­lows you to man­age the con­ver­sa­tion.” You then hand it to the boss or col­league you of­fended the minute you see them. “Apolo­gies are very hard to do and this looks like a proper ges­ture, pro­vides you with a bit of the­atre and makes an im­pact.”

In terms of the con­tent of your let­ter, along with the ful­some mea culpa, Maun sug­gests you might ask the other per­son to nom­i­nate a char­ity to which you’ll do­nate a sum of money by way of apol­ogy. This shows sin­cere con­tri­tion (it’s cost­ing you some­thing) and it also sends out the right sort of mes­sage about the kind of per­son you re­ally are.

In both cases, the idea is that you draw a line un­der your mis­deed and this al­lows you to move on.

If, how­ever, they do not ac­cept your apol­ogy, the best tac­tic is to apol­o­gise again and say, “I un­der­stand I over­stepped the mark and you are an­gry — what can I do to make this right?” This, at least, puts the ball in their court — and means that they are the one who is pre­vent­ing rap­proche­ment.

In the medium term, Hol­loway says you should view re­pair­ing a dam­aged rep­u­ta­tion rather like im­prov­ing your Google search re­sults. If there’s a load of neg­a­tive stuff on the first page, you want to push all that down on to page two or three. The best way to do this is to be­come bet­ter known for your pos­i­tive achieve­ments. If you give enough bril­liant pre­sen­ta­tions, peo­ple will quickly start to for­get that you were sick all over the ta­ble at the party.

In the longer term, she adds, you should ab­so­lutely not re­peat the per­for­mance the fol­low­ing year. “As soon as the Christ­mas sea­son comes round again, mem­o­ries will start to flood back and peo­ple rem­i­nisce. Sto­ries will get re­told.” Here, the last thing you want to do is re­in­force this mem­ory.

Of course, some in­ci­dents are never for­got­ten. Even this is not nec­es­sar­ily a dis­as­ter. A bit of no­to­ri­ety can make you stand out as a char­ac­ter and, if you have the right kind of per­son­al­ity (and work in the right kind of com­pany) you could con­ceiv­ably turn this to your ad­van­tage.

How­ever, if what­ever it is you did is just cringe-in­duc­ing and em­bar­rass­ing and aw­ful — the so-called “ca­reer lim­it­ing move” — you may be bet­ter off look­ing for an­other job where you can start with a clean slate.

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