Attack Of The Mushroom People! Or, How To Survive Your Office Holiday Party

Yesterday we summarized “Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People” In 10 Screencaps Or Less™. Now, let’s extract a product management lesson from this bleak, “Gilligan’s Island” gone horribly, horribly wrong.

In Matango, disaster strikes when sound advice from the captain is dismissed by the nouveau riche. Soon the shipwrecked survivors are eating irradiated mushrooms and literally devolving back to the primordial ooze.

Many of us have been to office holiday parties that followed that same trajectory.

With an economic crisis churning all around us, corporate holiday parties are downsizing this year.

In an odd way, this may come as a relief to some people. But what if the party is morphing? Not being canceled outright, but changing to a new venue–such as someone’s house for a potluck? What do you do then?

  • Act Professional. The office party–no matter it’s held: at the office, at a restaurant, at someone’s house–is a company-sponsored event. This means, you act and dress like a professional no matter how others are behaving.
  • Exercise Good Manners. Be polite. Be friendly. Be sure to thank the people who approved and planned the party. Don’t monopolize conversations.
  • Eat & Drink Sensibly. All eyes are on you and what you do. So don’t drink heavily. Don’t pig out. Everything in moderation.
  • Shake Hands. But remember! Keep your drink in your left hand, so you are not offering a clammy handshake all night. Nothing says, “Yuck”, like a wet palm.
  • Keep Your Hands To Yourself. This is not a singles bar. No hooking up.
  • Have Something Interesting To Say. Don’t talk about work, or brag about your accomplishments. Network. Join conversations. Take an interest in others.
  • Bring A Guest, If Possible. A guest lets your colleagues see another side of you, and gives them a better idea of who you are outside the office. If guests aren’t specifically allowed, don’t bring one: It’s rude.
  • Be True To Your Word. Meet someone new? Make a promise about an action you’ll take up next week? Make sure you follow up.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Monopolize The Boss. While you might feel the office party is the perfect time to corner the boss and make a good impression–relax. Keep things light, polite, and concise. Remember: Small talk is smart talk.

And one final piece of contrarian advice:

Don’t want to go to the office holiday party? Don’t go.

Consultant Jeffrey J. Fox has argued that opting out of the party can actually benefit your career.

“By not going to the holiday party,” Fox maintains, “you are actually drawing favorable attention to yourself. […] Ironically, your position and work may well gain more recognition, because you have added a mystique to yourself that raises you above the fray of partygoers vying for the CEO’s attention.”

Whatever you decide–whether your decide to attend the party or not–just remember one thing: Avoid the mushrooms.

Additional Resources

How do you handle the office holiday party? Share your best experiences and advice–or your worst!


Christopher Cummings

Blogs about product management. Loves Jesus, his family, comic books, video games, and giant robots. Occasionally crawls through mud and leaps over fire.

4 thoughts on “Attack Of The Mushroom People! Or, How To Survive Your Office Holiday Party

  1. When it comes to unwelcome flirting… I would say, let the flirter know–politely, but in no uncertain terms–that you are not interested. If they persist, then the situation is heading into sexual harassment. Most employers have sexual harassment policies in place. Consult the policy and report the incident.

  2. Good article. Why do I feel like I’ve been to parties like the one you’re describing, Chris? I’ve added your site to my rss reader.

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