Holiday party with potentially new rules

Q: Our holiday party is soon approaching. We have just been
acquired by a larger company. Our past holiday parties have been pretty
subdued with each employee bringing in their special favorite dish and
then the company picking up the tab for some wine and beer. Everyone
leaves around 6pm or 7pm and we have the gathering in one of our
conference rooms. We also have had a $10 gift grab which is fun. Our
new parent company seems to have shared a different history including
rather formal parties with a full dinner at a hotel in Boston. It seems
like a lot of drinking. I am really not into this scene. What do I

A: Every company has different norms, rituals and traditions. Some
companies throw lavish parties at elegant hotels, while others hold more
modest functions within the office. Either way your employer (or new
employer) is trying their best to appreciate and recognize employees and
their contributions.

Holiday parties can be tough to navigate though. The tone is often
set by the senior team members. Is there a lot of drinking and partying
at that level? Or is it more subdued?

It is best to take a conservative approach when attending a holiday
party. Be careful of your alcohol intake. Be gracious and appreciative
of the effort and thank those who organized the event. Dress
appropriately since it is still a work-related event. Avoid
controversial topics like sex, religion or politics. It is acceptable
to exit the event after the formal dinner, especially if the boisterous
behavior begins at that time. However, if you are a member of
management, you may be expected to stay later but I would ask around.

Drinking excessively and driving after a holiday party is serious. Not
only do you jeopardize yourself and everyone else on the road, but you
may damage your company’s reputation. If you see others in that
position, offer to give them a ride or hail them a cab. It is not worth
the potentially disastrous consequences.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.