You may see all the signs of a Christmas party — food, music, even dancing — but any gathering where work colleagues are present is business as usual and you should avoid alcohol to stay sharp. You may not be aware of it, but you will be being scrutinized by your colleagues, so professionalism is an absolute must. When it comes to drinking with colleagues, the risk is very high that something negative will come out of it. It’s generally seen as acceptable to have one or two drinks but it’s best to stop there. I even advise staying out of photos and selfies with people who are drinking, because it will undoubtedly end up online somewhere, like Facebook, where your Grandma will see it.
Everyone you interact with while drinking at the office Christmas party has the potential to impact your career, in a positive or negative way. A colleague today may be your manager six months from now and will likely be able to recall your behavior and could even use it against you at a later date. If your work is the sort where your colleagues regularly have drinks afterwards, order what everyone else is having but sip it really slowly and make it last all night. Holding a drink without drinking it, is a way to feel like part of the crowd without compromising your judgment.
If you are at a dinner where bottles of wine are ordered, you don’t want to protest because it will bring unwanted attention to your table. You want to fit in, and that might mean getting a glass of wine and having a few sips or just letting it sit there. In some corporate cultures, having a scotch is a way to build relationships, or a way to take part. If you are at a high-profile event and all the executives are having a drink, you may feel you need one to be part of the club. That being said, you can still drink very little of it and then switch to water. It’s essential, however, to know your limits. If you’re inexperienced in such situations and your bosses are throwing back Johnnie Walkers, you can’t follow their lead. If you try to keep up, you will likely drink too much and act unprofessionally, most definitely drawing attention to your youth and inexperience.