Yeah! Free food and alcohol! Prepare to gorge yourself and get plastered!
I have my cardinal rule of work: When you are with people you work with you are at work. Got that? It doesn't matter if the party is being held in the company cafeteria or the local Holiday Inn. If there are people from work there, it is a work event, and you should behave accordingly.
I'm sure you've heard stories about people who make fools of themselves at the company Christmas party. The stories are funny ONLY if you are not the fool in the story. You may think it is a time to let your hair down and relax, but it is really time to make a good impression on the powers that be.
You may make contact with people you don't normally run into in the office. Your boss may do all the presenting to the senior level people, but at the party, you'll be there with them. Now is not the time to suck up; rather, it is the time to make a good impression.
Your spouse/significant other/blind date will be there. I hate to say it, but this person is a reflection on you. If your spouse gets drunk and starts arguing politics loudly with the VP's spouse, it will reflect poorly on you. Yes, everyone will tell you that it doesn't, but it does.
So, prep your spouse on company culture. And if you're single, go by yourself rather than with someone you don't know well. Limit your alcohol consumption to very little. Don't pile your plate to overflowing. Remind yourself that you are at work. It may look like a party and feel like a party, but it is work.
Suzanne Lucas has nine years of h uman r esources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a p rofessional in h uman r esources c ertificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.