Holiday Party Damage Control

Apologize but Make It Count

If, like Probst's boss, you make a spectacle of yourself at a work-related party, don't fall all over yourself Monday morning groveling and apologizing for the day you were born. Say you're sorry quickly, definitively, as though ripping off a band aid.

Mary Mitchell, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette," suggests saying something like this:

"I really apologize that at our office party I forgot that the operative word really is 'office.' I'm embarrassed. And I'm sorry that I embarrassed you. I hope we can put this behind us and move on."

You'll, of course, have to stave off any repeat performances, Mitchell advised. A company might be willing to forgive and forget that you berated the party's wait-staff once but don't expect a second reprieve. Repeat offenders are often the first to go if the company downsizes.

At the very least, you could be branded the office lush, like the former co-worker of a New Jersey sales professional I'll call "Gina."

At the end of a recent holiday party, Gina's "obviously drunk" co-worker (a.k.a., Office Lush) hitched a ride home with three other colleagues during a snowstorm and proceeded to lose her cookies all over the car (a company car, by the way) and its other three occupants.

"Eventually, they dumped sales materials out of a large cardboard box and gave it to her to keep throwing up in," Gina told me via e-mail. "When they got to her town, she was so drunk she couldn't remember where she lived."

Though Gina's co-worker "apologized profusely" the next business day, she soon became involved in another "embarrassing moment," nearly getting arrested for punching a stranger at a St. Patrick's Day parade that her team attended, firmly solidifying her reputation as Office Lush.

Update Your Resume

For the most egregious transgressions -- wardrobe malfunctions, naked photos and blatant plays for the boss' sweetie -- you'd be wise to dust off your resume and prepare for the worst.

Once you've tarnished your reputation this badly, "You can't go back," said attorney Jonathan Segal, co-chairman of the employment group at law firm WolfBlock in Philadelphia. "The statement, 'It was not me; it was Jack Daniels or Jim Beam,' does not work."

Maybe you'll get lucky and your job won't be in jeopardy today. But, make no mistake, your employer has taken note -- even if you weren't the only employee out of line, even if the higher-ups were falling-down drunk and showing off their birthday suits, too. Definitely not something you want in your HR file should your employer start handing out pink slips.

As Mitchell, the etiquette expert, notes, holiday parties offer an excellent opportunity to play fly on the wall and see what really makes your colleagues tick.

"And," she said, "wouldn't you prefer to take all that in as data than contribute to someone else's data bank?"

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" and "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" (October 2008) — offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com.

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