Illustration by Dave van Patten

I’m Single. Who Should I Bring to the Company Holiday Party?

The third in our weeklong series on how to survive the office holiday party with your reputation intact

So it begins — office holiday party season. (Even the movies say so.) To help you navigate yours, we’ve enlisted Terry Petracca, the hippest HR expert we know and the woman behind our biweekly ‘Go See HR’ column. Every day this week she’ll be answering one holiday party-specific question to ensure that your festive office gathering results in harmless fun instead of a never-ending nightmare your co-workers won’t let you live down.

My company always hosts a swanky holiday party, and they give us all a plus-one. I don’t have a significant other right now, though. Whom do you suggest I bring — and what should I tell them about the party and my co-workers about them? — Karl F., Los Angeles
I have a general philosophy about plus-one invitations — whether it’s the office holiday party or a wedding: Unless you’ve got a significant other, consider either bringing your BFF or going alone. Someone with whom you’ve got a tentative relationship will always find these events awkward. Invariably, people will drill them on the state of your relationship, any “meet cute” story, future prospects and things about your past you might not want others to know (especially your coworkers).

But if you don’t want to listen to me and still choose to bring a casual date, here are the rules:

  • Share the dress code in advance. There’s nothing more uncomfortable for a plus-one than showing up in cocktail attire when it’s a casual jeans affair (or vice versa).
  • Let your co-workers know this is someone you’ve just started seeing, so please be careful about what you tell them about you.
  • Introduce your plus-one to everyone you talk to at the party; otherwise, someone will take offense, and you’ll hear about it when you’re back at work.
  • Tell your plus-one about your close friends and colleagues. Anyone else, you can add a one-line introduction when you spend time with them at the party — e.g., “This is Holly. She and I share parking spaces next to each other.”
  • Try not to leave your plus-one alone. If you need to, find someone they can hang with so they don’t feel stranded.
  • Don’t make a scene with your plus-one at the event. Period.
  • Make sure neither of you gets drunk. Period.
  • Leave with your plus-one. Period.

That last rule, however, doesn’t necessarily apply to BFFs. In their case, you should let your co-workers know that they’re unattached (provided, of course, that that’s the case), and not be jealous if someone else starts making moves.

Don’t just complain to your coworkers about everyone else you work with — let Terry help. Email her all your office-related anxieties at terry@melindustries.com. Or, if total anonymity isn’t required, leave a question in the comments below.