Navigating the coworkers at your end-of-year party


Words: Nhlanhla Masemola | Illustration: Keshia Chapman

This coming December, in a much-loved tradition that stretches back through time, people from all over the world will wear colourful hats and fancy party clothes and gather with colleagues. That’s right, it’s Christmas party season. It’s that celebratory time of year when normal rules of business are temporarily shelved and you’re free to party the night away together without anyone batting an eyelid. Although there’s much to love about this time of the year, end-of-year parties can be filled with awkwardness – open bar or otherwise – and that strange feeling that comes with socialising with coworkers you usually only talk shop with. To help you breathe a little easier, we've compiled a list of characters you're bound to bump into and how to make the best of those moments.


Who: This is the coworker with a million “fun” stories about their favourite sports matches, new pet, self-help books or weekends away. They treat these conversations with heightened enthusiasm resulting from unsatisfactory water-cooler engagement over the course of a year.

How to proceed: You can’t really dodge or cut them short forever. It would be wise not to offend and you might hear something juicy. After a polite length of listening and potentially learning something new, your best bet is to then excuse yourself via a bathroom break, drink top-up or phantom phone call.


Who: They came for a party and are determined to leave with awesome memories. “How fun it is to hang outside of work with our coworkers,” they’ll say. Work holiday parties can be serious business and if you aren’t feeling ecstatic, they’ll likely share their festive joy with you quite generously. If there’s drinking to be had, they’re on it. If snacks need to be brought, they’ve supplied them in abundance. Music? They’re already dancing.

How to play nice: Show up. They likely won’t let you get away with not attending, anyway. Be adequately festive. Dance when or if the mood strikes. You’ll carry less of the social labour if you stay close to this one – just keep an eye on the time if you don’t want a late night.


Who: This your super-senior boss, but in Fun Mode. Here, they prove that they have a whole other personality that you’ve yet to meet in the workplace. Thanks to the general festive mood (and a drink or two), the alter ego has come out to play.

How not to get fired: Though there may be champagne in hand and not quite remembering your name fast enough, this is still your boss. Proceed with caution, brush the canape crumbs off your face, keep banter light – even if the road leads back to work topics, and stay on your best behaviour.


Who: One minute they’re there and then the next, they’re not. They check their phones frequently and excuse their behaviour, it’s just that they have “...other very important engagements to get to that evening.'' They’ll take one circle around the room and dash out with hasty goodbyes.

How to catch ‘em: If you’ve spoken to them before the party, you’ll likely be aware that this is their go-to party etiquette. Also keen to keep the night short without offending? Sample the food, try at least one party game, have a few quick key conversations, then make a swift exit together. The Chatterbox is sure to let everyone know you made an appearance.


Who: They’ve been dying for the opportunity to showcase their skills at events like these. They’re either actually really good at mixing music and you haven’t heard them play yet or they’re embarrassingly bad and you haven’t had the heart to break it to them.

How to handle: Keep them away from the DJ area, whether it’s a stand, booth or the turntables. Alternatively, if the music isn’t to your liking, drop their name to the right people and help them get the party started – if their taste in music is to be trusted.