Holiday Party Regrets

‘Tis the season to be busy with holiday plans. It’s finally that time of year: When you’re headed to one holiday celebration after another. One of the most common get togethers during this season of parties is the annual office holiday party. Love it or hate it, the whole office is abuzz with excitement (or dread) over the upcoming holiday party.

As the holiday party season approaches, we couldn’t help but wonder how employees feel about their upcoming gatherings. To understand all of the emotions surrounding company holiday parties, we surveyed 2,000 working Americans. Here’s what they had to say about their office holiday parties—and some regrets they may have had about holiday parties in the past.

Typical Holiday Parties

Before we got into the emotional takes on office holiday parties, we wanted to know some stats on how many companies host parties, where they’re held and some other key details.

From our survey we learned that 83 percent of companies host annual holiday parties, and 45 percent of these are referred to as “Christmas” parties. As far as locations go, the top spots for work holiday parties are at the office, at a restaurant, or at an event space. And to give employees incentives to attend the holiday party, 96 percent of companies provide free food, 74 percent allow employees to bring a plus-one, and 60 percent provide free drinks.

At many company holiday parties, you’ll often have to participate in office gifting games such as white elephant, secret Santa or dirty Santa—but only 29 percent have been required to partake in these activities. Overall, 48 percent of employees receive gifts at their office holiday parties, with marketers and advertisers most likely to get them and HR professionals least likely to be opening up a present.

But even after all of the free booze and the co-worker gifting, is everyone actually excited to go to the office holiday party? According to our survey, 47 percent of Americans are excited to attend their company holiday party, and women are 54 percent more likely to dread them. So, who is most looking forward to attending their company holiday parties? From our survey, we found that engineers are most likely to feel excited about their upcoming holiday parties.

In general, the most enjoyable part of company holiday parties are the free food and drinks, spending time with coworkers, and getting into the holiday spirit. The least enjoyable part of company holiday parties, however, are feeling obligated to attend and small talk in a social setting with superiors.


At office holiday parties, the holiday cheer is at an all-time high, the camaraderie between co-workers is evident, and the free liquor is flowing. This can, of course, add up to some heavy regrets from the holiday party.

According to our survey, 26 percent of people have done something they regret at a company party. The top regrets were hooking up with a co-worker, saying something rude, and participating in office gossip. It also looks like the top regret is more common than what we may have thought: an astounding 41 percent of Americans have a co-worker who has hooked up at a company party.

Industry Most Likely To…
So, which industries are most likely to engage in naughty behavior at the company Christmas party? From our survey responses we were able to identify which industries were most likely to behave badly at the holiday party—doing everything from being loud to hooking up with a stranger in front of coworkers.

We found that those in the HR industry were most likely to hook up with a coworker at the holiday party (giving new meaning to the term human relations). Insurance folks, however, were most likely to say something rude at the office party, which might make them good company for those who work in science—who are most likely to gossip. Those who work in the legal industry are the most likely to get loud at a holiday party, and realtors are most likely to bring a bad plus-one to the end-of-the-year office bash.

You should clear the floor for the IT reps in your department—as they are the most likely to have embarrassing dance moves—and maybe steer clear of anyone at a construction holiday party because they’re the most likely to flirt. As for the number 1 most shocking behavior at a holiday party—hooking up with a stranger in front of co-workers—that most likely title belongs to those who work in government.

Although you may hear a lot of stories about what happened at the office holiday party, only 9 percent have actually been reprimanded for their behavior with the number 1 reason being a co-worker hookup (an obvious no-no to everyone in the working world). We also found that some holiday parties get so out of hand that there are legal ramifications—with 7 percent of Americans admitting to getting in trouble with the law during or after a company party.

According to our survey, 18 percent of Americans have been embarrassed to go to work the day after a company party, which might have something to do with the fact that 36 percent of us have seen our boss do something embarrassing during the office get together.

To avoid this morning after shame, 80 percent of Americans try to limit how much they drink at work parties, with HR professionals most likely to curb their cocktail amount. To completely remove themselves from any embarrassing situation, 62 percent of Americans try to avoid certain people altogether at their company holiday party.

Despite the fact that most Americans try to limit the amount they drink at holiday parties, there are still many industries that drink heavily at these gatherings, including hospitality and food, accounting and construction. In fact, the construction industry has the most notorious holiday party stories.

Even if everyone at your holiday gathering doesn’t try to get out of control, there are still groups in every office that will definitely take advantage of the open bar. The groups most likely to get rowdy at holiday parties are 20-somethings, the sales team and leadership teams in the office.

In addition to figuring out which groups were most likely to get rowdy in the office, we wanted to drill down further and get specific names of those who were most likely to cause trouble at a company party. For men, we found that these troublemaker office mates were named John, Mike, Jim, Tom, and Matt. For women, it was Sarah, Jessica, Lisa, Ashley, and Susan.

The Day After
The decorations have been taken down, so, is everyone just expected to go back to work the next day as usual?

Apparently, that answer is yes. From our survey we found that 66 percent of employees are expected to go to work the day after their holiday party, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. In fact, we found that 16 percent of workers have called out the day following a party (with men 47 percent more likely to take the day off).

Some employees, however, don’t need to call in—10 percent of people have admitted to sleeping at their office after a company party.