All year you pass your co-workers in the hall, catch up for a few minutes in the break room, and try to put your best foot forward when collaborating on projects or interacting in meetings. Nothing can threaten all the good karma you’ve built over the past 12 months quite like the office holiday party.

These gatherings can get so rowdy that some companies have banned them all together. Months of suppressed resentments and competitiveness, mixed with forced cheer and too much alcohol, can be an explosive combination. Too often the result is an embarrassing incident (or several) that become the stuff of office lore. Office party mishaps are so commonplace that Hollywood recently turned the concept into a movie!

You may be tempted to skip the festivities altogether, but if you do, you’ll have to invent a good cover story; besides, it could actually be fun to spend some relaxed, non-work time with your colleagues. Don’t ditch; instead, follow these tips for attending your office holiday party and living to tell the tale.

Set a Drink Limit

Let’s roll out the most important suggestion first: don’t get drunk. It may be tempting to enjoy some drinks on your company’s dollar but you don’t want to get so inebriated that your behavior costs you your job—or your dignity. You know your own limit. Indulge a little but try to keep your drink consumption to one or two for the night. Drink plenty of water and be sure to enjoy the buffet table, too, so you’re less likely to feel the effects of the alcohol. 

Bring a Date

If guests are permitted, bring your spouse, significant other, or a good friend to the party. Agree ahead of time on what time you’ll leave. Be sure the person you bring is a good influence—and won’t get too crazy herself. 

Take on Duties

The idea of a company party is to bond with your co-workers, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit and make small talk all night. Instead, volunteer to cover some part of the event. Take charge of checking coats, setting up the table, or replenishing the hors d’oeuvres trays. This will give you a great way to escape if you get involved in a conversation or situation that makes you uncomfortable. Plus, you could score points with your employer!

See No Evil, Speak no Evil

You may see or hear something at the holiday party that shocks, surprises, and/or disappoints you, but unless someone is in danger or gets hurt, keep what you learn to yourself. Do not tell other people unless you absolutely have to, and avoid the temptation to join in if others gossip. Passing on ugly information could damage others, and is likely to come back and hurt you, too. 

Have an Exit Strategy

Attend the party, enjoy yourself responsibly, and then leave.  You don’t have to wait until the party is officially over to go home. The longer you stay, the greater the chance that you’ll say something you regret, or something unsavory will happen. Have a departure time in mind and try to stick to it, then head home to where your favorite comfortable pajamas are waiting. You won’t regret it.

Of course, there are many workplaces that have wonderful holiday celebration without incident. If you are in that lucky demographic, please enjoy your annual festivities. For everyone else, do what you can to avoid participating in any situation that will make it difficult to go to work the next day. Follow these simple tips and you should be just fine!