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Your behavior at the office holiday party can cost you your job

Holiday parties -- particularly when they're held at offsite venues -- are a way for businesses to thank their employees for all of their hard work during the year. They also provide a chance for employees to socialize with their colleagues in a festive, relaxed atmosphere.

Unfortunately, especially when alcohol is available and free of charge, things can get a little too relaxed. It's essential to remember that even though you're "off the clock" and away from the office, you still need to behave professionally. People can get fired for things they do at the annual holiday party, the company picnic and other work-related social events.

Following are some things people too often do at office holiday parties that have them looking for another job in the new year.

Drinking too much: That opens the door to a whole range of regrettable behavior. Your best bet is not to drink any alcohol. If you do, pace yourself. Drink plenty of water in between your alcoholic beverages.

Getting too friendly: You may think that you and a co-worker have chemistry. They may see what you consider a little harmless party flirtation as sexual harassment. It's best not to say or do anything you wouldn't in your office.

Getting into a fight: Just as attractions to co-workers can come out at these parties after a drink or two, so can long-simmering frustrations. Don't tell a colleague -- or worse, your manager -- how you really feel about them at these events. Certainly, don't use any force. Even a gentle shove, if taken the wrong way, can lead to a full-blown fight.

Being too honest: If there's an aspect of your life best not discussed at work, don't talk about it here. Even if it's not something that can get you fired, it can change the way people perceive you and hurt your chances for a promotion. Sharing too much may also leave you open to harassment and discrimination.

Not all unwise behavior at office social events is grounds for termination. As noted above, however, it can still adversely affect your career. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated or are being discriminated against or harassed, it's wise to seek experienced legal guidance.

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