Bringing a Date to the Company Holiday Party

By Paula Santonocito

Q. Should I invite my new boyfriend to the holiday party at my new job? The invitation reads “and guest.”

A. You use the word “new” twice when asking your question, which suggests both your boyfriend and your job are very new.

So much depends on your comfort level, with your coworkers and the guy you’re seeing. It may also depend on the setting of the holiday party.

First, let’s address the coworker situation. What happens if you bring Joe to the holiday party and the two of you break up in a few months? Will you be comfortable if people at work ask you about Joe when he is no longer in your life?

Now, consider how Joe will fit in with your coworkers. This includes giving thought to Joe’s social skills. Sure, he may be the life of the party when you’re hanging with your friends, but do his antics have the potential to embarrass you in front of your new boss?

Finally, there’s the event itself. Where will it take place? Is it a casual get-together or a more formal affair? Will Joe be comfortable attending the party? Does he have clothes to wear? You may recall the “Sex and the City” episode where Miranda invites Steve to her office party but Steve doesn’t own a suitable suit. In case you’ve forgotten, the party and suit highlight lifestyle differences and they break up.

Uh oh. But of course this would never happen to you and Joe.

Romance aside, it sounds like you’re confused. And of course the catalyst for all this confusion is the invitation itself. If only it didn’t read, “and guest.”

For what it’s worth, this isn’t only a problem for single women. Many a woman in a committed relationship has lamented over having to bring her significant other to a work-related event.

Then why do employers open the door, literally, to this kind of situation? It’s a good question, and the only explanation is that companies have the best intentions. It’s about the holiday spirit and spreading the joy.

For holiday season 2011, a majority of employers have decided the parties they hold will include employees only, according to a survey conducted by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. However, a full 35 percent of companies are doing what your new employer has done: expanding the guest list to include employees’ partners, significant others, and/or other family members.

In sharing survey results, Challenger, Gray & Christmas raises an interesting point about the holiday party: It’s a great opportunity to connect with your boss on a personal level.

Because you have a new boss, the opportunity is arguably greater. With this in mind, how does Joe fit in?

Finally, the ultimate test is to measure your stress level. Will having Joe in tow make you more or less comfortable at the party? If the answer is less comfortable, just say no to inviting to Joe.

© 2011 All rights reserved. Permission to reprint this article must be obtained from

Paula Santonocito, a business journalist specializing in employment issues and author of more than 1,000 articles, has been awarded the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) designation. She is career editor of

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