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What to do about the awkward feeling of attending work holiday parties solo

Tis the season for holiday parties and thus my usual fears are revisited. I've discussed this issue with friends (we're all mid 20s) and would like to hear your input. Often at work gatherings, the feeling of being the kid in the elementary school cafeteria and not having anyone to sit with, comes back. Being younger we often feel torn about attending work events, such as the holiday party. Sometimes we don't have many close work buddies and will show up to the event solo, here higher ups will be socializing together and we begin to feel very awkward as we realize we really don't know anyone. Do you grab a plate of food from the buffet and sit by yourself, do you join a table of randoms? Is it acceptable to just go sit with the higher ups? That's like approaching the "cool" table. Whats the best way to navigate the situation and handle it as an adult?

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  1. My suggestions: At work only party: If there is someone that you eat lunch with, eat at their table. If there is someone who you want to know better, eat at their table. Or be bold and eat with the higher ups. I would rather sit at a table with people that I don't know well, than sit by myself and hope that someone joins me.

    At a non work only party: Easy, bring a friend.

    1. This kind of depends on the size of the org, your position, the culture, the venue, etc. You should def. say hello to the people you know and try to meet some new people if you don't know everyone at work yet.

      The other thing you can do is find someone's spouse/SO and talk to them. The spouses often get left out and you can get extra points with the higher ups if their spouse talks about how lovely you are (and sometimes getting personally introduced to bigwigs by their spouses is a killer way to go).

      2 Replies
      1. re: akq

        We had our department party last Sunday - I overheard someone talking and realized she was the chair's wife. I walked over, introduced myself and made a new friend. In five years of working here, the chair never really knew who I was. He does now :)

      2. I don't necessarily think you need close friends that you work with, but is there nobody in your department/group to hang around with for the evening? I would suggest finding out beforehand who might be going and who might be acceptable company for the night (or at least for a few hours). Then when you get there, you can mingle with others, but at least you will know somebody.

        I would not suggest just going and sitting with the higher ups. I think it could just be awkward. Chatting at the bar or buffet line, yes, but just grabbing a seat at their table, I wouldn't. But then again, I guess it depends on your company and how many people will be at the party.

        I am a bit older and care much less about these things now, but I must say, I am glad that my company stopped having holiday parties a few years ago...they are the worst.

        1. Walk up to the higher ups and introduce yourself and thank them for having you there and throwing the party....later, get a plate a food and ask them, or whoever else, if you can join them.....if that doesn't work for you.....quietly leave early.

          btw....if you do go to the higher ups table.....don't consume too much alcohol in front of them....or even at the party. You may make a fool of yourself.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fourunder

            "btw....if you do go to the higher ups table.....don't consume too much alcohol in front of them....or even at the party. You may make a fool of yourself."

            This is important! It's a party but it's still work.

          2. Not much help, but either I just don't go or I load up a plate and stand outside chain smoking LOL

            3 Replies
            1. re: Novelli

              I'm with you novelli, you make a lot of new friends standing outside with the other smokers.

              1. re: smartie

                ...or you find out who the cheapskates are ....the ones who are always grubbing free cigarettes saying they don't buy them because they don't want to smoke anymore.

                1. re: fourunder

                  for sure! I always manage to say I don't have enough on me, in other words buy your own.

                  back to parties as a single. They are frequently awkward on your own whether work, friends, family or neighbors. Sometimes I just won't go at all, just newly single again and not really looking forward to the Christmas season.

            2. it;s the same as going to church solo, you're solo

              4 Replies
              1. re: iL Divo

                church? seriously? wow.

                i admit it's likely been over a decade since i set foot in a church, but there definitely was no food or parties -- one of too many reasons i stopped going :-)

                things musta really changed in the meantime....

                1. re: linguafood

                  Just going to the wrong church :) I haven't routinely attended in ten years, but as a teenager I attended every Sunday, plus youth group on Sunday evenings. We have donuts every morning, and sometimes homemade ham biscuits. The women's group prepared dinner every Sunday evening for people attending various studies, social groups, and rehearsals. They charged $3/person, but it was always a good meal and a jovial atmosphere. We had potluck lunches at least once a month, an annual barbecue with a whole hog, and a Moravian-style Lovefeast every year in December. Food was such an important part of fellowship at that particular church, I can remember several sermons written around the events of our shared meals.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    You obviously weren't a Methodist. ;D

                2. Yeah, that's one of the reasons why I have a reputation for never going to work parties.

                  It depends on the company, but can you bring a friend or does it have to be a 'significant other' if you bring someone?

                  1. Thank you for your responses! If I can bring a friend/date I have no problems.
                    It is a good move to chat with the spouses as they may not know a lot of people there themselves. Hanging out by the bar is another way to go. If things feel really awkward I can always pretend to furiously read something on my blackberry lol!
                    I am not a-social by any means but you know how these things can be, sometimes you just jive and conversation and introductions happen. Other times you just feel like the biggest outcast and wonder why you showed up.

                    1. Get drunk, and do so quickly.