Can I Save My Reputation After I Threw Up at the Office Party?

Spewing at the end of year bash can leave a dent in anyone’s reputation, but an HR expert shows us how to make the most of it.


You tried to forget about what happened at the last office holiday party, but with the next one just around the corner, your colleagues have started, once again, cracking jokes about how you took full advantage of the open bar and puked on the dance floor. Maybe it’s time to change your name and migrate to a foreign country?

Or, if you appreciate your job — and your name, and your home country — HR expert Terry Petracca has some advice to help you shake free of your reputation as the holiday party spewer. “Redeeming your professional status begins with self-awareness,” she says. “When you do something stupid publicly, you turn into the office urban legend. Even people who weren’t there for your intraoffice display of hurling may look askance when they meet you. So my first question would be, why can’t people let it go after nearly 12 months? Did you express authentic regret at your inappropriate, juvenile behavior to your co-workers when you saw them afterward? Or did you sheepishly apologize and laugh it off? How you react in the immediate aftermath sets the tone for how seriously you consider your actions and is as important as anything else you can do in the future.”

In other words, if you’re still getting called out thanks to your actions nearly a whole year ago, perhaps you attempted to ignore and brush off the mishap a little too much. “My guess is that you didn’t handle those first few hours, days or weeks all that well, and that you’re still relatively blasé about your past behavior, leaving your colleagues to take their cues from you,” says Petracca. “Because in the past year, you’ve probably been at other company events and/or out with colleagues where alcohol was served. If you’ve been circumspect about alcohol consumption in those situations, you should have redeemed yourself by now.”

In which case, since your reputation as someone who goes overboard with alcohol has followed you this far, Petracca says maybe a change of scenery is in order, after all. “Yeah, it might be too late for this job, but if you make a mistake like that at a future gig, my advice would be to do a better job of showing your co-workers that you’ve learned your lesson,” she suggests. “Talk to them about the importance of your job and your reputation. Be contrite and sincere. Otherwise, promising them you won’t get drunk like that again might sound like an empty promise.”

“Most of all,” Petracca continues, “show them you’ve learned the error of your ways. Because you don’t have to worry about how much is too much with a glass of Coke or sparkling water in your hand.”