Every single year I waffle back and forth about the company Holiday party. Should I go?  Should I keep that time for myself since it’s such a crazy time of year?  Will anyone care if I go?  Will anyone notice if I don’t?

Maybe you can relate? I feel like the Holidays are full of these kinds of questions and people generally treat them as though they have “right” and “wrong” answers.  But the truth, in my opinion, is that most decisions have the same answer.

Here it is:

Depends. What are you trying to accomplish?


If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, you don’t have any criteria upon which to base a decision.  Then, typically, you make decisions based on knee jerk defensive responses or your most salient desires.  For example:

  • If you are generally introverted, you opt out of the Holiday Party.
  • If you are generally extroverted, you opt in to the Holiday Party.

Contrast that to the richer, more useful decision making that comes from thinking about what you hope to accomplish:

I’m new to my role and it wold be good to make some personal connections that will help me feel more at home.  I’m also finishing up my first semester and I’m very tired what with all the grading and administrative duties required to wrap the semester up and get student grades posted.

A simple look at what I could accomplish with the Holiday party (by attending or abstaining) helps me to see a conflicting commitment. I know its important to make connection to ensure longer term happiness at the job, but I’m also feeling overwhelmed.  I generally try to make decisions with a longer view, so if the only reason to abstain is that I’m tired (and introverted and so generally afraid of parties) then I’d better go.

But wait!  If my purpose for going to the holiday party is to make connections, perhaps a bigger commitment is worthwhile?  If I’m going to overcome my introversion and exhaustion to attend a Holiday Party I should plan have personal conversations with at least four people before I leave.

Depending on the specifics of what you hope to accomplish, you could take this further by specifying the actual people you want to connect with (if you hope to accomplish a promotion, then you may make a plan to NOT DRINK and approach your boss’s boss).

If, on the other hand, you do opt out of the Holiday Party, I think a bigger commitment is useful there too- because you’re aware of the opportunity cost, you want to optimize the time you regain. Make a plan- during the holiday party, I’m going to take a nap (or meditate, get a massage, etc) so that the time is actually rejuvenate.

The point here is two-fold:

  1. Making decisions is always easier and more fruitful with some criteria. Ask yourself this simple question the next time you are on the fence about something and you’ll see what I mean.
  2. I’m going to the Holiday Party and I’m going to have personal conversations with at least 4 people in my department before I leave.



About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.