Published: 16/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5936 Page 34

Office Christmas party coming up? How do you approach it - with dread, joy or stoical acceptance? Do you recognise any of these characters?

Mr Greedy stations himself at the buffet and starts eating before everyone else. He is still there hours later.

Ms Christmas Tree went mad in TK Maxx. The dress was a bargain, but backless, and almost frontless, it is not going to do anything for her career.

Mr Frank plucks up courage, the Dutch kind, to tell his boss what he really thinks of her.

Mr Wallflower arrives late in formal office gear. He hopes people will see this as the affront that it is and sulks at the edges of the room.

Mrs and Mr Office Romance risk several lustful kisses - surely no-one will guess their secret?

Mr, Mrs and Ms Binger feel they are owed alcohol in return for months of their unrecognised labour. Next day's hangover reminds them of their secret fear that they may have a problem. But then doesn't everyone?

None of them, of course, represents you. You understand that the office party is a pleasant duty. It is an opportunity for informal networking, for getting to know your colleagues socially - introducing people to each other, modelling sensible eating and drinking.

Remember that an office party is an extension of the workplace and normal rules apply. The London offices of a US bank recently found this out the hard way when one of their employees sued for wrongful dismissal and harassment after a Christmas lunch that got out of hand. Two colleagues allegedly made lewd comments about her breasts, pondering such important questions as whether the correct word was waps or baps. That cost the bank£500,000.

Jenny Rogers is a director of Management Futures and for Christmas wants one-toone lessons with her Ceroc teacher, with the guarantee that her fantasy of being a good dancer will come true.