I’ve been to many holiday office parties, none of which was ever organized for the sole purpose of letting coworkers enjoy one another’s company. There was always a thinly-veiled threat attached to my invitation, like, “If you don’t show up, you won’t get your Christmas bonus.” And once I arrived, I usually had to sit through an awards ceremony of some kind or donate to a cause I’d never heard of. This, perhaps, is why office party etiquette is so important. It’s not just a party.
The following holiday office party tips might help keep you sane during this yearly event.
Dress. The good news is that whatever you wear to work is usually appropriate for an office holiday party. Pay attention to any memos or invitations sent about the event, which might tell you what type of dress is required, but if you don’t read or hear anything, a good ol’ jacket and tie are fine.
Drinking. Alcohol is usually served at a holiday office party, but I’ve always felt it was a bit of a test. Anyone caught imbibing too much might be served with his walking papers Monday morning. I recommend sticking to one drink (and no more than two) throughout the evening. Once you’ve toasted with a glass of wine, switch to water or juice. You’ll want a clear head when the boss tracks you down to talk about sales figures.
Dates. Depending on the type of working environment, office party etiquette often includes bringing a date. This won’t be tough for all the married guys out there, but single men face a bit of a conundrum. It’s never a good idea to have a first (or even third or fourth) date at the holiday office party because these events are usually boring. Plus, you don’t want to bring someone you don’t know because you won’t know how they act. If you’re in a long-term relationship, go ahead and take her. If not, it’s probably better to go alone.
Conversation. Before I started working for myself, I always stuck with a core group of associates at the places where I worked. If you’re like me, you might fall victim to this tendency by sticking with a small consort of office buddies and neglecting everyone else. This is a mistake because, if nothing else, you’re watched at these parties. Try to spend a couple minutes with as many people as possible.
Holiday Cheer. It’s important to remember that this event is called an office holiday party for a reason. Not everyone at work celebrates the same holidays, so it’s important to stay neutral. You can talk about your candlelight Christmas Eve service at church, for example, but try to be sensitive to others’ religions and traditions. You can follow the lead of your colleagues or boss.
Your Role. Office party etiquette varies depending on your position in the company. If you’re low on the totem pole, for example, your job is basically to network with others and pay attention to how they behave. If you’re a mid-level manager or higher up on the food chain, however, you might have a different role. Pay attention to how others in your position are acting and try to follow suit.
Speeches. If you refuse some type of award at the office holiday party-congratulations, by the way-you might be required to accept that award with a speech. This can be nerve-wracking if you don’t enjoy public speaking, but the good news is that neither your colleagues nor your superiors want to hear a long-winded tribute. Just remember to thank anyone who might have had a hand in your earning that award, such as the hardworking team you manage.
Saying Goodnight. I’m the type of person who likes to get out of parties like these as quickly as possible, but an appearance is usually not sufficient to satisfy your superiors. It is best to wait until all the planned activities, such as awards ceremonies or (God-forbid) games, have concluded before you make your exit. And make sure you follow office party etiquette by thanking your boss(es) and saying goodbye to as many people as possible before leaving.
In some cases, holiday office parties are actually fun. It helps if you enjoy the company of your colleagues and the event lasts two hours or less. Even if you’re dreading the party, however, remember that it can boost your career to make a good impression. So show up and, at the very least, act like you’re having a good time.