Navigating the Holiday Office Party

holiday party

We are well into the thick of December. That means ‘tis the Season. Yep, it’s time to prepare for your annual company holiday party.

Company sponsored holiday parties are hosted as a way to celebrate the season. They allow employers to thank employees and provide an excellent opportunity to network with colleagues and get to know the people you work within a relaxed and festive setting. Yes, your holiday office party is a time to celebrate with your co-workers, but at the end of the day it’s still a work event and even though it’s a party and alcohol is being served, reasonably professional standards of behavior are expected.

Here are 12 pointers for navigating your holiday work event:

1. Do R.S.V.P. and go even if you don’t want to- Don’t miss out on the (jumbo shrimp) opportunity to enhance your work relationships. Even if the party is “optional,” often times it really isn’t and your boss probably cares whether or not you attend. If you genuinely have a conflicting obligation, it’s fine to simply explain that; otherwise, make every effort to attend.

If you are a boss, you don’t want to come across as too important to socialize with the underlings. Often, the higher up in your organization you are, the more expected you might be to attend. So, grin, bear it and be there.

2. Commit to the evening- If it’s a 3-hour party, aim to be there for 2 or more hours. Managers should stay the full allotted time. (Fashionably late is not ok; try to arrive in the first 30 minutes if possible.)

3. Don’t be cliquey- Network and socialize outside of your normal circle- Yes, it’s easier to hang out with your work besties but use your holiday party as a chance to get to know a broader circle of people in your company. You may rub shoulders with those higher up the corporate ladder which may benefit you later on if you’re vying to get on a project and one of the senior leaders remembers you.

4. Never go in ignorant. Know the players- Do your research. You don’t want to be caught asking the CEO, “So, what do you do here?”

5. Make sure your boss sees you and spend a few minutes chatting them up.

6. H.R. is likely attending too- Remember… this is a work event and even if hosted on a Friday or Saturday evening it’s not a time to turn up… you’re not going to the club. You are always representing your personal brand— Dress appropriately, you want to be remembered for how fierce not offensive you looked. Don’t do anything that might permanently damage your reputation.

7. Don’t be that person- Resist the lure of the open bar. Opportunities to interact with senior exec’s are generally rare. So, don’t stand there and drink yourself into oblivion, pace yourself. Get out there and mix it up but don’t blow it by getting O.C.

8. Be considerate of how others will approach you- Picture the Senior VP of your division comes by to say hello. They extend their hand and so do you with a greasy meatball napkin in tow. Try to keep a hand free and to remember etiquette basics, such as maintaining clean hands and avoiding a mouth full of passed hors-d’oeuvres. Ummm… don’t return buffet food and properly discard napkins, toothpicks, etc. Ok?

9. Plus one- Some office parties are strictly employees only. If plus 1’s are allowed to bring one.

The Pros:

• You have built-in support and someone to tell you when you’ve had enough champagne.

The Cons:

• You may find it difficult to split your time between socializing with work buds, saying hello to the bosses, and making sure your partner is having a good time.
• If you just began seeing you S.O. (or insignificant other in this case) remember that a professional event can be a high-stakes situation and if their judgment and behavior is yet to be tested- that could lead to a major faux pas if your job rests on your reputation.

10. Introducing your plus one- If you’re bringing a friend/someone you just recently started dating. Generally, it’s safe to introduce them to your colleagues by his/her first name. No explanation needed. Ex. Hi, this is [insert name of date]. Date, this is my colleague _______.

11. Don’t talk shop- Don’t focus on work-related complaints or topics, you do that Monday through Friday, 9-5. The holiday party is a chance to relax and celebrate the season with your colleagues, outside of work.

12. Try to seek out the hosts/organizers and thank them for the work they put into the party.



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