holiday office party

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Second of a two-part series. This one focuses on employee pitfalls and acceptable behavior.

Office holiday parties are meant to be fun. But it is still a business event, and there’s a certain etiquette required. Fail to keep that in mind, and you risk tarnishing your reputation, missing out on a promotion, or even getting fired. Here are some ways to stay out of trouble.

Consider the party a business obligation – don’t skip it. It’s important to show your commitment to the company. Don’t arrive late and slip out early; it will be noticed. Don’t be the last person out the door, either.

If the party is at someone’s home, bring a hostess gift.

Dress appropriately

Your attire should be suitable for a business event. Women, don’t wear anything too short, too tight, or too revealing. Gentlemen, unsure whether you should wear a tie? Go ahead – you can always remove it if it’s too much. And the same for a suit coat or sports jacket.

Watch your body language. Take care not to look bored or uncomfortable. Don’t take a call on your cell phone unless it’s an emergency.

Mingle – and not just with those you know. Make a point of meeting new people. It’s your chance to engage with those you only communicate with via email, individuals outside your own department, and those who can positively affect your career. It might be your opportunity to get to know your company’s higher-ups.

Don’t try to corner the boss. Limit the shop talk, and keep the gossip in check. Have some questions or comments in mind when you arrive. Safe conversational gambits include questions about hobbies, favorite authors, TV shows, places they’ve traveled or dream about visiting, or holiday traditions. If someone has children, you can ask about them. If your closest coworkers have brought their spouses, get to know them. Don’t hog the conversation – practice being a good listener. And of course, don’t complain about your boss or your coworkers.

Say thank you

Seek out the people who planned the party to say thank you. It’s often an extra task beyond work duties, so show your appreciation. That includes the company CEO. Introduce yourself and your spouse or date. Thank him for the party, and mention something you particularly liked.

If you’re drinking, make sure you eat something. And don’t drink too much – you might want to set a limit for yourself before you get to the party. Here are a couple of other ways to avoid bellying up to the bar too often:

  1. Order a drink you don’t particularly like – that way you can sip it slowly throughout the evening. Soda water or ginger ale with a twist of lime is a great walk-around drink.
  2. Get a rum and Coke or gin and tonic for your first drink, then switch to plain Coke or tonic after that. No one will know you’ve changed drinks.

If you don’t drink, don’t do so to accommodate anyone else. Alcohol is a personal choice.

Skip the Facebook posts

Avoid posting negative comments or photos about the party on social media. And ask permission if posting a group shot.

All of the rules above apply to your spouse or guest as well. Her or her dress and behavior will reflect on you.

Consider sending a thank-you note to acknowledge the party.

You can make office holiday parties work in your favor if you stick to appropriate etiquette and avoid giving coworkers something to gossip about.