Christmas party etiquette

Thursday November 22, 2007

During the festive season, many people forget that the Christmas office party is more about office than party.

The idea is to eat, drink and be merry, but in moderation, as columnist Samantha Brett explains.

"It's that time of the year again, but it's worth remembering that the fun and frivolity of the office Christmas party can leave you with more than a hangover if you don't follow proper Chrissie party etiquette," says Ms Brett.

"One of the biggest rules it to dress appropriately," she says. "Inappropriate dress at an office party draws attention, but the wrong kind."

"Eat before you go," she suggests. "There's nothing worse than drinking on an empty stomach.

"Get a buddy. Make sure they watch out for when you start to get messy, in case you start stripping, pole dancing or flirting excessively with the boss. That's their cue to step in and possibly send you home in a cab."

Party do's:

  • Mingle with everyone first. Don't head directly to the bar or buffet table as soon as you arrive.
  • Any clients you invite are your responsibility; make sure you introduce them to others. Keep your right hand free to shake hands.
  • Try to speak to every person in the room, if only to wish them happy holidays. Keep in mind that some people don't celebrate Christmas.
  • Make conversation with your boss' spouse. In fact, be friendly with everyone's significant other. They'll remember your kindness and courtesy and may prove influential in your future career.
  • Avoid talking shop with co-workers.
  • Watch your language. Avoid foul language, vulgar terms and inappropriate topics. Limit jokes to people you already know. Test a few on your friends beforehand.
  • The company office party may offer a chance to chat with the CEO or other senior managers you don't speak with often. Consider what you will say if the opportunity arises.
  • Mind your manners
  • Have fun and be a good sport. If the DJ holds a contest, participate and try to draw other people into the fun. You'll be seen as a natural leader.

Party don'ts:

  • The blow-off: The biggest error is not going to an office party that is a "must-attend" event. If you do that, you show disrespect for your company, your supervisors and your colleagues. That's a career-killer.
  • Forgetting the boss is watching: Senior managers pay attention to how people handle themselves at corporate events. They might not know your name, but they will remember your face.
  • T-shirts and sandals: Inappropriate dress at an office party draws attention, but the wrong kind. The goal is to display professional qualities, not show how funky or daring you are. Avoid clothing that's too tight or revealing; it's a party, but they're still your co-workers.
  • The business-talking bore: Some young professionals let ambition drive them. They don't know how to enjoy conversation unless it is about business. They become bores whom bosses avoid.
  • Me, me, me: Self-centred young professionals will have trouble working in teams with others and co-workers and bosses pick up on this.
  • Who's the boss?: It is amazing, but some young professionals do not introduce themselves to senior managers at a company party. They are afraid of what a boss might think or they don't realise the importance of a face-to-face meeting. They should not be surprised when bosses ignore them when it comes time for advancement.
  • About my pay: An employee who raises pay or other personal issues at a company party is marked as a person who does not understand what is and is not appropriate at social events. No employer wants that person in charge of others higher up on the corporate ladder.
  • Hanky-panky: No longer is an office party an excuse for employees to become intimate. Now it means sexual harassment charges and dismissal for one or both individuals.
  • Drinking to excess at a company party will kill a career instantly. Don't have more than two alcoholic beverages or better yet, don't drink at all.
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