The Holiday Work Party: Not Just Another Social Gathering

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It’s that time of year again where you’re surrounded by the hustle and bustle of decorating, shopping, baking, and of course visiting those you don’t see very often. I’m talking about the holidays, which in addition to putting exorbitant amounts of purchases on your credit card, you also find yourself abiding by certain etiquette that you otherwise wouldn’t follow at any other time of the year – like sending cards to distant relatives and clients or baking cookies for the church holiday bake sale.  Though some of the etiquette can be quite awkward for some people, there is one that must not be ignored: holiday work party etiquette.

Yes, there is alcohol and a more lenient dress code but don’t let the party favors encourage a party foul.  Holiday work parties are wrapped within a social context but regardless of how laid back your company is, the event is still a BUSINESS function.  Often times, professionals of all ages make mistakes during professional/social gatherings that lead to dire consequences including termination of employment.  In other words, don’t be THAT GUY or THAT GIRL known as the drunk, the flirt, the glutton, or even the party pooper.  Some may find it difficult to find the right balance between being a professional and a socialite in the same setting.  According to Peter Hess, the 30-year- old founder and president of YAPA, a free Internet-based membership organization for young professionals, the easiest way to road block your way to success is to mess up at a holiday work party.  

Hess and Lou Kennedy, a nationally known author on business etiquette have compiled a list of 10 “no-no’s” to avoid this holiday season:

    – Mistake No. 1: The Blow-off. The biggest error is not going to an office party that is a  “must-attend” event. Says Hess – “If you do
that, you show disrespect for your company, your supervisors and your colleagues. That’s a career-killer.”

   – Mistake No. 2: Forgetting the Boss is Watching. Hess says senior managers pay attention to how people handle themselves at
corporate events. In his words – “They might not know your name, but they will remember your face.”

   – Mistake No. 3: T-shirts and Sandals. Inappropriate dress at an office party draws attention, but the wrong kind. Says Kennedy –
“The goal is to display professional qualities, not show how funky or daring you are. Skip the plunging neckline and heavy cologne.”

   – Mistake No. 4: The Business-talking Bore. Hess says – “Some young professionals let ambition drive them. They don’t know how to enjoy conversation unless it is only about business. They become bores whom bosses avoid.”

   – Mistake No. 5: Me, Me, Me. Kennedy says self-centered young professionals will have trouble working in teams with others…and
co-workers and bosses pick up on this.

   – Mistake No. 6: Who’s the Boss? Says Hess – “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 realize the importance of a face- to-face
meeting. They should not be surprised when bosses ignore them when it comes time for advancement.”

   – Mistake No. 7: About My Pay. Kennedy says 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.”

   – Mistake No. 8: Hanky-panky. No longer is an office party an excuse for employees to become intimate. Says Hess – “Now it means sexual harassment charges and dismissal for one or both individuals.”

   – Mistake No. 9: The College Bash. Says Kennedy – “Office parties are extensions of the workplace and not campus free-for-alls.”
Using some of the speech and behavior allowed in college can show immaturity.

   – Mistake No. 10: Set ’em up, Joe. “Drinking to excess at a company party will kill a career instantly”…says Kennedy…”Don’t have more than two alcoholic beverages and better yet, don’t drink at all.”

In addition to this advice, I suggest just three things when it comes to young, new, or aged professionals attending work holiday parties. First and foremost, dress for the occasion. This means taking into consideration the setting and mood of the party.  Is it business casual or black tie? Most importantly, it’s dress to make a professional impression in a holiday light.  Second, if you can’t handle your liquor or are afraid you might let your inner college days comes out, ask the bartender for a vodka-tonic minus the vodka, or a cranberry juice and lime. This averts attention away from your drink but also keeps you sober when the Vice President asks you what you do at the company.  And third, RELAX.  This is the time to really show the higher-ups who you are at the company and how you handle different situations than just sitting in a cubicle.  In fact, use the party to your ADVANTAGE.  Make them proud they made the right decision when hiring you and let them remember your face when it comes time for a promotion.  

And of course…..have fun!

Super User

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