‘Tis the season to be jolly? In many cases, Christmas is a time to have fun let your hair down and celebrate. But the Christmas office party is NOT a time to let loose. Even though these social settings often involve music, alcohol and casual dress, don’t be deceived by the trappings. Office parties are still business functions, and your behaviour still needs to be moderate and controlled in order for the office party to be a successful experience.
Here are the top five tips for ensuring a successful experience at the holiday office party.
1. Treat the members of the opposite sex respectfully.
Traditionally, the workplace was a male bastion, and office parties with women tended to encourage certain forms of behaviour. In an era with more women in the workplace and awareness of sexual harassment issues, the treatment of office party attendees who are not of your gender has become more critical. Jokes and comments that are unacceptable in the workplace are still not acceptable at an office party, and be cautious of body contact. Touching in inappropriate ways at an office party is still inappropriate.
2. Drink in moderation (or not at all).
Keep alcohol consumption at a bare minimum. Avoiding it altogether is a safe approach. Substituting soft drinks or non-alcoholic punch at an office party is an acceptable alternative, you will keep your wits about you and avoid behaviour that you would never consider when sober. However, if you feel the need to drink in moderation, eat a little before you arrive at the office party to minimize the effects of the alcohol.
3. Dress appropriately.
If the party is after hours, verify with the hosts what sort of dress will be appropriate. If the office party is formal, secure formal wear – rent a tux or a gown. If business casual is the style, avoid tee shirts and jeans. And above all, leave the showy or revealing clothing for other social settings; it does not belong at the office party.
4. Remember, the office party is a social occasion.
Be certain that you take the opportunity to visit with your co-workers and clients and express appreciation for their efforts at helping you during the year. Especially seek out those who worked with you on important projects during the year. Christmas is a time to feel and express gratitude, not to act petulantly and selfishly. Share your appreciation.
5. Treat spouses as people.
The temptation at office parties is to ignore the spouses of your co-workers or clients. When spouses are involved, treat them respectfully. Ask about their lives and interests. Being ignored as an office spouse makes both the spouse and the co-worker feel uncomfortable. Be a little sensitive to their plight-they may know very few people in this setting and feel uncomfortable.
Any behaviour at an office party will help distinguish you, whether positively or negatively. Many careers have been ruined by inappropriate behaviour at an office party. By following common sense and remembering above all that an office party is a business function, you can ensure that you send the right message and make it a career building rather than a career crippling experience.