Office Christmas Party Tips
Often a Holiday party in the workplace is the chance to relax and celebrate. Just keep in mind, it’s work. It’s not a causal social occasion; it’s a work function just like a meeting would be.
Should you go? -
Absolutely. Absentia will be noticed. Remember in most companies, your goal is to show that you are part of the team. Fitting in is paramount. Standing out is often a mistake. Not attending the party is as bad missing a meeting.
What to wear –
Again, you want to show the upper-ups that you fit in with this organization. You want to look professional. If you’re really in doubt, wear what you would wear to a very important meeting. Unless your manager hands out elf hats to your entire department, do not dress whimsically. A holiday scarf, tie, or broach is more than enough festivity. Unless your office attire is always casual, do not dress casually. And above all, do not show too much skin.
What to bring –
Unless it has been made very clear that wives/husbands are invited, do not bring a guest.
Do not bring your work agenda, blackberry, or laptop. This is not the venue to show what a workhorse you are.
Do not bring a bottle or a dish to contribute unless you’ve been asked to do so. As polite as that is in social settings, it has a familiarity to it that the company may not be aiming toward.
If you had planned to give a few holiday gifts, this is the appropriate time to do so. When gift giving in the office, do not leave out anyone from a group. If you manage a team of 3 sales reps, do not give a gift to only one or two; it has to be all of them, or none of them. If you’re new in the company, it would be wise to ask someone who’s been there longer in a position lateral to yours what the norm is. Many companies frown on gift giving so it would be wise to find out ahead of time. If your department does a Grab-Bag or Kris-Cringle, participate. In many cases it is appropriate to “gift down” which means you give a token of your appreciation to your staff, but it is unnecessary to give one to your boss.
Gifts should never be personal. Things like perfume, clothing, knick-knacks or home items are out of place. Also try to avoid religion specific gifts, like nativity pieces even if you are sure of the person’s beliefs. Unsure of what to get? Stick with lunch. Everyone takes a lunch break. A gift card to a local restaurant or a Starbucks is tasteful and appropriate. It’s safe to get everyone you’re planning to buy for the same thing. That way it never appears that you’ve played favorites. You can always keep a few extra gift certificates and holiday cards in your pocket in case you receive an unexpected gift from a coworker, you can reciprocate on the spot so it doesn’t look like you didn’t think of them.
What to consume –
If your office party is in a restaurant or someone’s home, there’s a chance there will be alcohol. This can be tricky. If you drink, then you should. Clearly the fact that the company chose a venue where they’d be able to celebrate with spirits says something. However, remember that you are being watched. Limit yourself to only one or two drinks tops. You never want to slur in front of your boss, or tell your coworker what an ass you think he is.
As far as the food selection goes, engage. Don’t criticize the food no matter what. Do not tell everyone you’re on a diet or can’t eat certain things. Smile politely and eat what you can. Someone did some work selecting the food items; you do not want it to get back to anyone that you were ungrateful and judging.
What to say –
Make sure you thank the appropriate people for the party. Make it a point to shake some hands and offer your praise of the festivities. Your department leader, the human resources crew, and the head of your company are due a “thank you” from you. Compliment their efforts. Tell them everyone is having such a good time, and the cheese platter was excellent.
Make small talk. This is your chance to rub elbows with some of the people with whom you do not normally interact. Make sure to listen as much as you talk; you don’t want to do too much of either. Try to stay clear of taboo subjects like politics, religion, or sex. Activities and businesses in your area like art galleries, movies, local sports, plays, shops and restaurants are often great ice-breakers and include everyone in the conversation.
Do not talk about work. Unless a superior asks you a specific work – related question, steer clear of letting anyone think you’re using the party to showcase your business ideas and work ethic.
Try not to compliment anyone on his or her attire. I know this sounds odd. But many an office atrocity has begun with such a simple thing. People whisper, especially people that have had a glass of champagne. An innocent compliment can be misconstrued in the re-telling as a come-on. And god forbid you compliment one person, and not another who perceives their outfits as being the same. That can be taken as favoritism. I know of one gentleman who was put on probation at work for sexual misconduct for complimenting one of the women’s holiday sweaters. It was meant in the most sincere way, and it was taken in the most flirtatious way. It was even stated that he “had” to have been looking at her chest to have even noticed the sweater. I know of another instance where the administrative assistant complimented her boss’s suit, saying simply that he looked very handsome. The boss’s wife had her fired the following week. Don’t put yourself in the situation.
Be mindful that everyone is at this party, and everyone is watching everybody else. This is not the time to tell anyone you’ve had a crush on them. If you have to flirt with a coworker do it privately, NOT at an event that’s attended company-wide. This is also not the time to give any subordinate any criticism. What will you do if she winds up crying in the ladies room, or re-tells what you said after two red wines? The entire company is present. It’s not time to say anything that might draw attention.
If you are standing in a small group and you feel the conversation has taken a turn for the worse, excuse yourself. Get out fast. Say something like, “Excuse me there seems to be more cheese puffs,” or “I seem to have misplaced my pen,” and walk away immediately. You do not want to be included in any office gossip or coworker bashing while everyone you work with is there.
Who should you talk to –
Certainly anyone that tries to converse with you should be high on your list. However, these kinds of business functions are uncommon. This isn’t the time to spend with the people you have close quarters with every single day. Seize this opportunity to meet and talk to people in other departments, especially those more advanced in the company than yourself. Shake hands and smile. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself if you aren’t sure if someone knows your name. It’s much better to hear, “Of course, I know who you are!” than to hear, “And who are you?”
Do not dominate anyone’s time. Even if it feels like the conversation is going well, you should excuse yourself if it appears someone else is trying to get some face time with your new acquaintance.
When to leave –
Someone has to be the first to go, and someone has to be the last. But neither of them has to be you. Somewhere in the middle is best. If you really aren’t sure where that is, than follow your boss’s lead. When you see them go for their coats, follow suit.
Unlike a family gathering, you are not obligated to say good-bye to anyone. You can retreat quietly whenever you’re ready without having to go around and wish everyone a good night.
The exception to that is if the party is being held in someone’s home. Not only are you obligated to find them and let them know you had a wonderful time and you’re about to leave, you should also send a thank you note or email soon after the party as a formal thank you for having been invited. Whether it’s the president of the company holding the party at his Hampton’s estate, or one of the people parallel to you having the party in his bi-level, you were an invited guest in someone’s home. Show the proper respect.
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All text is original content by Veronica.All photos are used with permission. All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.