Office Party Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

It’s that time of year again. The time when companies host holiday parties and at least one co-worker will forget all sense of decorum and will act inappropriately. Make sure that person isn’t you by following a few simple guidelines for appropriate office party etiquette.

Behavior can get so wacky at company outings and parties that The Creative Group did a survey of more than 750 marketing and advertising executives to ask them what outrageous acts they’d seen from co-workers. Responses include catching an employee going through the desks while his colleagues were at the party, another coworker decided to load up his car with food from the party, and yet another person opted to bring all their relatives with them to the office gathering.

So, never assume that everyone knows how to behave. But to make sure that you do, here are a few do’s and don’ts:

Here are the Do’s

Do RSVP and Show Up
Mentally and physically. You don't want the be the co-worker missing from all the photos or the "you had to be there" jokes. Engage in the opportunity to let your hair down and discuss things of interest to you and your colleagues and leave work conversations at the door.

Do Dress for the Occasion
Yes, it is a party but do not wear anything too short, too tight or too revealing. Adorn yourself in something chic and professional with an air of holiday flair that is flattering and age appropriate. Save the “low and behold necklines” for date night.

Do Monitor Alcohol Intake
Drink modestly, if at all. Don't let the open bar get the best of you. Alcohol is a depressant and tends to lower inhibitions and loosen tongues. Too much alcohol usually leads to making unwanted advances, telling your boss what you really think about his last idea, or twerking on the dance floor. No one needs to see that.

Do Buy a Thoughtful Gift
If your company does a gift exchange, unless there is a gag gift standard being endorsed by your company, keep the gift thoughtful. Is it something you would want to receive? There are many small, inexpensive, thoughtful gifts in a low price range.

Do Act Grateful
Verbally thank the host of the event. It is the proper thing to do. These continue to be difficult economic times for most companies and a company holiday party is not a given. A follow-up handwritten thank you note will set you apart from your colleagues. And if the party is not your cup of tea, don’t use any form of social media to complain or comment about it – or anyone who was at the party. It shows bad judgment because nothing is private these days.

Do Talk to the VIPs
Whether the party is your company party or a larger industry event, take the opportunity to talk to the VIPs in the room – the folks you would not typically talk with at other times. Just remember to have something interesting to say and don’t monopolize their time.

And the Don’ts:

Don’t Hook Up with Co-workers
Enough said. Don’t do it. This is career suicide.

Don’t Ask for a Raise
Don't ask for a raise or a promotion. Yes, this is a work-related event and yes, it is a good time to do some networking, but it is not the time to pitch the boss - or her boss - for a better position. Networking is getting to know your colleagues and superiors in a more casual way. Don’t spend the entire time mingling with only the people you know well. This is a great opportunity to meet new people in your organization, network and increase your professional circle for the coming year.

Don’t Gossip in the Bathroom
You never know who is in the stall next to you. Do not gossip in the ladies’ room.

Don’t Overindulge on Food
Do not make a beeline to the buffet when you arrive. Don’t pile your plate high with shrimp cocktail. Don’t stalk the servers passing food in the room. And don’t double-dip. Eat a little something before the party so you aren’t famished.

Don’t Talk Shop
Don't talk business the entire party. This is a time to get to know your co-workers on a more casual basis. Although light and fun, this is not the time to flirt and let your hair down too much, so make sure your conversation topics are appropriate.

Don’t Abandon Your Guest
If you bring a guest to the office party, don’t abandon them. Introduce your guest, include them in conversations, and if you do need to go off on your own to schmooze for a bit, circle back often. Others will notice your social skills.

Follow these tips and you can ring in the New Year with career confidence – and your job intact.

Sources: Laura Kozelouzek, founder and CEO of Quest Workspaces; Marcia King Gamble, marketing/sales manager for the non-profit Association for Retail Environments; Constance Hoffman, owner of Social and Business Graces; Jackie Jones, founder of Jones Coaching, LLC; Marvelously Well-Mannered, LLC

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