‘Tis the season for holiday events including those at work and in your professional organizations. These events can be great times to really get to know your coworkers and colleagues, a chance to network and make new connections, and overall, an opportunity to shine as bright as Rudolph’s nose. ‘
However, every year I see someone take their image and flush it down the toilet with unprofessional, inappropriate, or thoughtless behavior- either their own, or their significant other’s. If you don’t want to be treated like a Misfit Toy the next day, follow these tips for having fun, but keeping it professional at holiday events.
Remember that a workplace party is still a business function, no matter how it’s portrayed or how your coworkers (or even company leaders) act. Just because they’re behaving badly, doesn’t mean bad behavior on your part will go unnoticed. It’s fine to have fun, just don’t make a fool of yourself.
Dress appropriately. If you’re unsure how to dress, ask. When in doubt, dress a notch above how you guess others might dress. Additionally, remember, this is a business function, not an opportunity to wear your shortest skirt, lowest-cut blouse, or highest heeled glittery shoes. It’s fine to dress festively, just be sure you also dress appropriately.
Attend! Even if you think the event is going to be boring, go anyway. Not attending, even if you have a “good” excuse, makes you look like you’re not part of the team. If the entire affair is miserable, just stay an hour to make your presence known and so it doesn’t look like you just dropped by to make an appearance.
Stick to a two (2) drink MAXIMUM. If you drink, be sure to stick to no more than two drinks– regardless of your size, the amount of time between drinks, or how much food you’ve eaten. Drinking more than two drinks could cause you to appear “tipsy,” even if you feel you’re not, and sends a negative message to other attendees. And surprisingly enough, there are people who will be counting!
Bring an appropriate guest. The office party is not the time for a first date or blind date. Be sure you bring along a guest who is a significant other. If you have no significant other in your life right now, attend alone. Bringing someone who barely knows you cries, “rent-a-date.”
Find something other than work to talk about. You talk shop all week, no one wants to hear more about it at a party. Find a neutral, interesting topic. Before you go, you might even do an Internet search of trending topics.
Be appreciative. Remember, someone went to the trouble to plan and pay for the event, so be appreciative. Participate in activities (within reason- if Karaoke isn’t your thing, you can just watch) and be sure to thank the party hosts and/or coordinators before you leave.
Complain or gossip about your boss, customers, or other coworkers. Not only does no one want to hear complaining at a party, you never know who might be listening.
Be a wallflower. Talk with people other than those you work with every day. Don’t sulk in a corner complaining how you don’t want to be there, or treat the party like a singles event. Even if you are single, if it’s not appropriate under the florescent lights of the office by day, it’s not appropriate at the office party by night.
Bring children or other family members unless the invitation specifically says so. The office party is not an opportunity to feed your extended family for free. Therefore, if the invitation doesn’t specifically say to bring the kiddos, cousins, or the mother-in-law, stick to one guest.
Order anything “to go”. Several years ago we attended an office party for my husband’s then employer. The company was a small one and there were about 20 people total at the event. After drinks, appetizers, and a fine dinner on the owner’s dime, several people had the nerve to order desserts “to go.” It was obvious these employees were trying to get as much free food as possible, and it was very tacky.
Be the last to leave. Unless you’re part of the clean-up crew, whomever is hosting the party is waiting for you to leave so he, she, or they, can go home. Take the hint when most people take their leave and go home.
Be the first to leave if you’re a leader or someone in charge. In one of my professional organizations, for two years in a row board leaders, including the president, were the first to leave the event. It left people feeling like the event wasn’t a priority for them. Additionally, some of them were supposed to be part of the setup and/or clean up efforts, and a handful of people were left to shoulder the load. Not cool!