It is the end of the year. It has haven a long year of hard work, with ups and downs, successes and failures. Thank goodness for the holidays coming up! But there is one more event to get through – yes it is the office Christmas party!
The sad truth of the office party is that an event that is meant to bring everyone together, to relax, to unwind and interact on a social level, can be that same event that can either ruin your career or damage your reputation!
What most people forget is that although this particular party is about “getting together and being merry,” it is still a business event – so there are some subtle etiquette to follow.
Over the years, I have attended many office Christmas parties and have found that there are some common factors to avoid that will help you to survive the event with your both your job and reputation intact!
This is on top of the list. As obvious as it is – there are still many people who over-drink at business events, leading to embarrassing and life-threatening situations. There might also be some legal and disciplinary consequences of over-drinking.
So there is one simple rule: Do not drink alcohol at your office parties, or any business event.
If you are one of those people that wait for the office party to ‘show off your dance moves’ to your colleagues – then the office party is not the appropriate occasion to do it.
“Breaking-down,” or “Backing-up,” with, or in front of, your work colleagues is in poor taste.
If there is “slow-dancing,” ensure that you are dancing with someone that you are romantically with – and keep it clean.
Also – leave the “hoochy-mamma,” clothes for the weekend outing with your friends. Remember that this is a business event and you have senior work colleagues watching.
To bring or not to bring your partner?
Some Christmas parties give you the option to bring along your partner. Think twice before quickly saying yes!
If you have recently started going out with someone and are unsure how they will behave in a social setting – rather go to the event alone.
The worst outcome for you is that you behave in a professional way and it is your partner that drinks excessively, swears people or shares vulgar and rude jokes. Remember that your partner’s behaviour is a reflection on you!
If you have a long-standing partner that you have no qualms about taking along, then help them by:
- Sharing advice on what to say or not to say;
- Inform them of the senior managers names and a bit of background;
- At the event – do not stay with your partner for the entire evening;
- Introduce your partner to a colleague – let them chat leaving you free to network with others and return every so often. Do not leave your partner alone!
If gift giving is part of the event, then find out in advance who you are buying for and what is the budget, if any.
Ask the person if there is anything in particular that they like or general categories of items that they always purchase, like candles, glass-wear, or lotions.
- gift-vouchers – it is too impersonal.
- sex-toys (this might seem funny at the time – but is inappropriate)
- personal items like clothing or shoes.
If the person has a sense of humour, consider gifts like a tasteful kitchen spoon to be given to the, “office-stirrer,” in recognition for always speaking on behalf of the group.
Blurting out secrets
If all through the year, you had a secret crush on someone at the office or you secretly do not get one with someone, do not wait for the office Christmas party to blurt out your secret.
Staying away from alcohol is one way to safely keep your secret. The other is to avoid hanging out with the same ‘cliques’ that you are seen with during the course of the year.
Rather use this occasion to get to know people who you don’t usually speak to – it is part of the networking.
As much as it seems simple to avoid embarrassment at your office party, at some point in your career – you will do something that does cause you to be red-faced.
You might return to work with people grinning, winking and smiling at you or worse still – they start reminiscing about what you did or did not do. How do you react?
The best approach to this:
- Do not avoid future business functions – people are watching to see if you attend these or not – this is also a reflection of your maturity.
- Stay focused at work and make sure you achieve all your deliverables. You essentially have to work at building your credibility again.
- If people start rehashing the event that caused embarrassment – admit fault. Say that you have learnt your lesson and have moved on. This is a mature reaction as people can see that you no longer have a ‘sensitive button,’ that needs to be pushed. They will most likely leave you alone!
The office Christmas party is still a business-networking event.
Do not be the last person to leave the event. Also make sure that you stay at least 30 minutes after the main event – whether it the meal, a show or the speech. Take your cue from the host.
And last, but not least, do not leave the event without taking the time to thank the host for holding the party. You will be remembered for doing so and you will also be remembered for not doing so.
I hope you survive your next office Christmas Party!