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Holiday Etiquette: Holiday Office Party Dos + Don’ts

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Don't let this happen to you: make sure your holiday office party is not something you'll regret, with these dos and don'ts. Photo: foilman/flickr.

Holiday office parties are keeping up with our fast-paced times. Whether your company once hosted a cocktail party heavy on hors d'oeuvres or a luncheon after which employees were given the afternoon off, don't assume the same old-same old. The outrageous holiday drinking bash that included a served dinner has gone the way of the three martini business lunch.

Some companies are cutting back and opting for monetary compensation in lieu of hosting a holiday gala. Giving each employee a check for what it would have cost to have them served food and drink. In December, many corporations are far too busy finishing up year-end business and hold off celebrating until January. Here are some dos and don'ts for your holiday office party - whether you're the boss or the employee.

Do:  RSVP early and verify that you can bring your partner, spouse, or a guest to your office party. Don't assume that you can invite someone random you met at your local sports bar the night before. You can't just show up with a date. 

Many companies are cutting down on the number of guests by inviting spouses and partners only, and that doesn't include your best friend or brother. Hosting CEOs and managers are sure to learn the names of any new spouses or partners of their employees, because they want to talk personally to each guest.

Do:  Dress with a pop of festive color. However, suit-up for the job you aspire to hold one day. Don't show cleavage or chest hair. It's an office party - meaning business attire. Unless otherwise stated, the dress code could be Suits & Dresses. Yes, dress your industry culture, but be carefully well-groomed and meticulously neat.

Do: Be on time, but don't be the last employee to leave the party.

Do:  Find your boss first thing and introduce—or reintroduce—her or him to your spouse, partner or guest. Then thank them for hosting a holiday party. Help your boss remember your name and what you do. Don't assume they'll know your name or your spouse's. 

The office holiday party is an opportunity to thank every employee personally for having a good year. It's the boss's job to know everyone's name, talk to all the employees, and thank them by providing a nice time. You never know, you could even be being vetted for a promotion.

Do: Keep track of how much alcohol you're drinking. Be sure to hydrate with water and coat your stomach with food before and while drinking alcohol. This isn't a holiday, it's a work-related party. Your boss will be watching to see who is drinking too much or behaving inappropriately. If an employee is behaving badly, the boss will know he can't be trusted to entertain clients.

Do: Watch what you say. Don't gossip about coworkers or hit on any colleagues, their spouses or partners. Topics to avoid are: politics, religion, salaries, and who's sleeping with whom. After a couple of drinks you don't want to be spouting racist or dirty jokes. Someone from the office is bound to remind you the next day. Neither do you have to let people know everything you're thinking.

Do:  Be mindful of your body language. Give people an arms length of space and don't place your hands on them or paw them. No patting on the back or butt or grasping their hand or arm. Don't be a tease. No kissing—even if it's under the mistletoe or in the broom closet. You don't want to be remembered as the person draping their arm over the boss's shoulder all night.

Don't be the last to leave, but do have your wits about you and thank your boss on your way out. For him or her the office party is a command performance and therefore perhaps not that much fun for them. Do show your appreciation with a professional handshake. Thumb straight up, web to web, shake vertically up and down quickly twice, and let go.

Remember these points and you'll have a better holiday.

Didi Lorillard writes about etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, wedding etiquette, business etiquette, entertaining, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook,TwitterLinkedIn, or Pinterest after reading her earlier GoLocal columns, some of which are listed below.



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