The annual office holiday party can be a wonderful opportunity to solidify relationships with the boss, coworkers, direct reports and others. But, for some reason many people think this is a time to let down their hair, dance on tables, swing from the chandeliers or tell their bosses what they really think of them. However, the holiday office party is an ideal professional networking opportunity and should be treated as such.
With that in mind, here are some guidelines to help build your image and make the most of your holiday office party.
#1 – Don’t drink too much; better yet, don’t drink at all! Careers, reputations, credibility and relationships that have been built up over time can be sunk in an evening because of actions or comments at the office holiday party! Alcohol impairs one’s judgment and loosens one’s tongue – a disastrous combination. Offending someone with an off-color joke, letting slip a confidential piece of company information, sharing a nasty piece of office gossip, unwanted sexual advances, dancing on the table or blowing in your boss’s ear can cripple or end your career with the company.
#2 – Remember your dining etiquette. Haven’t we seen those who eat directly from serving dishes on the buffet table, pile their plates so high they resemble The Cat in the Hat, pick food off another’s plate, talk and laugh with their mouths full, or carry on conversations over the heads of others while standing in the buffet line? Don’t be one of those people. It’s not about the food; it’s about connecting with people in a positive way.
#3 – Dress appropriately and tastefully. You’re not out clubbing with your friends; you’re with colleagues, your boss and possibly clients.
#4 Don’t show up without RSVPing or bring an uninvited guest, particularly if you’re attending a sit-down dinner. Understand that a holiday business event is not the place to bring your children.
#5 – Don’t criticize the food or music to your host or others. Criticizing how you are being entertained is the very worst of poor manners. Be appreciative of the effort made on your behalf.
#6 – Don’t bring up contentious issues. If someone else gets out of hand, lighten the mood by light-heartedly changing the subject. “Let’s go grab a piece of pie!” or by pulling people out on the dance floor with some good music. If the offender is particularly obnoxious and the host doesn’t notice, let him/her know so the behavior can be appropriately handled.
#7 – Don’t tell dirty or racist jokes. Most etiquette experts agree that there should be zero tolerance for these types of comments. It’s the host’s job to make everyone comfortable, but it’s also acceptable for another guest to let the offender know he’s crossed the line. Quickly swing the mood of the party back to everyone having a good time.
#8 – Have fun. This is the end-of-year celebration of everyone’s hard work. Just remember your manners and conduct yourself with wit, warmth, respect and dignity.
John Daly, a highly-successful international event producer, has advised Fortune 100 corporations on proper protocol for 30 years. As founder of The Key Class, he coaches business etiquette. www.thekeyclass.com.