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How To Behave At The Office Party

Most holiday parties can be categorized in one of two ways—the ones that are social and the ones that are not. Your office holiday party definitely falls into the “not” category. Although on the surface, it seems like a social occasion, you should think of it as a way to improve your standing within the company. This isn’t to say that an office party can’t be lots of fun, but just remember—everything in moderation!

The Invitation
If your office mails out invitations, you must respond promptly. Making the party coordinator track you down a week after the reply deadline is disrespectful and it sends the message that you don’t complete tasks on time.

In addition, if you say that you will be attending, make sure that you are there. If you blow off the party at the last minute, your co-workers and managers may think that you can’t be counted upon—and it could potentially cost your company money, if they have to pay for a dinner that doesn’t get eaten.

On the surface, an office holiday party seems like a social occasion. You should really think of it as a way to improve your standing within the company.

When you receive your invitation, read it closely. Does it say “and guest” or “and family”? If your name is the only one listed, it’s a party for office employees only. The phrase “and guest” indicates that spouses are welcome, and if it says “and family” you may bring your children.

However, use discretion if you do bring your kids to the office party. If the event is planned for families, with lots of activities for children, that’s great—your kids will probably have a great time! On the other hand, if it’s a formal sit-down dinner, most kids will be bored to tears, which means you’ll spend most of the night entertaining and trying to control them, instead of networking.

What to Wear
No matter how good you look in that slinky black gown that’s cut down to your belly button, this is not the right occasion to wear it! You will be spending time with the people who hold your career in their hands.

Do you really want them staring at your cleavage all night long? A more appropriate choice would be an outfit that is business-casual if the party is right after work, or a modest but attractive cocktail dress or suit for a Saturday evening party.

Food and Drink
Yes, it’s okay to drink alcohol at an office party, but it’s not okay to have a shot-drinking contest with your boss. A good rule of thumb is no more than one drink per hour, and no more than three drinks total. If alcohol tends to affect you more quickly than some people, take this into account, also. The last thing you want to do is end up on stage with the band, singing “Take This Job and Shove It.” Remember the rule: Everything in moderation!

This goes for dinner, too. Take small portions and don’t go back for seconds unless everyone else is, too. Above all, remember your table manners! No one wants to listen to your opinion on the newest customer at work while your mouth is full of food.

Last but not least, conversation is the final hurdle that gets a lot of people into trouble at their office parties. Keep the conversation light and casual. Do not gossip about co-workers or people that you know (and who could end up being co-workers, too, one day). This gives the impression that confidentiality isn’t important to you, and you may blab about company-related issues if given the chance. Keep the conversation centered on business when possible.

It’s also a nice gesture to know the names of your co-workers’ spouses and children. It makes others feel important when you go out of your way to remember significant people in their lives. Don’t forget to introduce yourself to people you don’t know, whether its co-workers’ spouses or others within your company.

Happy Holidays
The office holiday party can be a great way to learn more about the people you work with every day. The key is to make sure they don’t learn more about you than they wanted to know!

(This article originally appeared in “How To Do Things,” an online resource at www.howtodothings.com that provides information on how to do a variety of topics. Used with permission).

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Meet the Author
Tonya Sandersfeld lives in Iowa with her husband and two children, ages 2 and 1. She works in the accounting department of a Fortune 500 company.

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