Whatever the occasion, manners are a welcome gift.
The key to success when attending any office function, event or party is preparation and planning. This may be the ideal opportunity to meet someone who can influence your career, so take advantage. Etiquette guidelines such as the ones below can help you shine.
Attend Office Parties
At least make an appearance and find the host or hostess as soon as possible to extend your thanks for the invitation. Don’t make an obvious exit, but try to work the room as much as possible before you leave. The best rule for attending is to arrive on time or within 15 minutes of the designated start time. You don’t have to be the first to arrive and you don’t want to be the last to leave.
Don’t Talk Only About Business
If you are at a neighbor’s home for their annual poll soiree, don’t come with a car full of portfolios or brochures. Parties are networking opportunities, so leave it at that. You can approach someone to set up a future meeting and exchange business cards, but leave the brochures and proposals at the office.
Moderate Your Food and Alcohol Intake
When you attend a function in a person’s home or even in a restaurant as a guest, the food may be free but it’s not your last meal. Drink and eat moderately. If you consume food and drink from the time you arrive until you leave, it may be the last time you are invited. You can partake in both, but the key is moderation. Your time should be spent mingling with guests. It can be difficult to carry on a conversation with a prospective client or the president of your company when you have a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other. Mingle and then ask a client or the person you just met to join you for a drink or some food.
Say “Thank You” with Notes
When you receive a gift or are invited to a party, a thank-you note should be sent the next day, or at least within a week. The handwritten note only needs to be a few lines thanking them for the specific gift or invitation. Do not include a company brochure or any other pieces of printed material. It is a thank-you note and not a ploy to get more business.
Gifting Dos and Don’ts
You should always bring a gift when invited to someone’s home. The exception to this rule is when you have a get-together weekly or monthly. Bring something that you know the host and hostess would enjoy. If you are not familiar with their home or décor, then stay on the safe side with a bottle of wine, candles or a small non-personal gift. If you do present them with wine, make sure they drink alcohol and don’t expect them to open the bottle of wine immediately. Food is always good to either complement their presentation or to be enjoyed after the party. Avoid bringing flowers the night of the party because it might involve the hosts stopping to place them in a vase, or it may interfere with their selection of decoration. Send flowers the following day.
At the office, the holidays can be tricky with gift giving and various celebrations and religious beliefs. To whom do you give a gift? How much do you spend? What happens if you receive a gift and do not have one in return?
- If you are exchanging gifts in the office with all but a few, avoid exchanging them at the office. Instead, meet after work and do not talk about your gifts the next day in the office.
- Do you give your boss a gift? Not necessarily. It becomes a contest of who gave what and how much did they spend. The boss can give gifts to the employees, but it is not necessary to reciprocate. A nice card showing your appreciation is always welcome, or giving something homemade, such as cookies or artwork. Another nice gesture is getting your coworkers together on a gift.
- Be respective of traditions and religious beliefs. It does not mean you have to exclude people from holiday parties and gift giving, but give them the option to participate. Office festivities and holiday cards should state “Happy Holidays” or “The Best for the Season.”
- Always personalize your holiday cards. If your company name is embossed or printed at the bottom of the card, a signed name or names should still apply. If possible, handwrite the address and use holiday stamps instead of the meter.
- Have a few gifts in reserve. A gift certificate to the local bookstore could come in handy. If you receive a gift with nothing to give in exchange, do not apologize for not having a gift; just be extremely appreciative and follow-up with a nice thank-you note.
- Be careful in your gift giving to clients. Your intention should be a gift they will enjoy and appreciate, not a lavish or outrageous gift that will “outdo” the competition. The business-appropriate gift should be sent to the office. Check with the client’s assistant for their likes and dislikes. Certificates to a nice restaurant, bookstore, or their favorite shop are very appropriate. If more than one person from your office is sending this customer a gift, make sure you check before sending duplicate gifts.
By remembering the proper ways to socialize, you may be doing more than just building your contacts. You could be making some of the most important connections of your career at the next event or party you attend!
|Meet the Author
Colleen A. Rickenbacher is a business etiquette expert and author of Be on Your Best Business Behavior and the forthcoming Be on Your Best Cultural Behavior. She helps clients stand out by improving manners, image and communication skills. For information on her speaking, training or books, visit: www.colleenrickenbacher.com.