Do's and Don'ts That Help You Survive and Shine at the Office Party

Love them or hate them, work parties are part of the world of work. And, as a member of that world, learning how to navigate the work party scene is important for your career. It seems only fitting that Your Office Mom give some advice and share etiquette tips for work parties in this article. I’m leaving out the bits about how you dress and how many drinks you consume. You already know that, right?

Image: Lindsay Singleton

Image: Lindsay Singleton

1. Be prepared for chit-chat

If you get a chance to talk to the “big boss” but you can’t think of anything to say except your job title, your length of service and that one to die for appetizer, that’s a wasted opportunity. Have three topics you’re prepared to talk about and make sure it’s not immigration, religion, or problems at work.

For a social event, keep it light and focus on holiday plans, hobbies, and interests. Keep in mind everyone may not want to hear about your difficult pregnancy, torn ACL, or how gifted and talented your children are, so temper your enthusiasm, unless it’s reciprocated. If you notice that people keep moving on, that’s a cue you need to change up your talking points.

2. Do consider the consequences of a problematic plus-one

You want to enjoy the holiday soiree, but a Plus-One that overshares, bores easily, gets jealous, overindulges, or dislikes your boss or co-workers, will be distracting and better left at home. Be particularly careful inviting a partner that tends to share details about your personal life you would prefer were left unsaid. Whereas we all tend to talk to our partners in confidence about work dynamics and situations, there’s nothing worse than having tidbits of those private conversations taken out of context and start to emerge after the second glass of wine.

3. Don’t just mingle with your usual circle of friends

Work parties are excellent networking opportunities. Once you arrive, size up the situation and make a plan on how you will work the room. If you spot someone you're eager to talk to, try to catch them the next time they're standing in line at the bar.

4. You may celebrate Christmas, but don’t act as if everyone does

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, beliefs and lifestyle. To push yours on others is misguided at the work office party. As it relates to the three biggies (politics, religion and sex) be mindful of diversity and try not to offend anyone with crass or insensitive remarks. What you say in the company of your friends and family members is your business, but don’t assume that’s the case at the office party.

For example, if it’s a holiday party, your boisterous “Merry Christmas” greeting to Jewish and Muslim co-workers, is insensitive and cringe-worthy, especially if you’re trying to push your “reason for the season” agenda. So steer clear if that is your agenda and you don’t have the capacity to be inclusive. If it’s not, ask if you are uncertain. “What are your plans for the holidays?” or there’s no harm in asking “Do you celebrate Christmas?".

5. Don't get too close or hookup with anyone

There's plenty of jokes about holiday work parties and alcohol-fueled antics. Be mindful of how you approach your co-workers especially with the #MeToo controversies. You don't want to get caught up in that this holiday season, so mind your manners. So, watch your spirits intake - limit to two drinks - and keep your hands to yourself. Keep your compliments PG rated. A simple "you look great" will suffice. You don’t need to talk about how sexy someone looks, or go overboard. This is not the time to be piling it on when you see the quiet young woman from accounting who looks drop dead gorgeous in the moment. Just word your compliments as if you were talking to your kid sister or brother.

As far as the hookup goes, do not go there! Your heat of the moment consensual behavior can cast a shadow on your reputation on the job. Remember perception can get a little fuzzy when alcohol is involved. What seems like flirtation from a coworker could merely be their attempt to be friendly. So, be mindful of the interactions and behave yourself. And, if you see someone who appears to be in a precarious situation, step up, and say or do something.

Understanding the do’s and don’ts of the work party will help you act classy and enjoy the shindig. Do you have some other do’s and don’ts to add to the list?