Office Holiday Party Etiquette – 8 Tips
By Rachel Wagner
Office holiday parties can be fun, but they can also be more dangerous than an ice-covered driveway. The relaxed atmosphere and often-unlimited spirits can lead to anything from embarrassing slips to outright career disasters.
With this in mind, it’s important to brush up on your manners and use your best behavior at these company-sponsored events. You want to maximize your professional image and minimize the chance you will commit a faux pas that could tarnish your reputation and undermine a whole year’s worth of great effort.
In addition, how you interact with others at these events gives senior management a chance to determine how you represent the company with clients and potential customers.
Here are eight ways you can Fa-la-la-la-la with your coworkers and still present yourself in a professional manner.
RSVP—an acronym for those little French words that mean “Respond If You Please.” Whether your invitation was emailed or snail-mailed, it’s important to respond within 24- 48 hours. This helps your host know how many batches of artichoke dip to order. If you commit to attend, be there. Don’t commit and then not show up.
Make an appearance. Attendance at office holiday parties may be optional, but do plan to go if you can. It shows respect and loyalty to your firm and lets your boss and other higher ups know that that you appreciate their efforts. Plan to stay for at least an hour or two, and don’t be the last to leave.
Brief your guest. If it’s appropriate to take a guest—the invitation will specify this—then brief him or her about others they may meet at the party. This helps guests feel more comfortable if they are prepped about a few of your teammates with whom they may enjoy getting to know. Remember, too, that the conduct of your guest is a reflection on you.
Dress for the occasion. If the invitation specifies business attire, then don’t show up in cocktail clothes. If it states “festive,” then bring out the sparkles, sequins, and seasonal tie—but use discretion and leave the revealing outfits at home.
Mingle all the way. Holiday parties are a great way to meet those from other departments. Greet your peers, but try to introduce yourself to at least two new people by saying your first and last name and your department name. Be sure to introduce your guest or spouse, as well. Shake hands with everyone in a small group, not just the first person that you meet with only a hello to the others.
Bone up on your small talk skills. Studies show that the majority of people have anxiety and discomfort when having to make small talk with people they don’t know. But, when you can make small talk at the holiday party, it helps break the ice and puts others at ease.
One of the best ways to make small talk is to just be interested in others. Don’t talk about yourself. Instead, ask open-ended questions—questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. For example, you can ask about their holiday plans. When you keep the spotlight on others, they will think you’re amazing! And keep the event social by trying not to “talk shop.”
Eat and drink with finesse. To appear professional and polished, don’t pile your hors d’oeuvres plate. If necessary, eat a little something before you go so you don’t appear too hungry. Once you go through the food line, move away to another area to talk so you don’t tie up traffic. This also alleviates the temptation to double dip—definitely a faux pas! Choose finger foods that aren’t too greasy or sticky and that are easily eaten in one or two bites. Keep your beverage napkin tucked under your hors d’oeuvres plate for easy access to wipe your fingers. If you drink at all, know what your beverage limits are so that your conduct does not reflect unfavorably on you. And be sure to keep your food or beverage in your left hand so that your right hand is always free for a handshake.
Show appreciation. Before you leave, locate your hosts, thank them, and say goodbye. To stand out even more, send a handwritten thank you note the next day.
Your good manners and social graces will help you give a positive impression on everyone there—and you can ring in the New Year with no regrets.