On the Job

Hold the mistletoe: Appropriate office holiday parties

When is a party not (just) a party? When it’s work (related).

The year-end holiday season often includes at least a couple of work-related gatherings, from gift exchanges to potluck lunches to black-tie cocktail parties.

They’re great opportunities to get to know your coworkers and create stronger relationships that carry over throughout the year. After all, these are the people you spend most of your waking hours with.

And with any luck there are at least a few among them you actually consider friends, or at least enjoy socializing with. But make no mistake: An office social event is an office event.

To enjoy the festivities without ending up with egg(nog) on your face, keep these tips in mind:

  • Dress for the occasion. If the event is at the office during work hours, this is easy. But if it’s offsite or after-hours, follow the guidelines given (and if there aren’t any, ask).
  • Drink and eat in moderation. Surely everyone knows not to overindulge in alcohol at a company event. But watch your plate, too: Piling it on like an escapee from a prison camp looks greedy. If you’re just that hangry, eat a small snack before you go.
  • Limit shop talk. This is especially important if you’ve brought a guest who doesn’t know anything about the P39 Eliminator Project or Really Big Customer Inc. Instead, catch up on families, holiday plans or other personal interests.
  • Mix it up. Just because you eat lunch with the person in the next cube every day doesn’t mean you have to huddle together over the hors d’oeuvres, too. Look for someone you rarely see or (gasp) have never met and introduce yourself.
  • Keep your phone in your pocket or pocketbook. Nothing says “I’m so bored” like texting during a party. If you absolutely have to make a call, step out of the room.
  • Say thank you. Whether the event was held in someone’s home, a local bar or the company break room, someone spent time and energy organizing it. Be sure they know you appreciate it.
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