Holiday Office Party Do's and Don'ts
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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Going to the company office holiday party this year? You can take advantage of the office party to have some fun and advance your career, or you can misbehave and cripple your career. Here are some basic rules for surviving and thriving at any company-sponsored party.

  • Do remember that although office parties are intended as social events to reward employees and raise morale, they remain strictly business events.

  • Do act as though your behavior is being observed every minute (because it probably is).

  • Don't pass up the invitation to an office party; not attending could hurt your reputation. And when you attend, do spend at least 30 minutes at the party for appearances. But don't overstay your welcome by partying until the wee hours.

  • Do conduct yourself professionally at all times. Don't use the office party as an excuse to blow off steam. It's still a company function, so proper etiquette and decorum matter.

  • Don't bring the party lampshade, gag gifts for the boss, or any other crazy stuff you might do at a personal holiday party.

  • Do enjoy yourself at the party. Employers spend the big bucks to reward their employees, so be sure to enjoy the only holiday gift you may be getting from the company.

  • Don't pull the nightclub attire from your closet for the event — and do ask whether the attire for the party is formal or casual. The party is still a business function, so conservative party clothes are a good choice. So, do remember to skip anything too revealing or too flashy. Keep your reputation for good taste intact.

  • Do keep your hands to yourself. Don't flirt, and do avoid any other inappropriate behavior. The office party is not the time to end your career with the company by doing something inappropriate or illegal.

  • Don't spend all evening talking business. You'll forever have the label as the office bore.

  • Do keep all conversations positive and upbeat. Don't spend the evening complaining, bragging, correcting, whining, or ridiculing. And do avoid controversial subjects (such as religion, politics, etc.) and off-color jokes.

  • Don't monopolize conversations — and, especially, don't talk about yourself or your accomplishments all night. Do show interest in others. Do be gracious and thank coworkers and team members for all their help and hard work during the past year. And don't even think about gossiping about others.

  • Do keep one hand free during the night so that you can offer handshakes to people as they come by. And do keep your drink in your left hand, so you are not offering people a cold, wet handshake all evening.

  • Don't feel you need to drink excessively just because it's an open bar. And don't pig-out at the food buffet either. Moderation is key. You can always eat and drink more after the party.

  • Do take the time to network and schmooze with people at the party who can influence your career or who you may not see regularly, such as top management, people from other departments, and employees from other locations. A holiday party is a great event to begin building or strengthening business relationships, so do introduce yourself and build your network.

  • Don't assume everyone celebrates the same holiday, so don't go overboard with the "Merry Christmas."

  • Do be sure you know exactly who is invited to the party. Spouses or significant others are not always on the guest list for office parties. And if guests are permitted, don't bring an inappropriate person as your guest.

  • Don't forget to thank the person responsible for the planning and coordinating of the party. And do consider sending a thank-you note to top management for hosting the party.

  • Do inquire about office policies on providing car or cab service for employees attending the holiday party. And do appoint a designated driver or do hire a cab yourself if the company is not willing to provide the rides home. don't drink and drive.
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Dr. Randall Hansen is Founder of Quintessential Careers, as well as publisher of its electronic newsletter, QuintZine. He writes a biweekly career advice column under the name, The Career doctor. He is also a tenured, professor of marketing in the School of Business Administration at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. He can be reached at randall@quintcareers.com. Read more about Dr. Hansen