It’s Time to (Office) Party!
By Stayce Wagner, Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC
It is office holiday party season. Finally, an opportunity to throw off those boring work clothes, forget about those pesky business etiquette rules and let the real you out!
Just kidding. (And if you didn’t catch the joke…I highly recommend that you continue reading.)
Seriously, have a great time – mingle, laugh and if you please, even imbibe a little, but never forget, you are at work. Even if the boss takes everyone on a trip to Hawaii or rents Malfoy Manor, you are still at work. Repeat after me: The office holiday party is a work function. The office holiday party is a work function. The office holiday party is a work function.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. I simply want you to avoid becoming one of the stories circulating at the water cooler on Monday morning – or worse, losing out on a hard-worked-for promotion. So remember…
1. Clothes make the woman (or man).
The firm holiday party is not the place to express your fashion individuality. Nor is it is your Red Carpet moment to be daring. Ladies, this means no plunging necklines, bare backs, skyscraper heels or daringly high hemlines. Think glam, not Pam (as in Anderson). (Not to disparage Ms. Anderson, but I think she would agree that her look doesn’t resonate as the go-to office party look.) Guys, wear a nice jacket and a nice pair of freshly pressed slacks, minimum. And if the event is formal, wear a tie, please!
Bottom line: you want your boss and your colleagues to think, “she/he looks great,” not “what is she/he wearing?”
2. Proceed to the bar with caution.
Yes, some of your colleagues will get drunk at the event. Don’t let that be your cue to follow suit. It isn’t worth the risk to your reputation or your career. If you are a lightweight, stick to soft drinks and water. If someone asks why you are not drinking alcohol, just say that you are a designated driver for the evening.
Bottom line: enjoy alcohol with great moderation. You don’t want to be caught crossed-eyed, slurring words or staggering to the open bar.
3. Be entertained, not the entertainment.
I regularly warn against participating in karaoke, the most horrifying of office party add-ons (whose idea was this?). But if you just have to take to the stage, limit yourself to one song (a group effort is always a safe bet) and make sure the lyrics are office and event appropriate. Leave the sexy or expletive-laced songs for a night of fun with friends.
Bottom line: even if you really can sing, your colleagues didn’t come to the holiday party to be serenaded by you and as you launch into song number three, I all but guarantee that they will begin to wonder what is wrong with you.
4. Play, don’t work.
Circulate and socialize with colleagues and higher-ups with whom you don’t work on a daily basis. Of course, be aware of your firm’s culture. (I once worked at a law firm that held separate holiday events for the attorneys and the staff. Morale at the firm was, not surprisingly, very low.) Avoid using the holiday party as a forum to pitch your new ideas to your boss – she may really want to enjoy the festivities, so why risk annoying her?
Bottom line: have fun, but adhere to your firm’s rules of protocol and of course, follow the rules of appropriate work conversation: avoid politics, sex, religion and health issues.
5. Mingle, don’t commingle.
The office holiday party really isn’t the time to make your move on the cute guy or girl you’ve been crushing on all year. While you both may be consenting and available adults, remember two things: (1) that even the tiniest bit of alcohol can impair judgment, and (2) it could be the excitement of the event, not the person, that is urging you to take action.
Bottom line: regret is a powerful emotion. And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all that I have to say about that.”