Monday, December 1, 2008

Santa says 'Don't get soused at the company party'

A previous company I worked for actually threw huge parties for the several hundred employees on holidays and at various other times during the year (product launches, summer celebrations). These were catered events, sometimes held at rented mansions on the Main Line. In addition to party games, DJs and catered food, there was free-flowing alcohol. At one July 4 picnic there was a BEER TRUCK. A truck with beer taps on the side. That's genius. But I digress...

Some people did take more than a nip or two. And the last Christmas party I attended at that job, one employee was dragged away in handcuffs for starting a drunken brawl out in the parking lot. Another rode away in an ambulance. I believe that might have been the last time that particular company provided alcohol for one of those shindigs. And at least one employee -- the arrested party -- was immediately fired for his drunken shenanigans.

So, the moral to the story is, if you like your job and want to keep it AFTER the Christmas party, don't do something stupid at that celebration like overindulge or drop your professional behavior. Sure, it's a party, but it's also a work function. There's a difference. And business etiquette expert and author Barbara Pachter expounds on that theory below. (I blogged about her "News@Work" book several months ago if you'd like to read more.)

9 ways to avoid disaster at the office holiday party

A saleswoman brought her dog to her manager’s holiday party at his home. The dog proceeded to do his business on the dining room rug. At another party, a young man got drunk, cursed out his boss and was fired on the spot. At another, an administrative assistant wore a very tight, revealing, short dress to her office party.

People do and say all sorts of inappropriate things at holiday parties. According to business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, “Your behavior always matters. Just because you are out of the office doesn’t mean that your behavior doesn’t count.”
Pachter, author of the book NewRules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, (Prentice Hall Press), recommends that you view the holiday party as you would any other business event. It is not the time to let it all hang out!

Here are Pachter’s 9 guidelines for holiday success:

1. MAKE SURE YOU ATTEND. Attendance at the company holiday party isn’t optional. Your absence will be noticed, and most likely, noted by your boss and other higher ups.

2. PREPARE CONVERSATION AHEAD OF TIME. Don’t just talk business. Be up-to-date on current events, happenings in your community. Read the newspaper, newsmagazines, company publications, and your professional journals.

3. STAY SOBER. Set a limit for yourself before you go to the party. It is much easier to limit your intake that way. Or, order a drink you don’t like and sip it slowly all night. A bank manager swears that he got promoted because his boss got drunk and she made such outrageous comments at the party that she was fired.

4. MINGLE. Talk to people you know and don’t know. This is an opportunity to meet new people. Don’t just stay with your group. Go up to people, say hello, introduce yourself, shake hands.

5. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY LANGUAGE. Even if the party is dull, it’s bad manners to let others see how bored you are. Don’t frown, slouch, cross arms or yawn.

6. DRESS APPROPRIATELY. It may be a party, but it’s still business. Nothing too short, too low, too tight or too anything.

7. PREPARE YOUR SPOUSE. If you’re attending the party with your spouse or significant other, prepare him or her in advance on appropriate dress and topics of conversation. Remember, his or her behavior will reflect on you. And if your spouse is supposed to attend, make sure he or she does. A CEO told his vice president that he was not advancing any further in the company unless his wife started attending company functions.

8. DON’T FORGET THAT YOUR BEHAVIOR ALWAYS MATTERS. Have a good time but…don’t make major personal revelations nor gossip. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because this is a party, you can address the company president by his or her first name.

9. SAY “THANK-YOU.” Be sure to send a thank-you note to the party’s organizer.

Barbara Pachter is a speaker, coach and author of numerous business books, including “The Power of Positive Confrontation” ($14.95, paperback, Marlowe & Co.) and “When the Little Things Count” ($13.95, paperback, Marlowe & Co.). She specializes in business etiquette and communication. Her client list features major organizations including Microsoft, Cisco, Pfizer, Chrysler, and Genentech.

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