Saturday, December 11, 2010

To indulge or not to indulge at the office holiday party

Office parties can be a slippery slope, especially around the holidays.

I was a guest at another business' holiday party recently. There was a bar, a band, and a lot of folks dressed up and hanging out after hours with coworkers they might not usually mingle with.

It was a beautiful thing.

I was talking with one of the firm's executives when the deejay played a popular dance song came on and a bunch of people hopped on the dance floor and started to let loose. The executive laughed and noted that this was only the beginning: At last year's party, he recalled, things got downright wild as the evening wore on.

He realized he'd stayed a shade too late when he found himself sitting at a table with some younger employees. The conversation, which may have been alcohol-fueled for some, took a turn to topics that were, well ... inappropriate for a work function, he said.

A year later, whatever was said in that conversation was obviously NOT forgotten...

So, just in time for the holidays, Barbara Pachter, author of the new book "GREET! EAT! TWEET! 52 Business Etiquette Postings To Avoid Pitfalls and Boost Your Career," (CreateSpace, 2010, $13.95) has offered some tips on how to successfully survive the office holiday party.

“The parties may be smaller, but employees need to remember that there are still lots of opportunities to make career-damaging mistakes," Pachter advised. "People say and do all sorts of inappropriate things at holiday celebrations.”

Her guidelines for office party success:

1. Remember to RSVP. Let people know that you will attend. And provide a very good reason if you cannot. The holiday party is a business activity and you will be expected to participate.

2. Don’t post negative opinions about the party on your social media sites. Tweeting that you don’t want to attend isn’t appropriate. Also, do not post on Facebook, during or after the event, photos that show or comments that describe someone’s unbecoming behavior.

3. Schmooze with people. Keep the conversation upbeat. Complaining about the company or the economy is a downer. Talk to people you know and don’t know. And remember that the person you meet at the party may turn out to be the person who interviews you for your next job.

4. Dress appropriately. It may be a party, but your attire needs to be suitable for a business event, not a nightclub.

5. Do not get drunk. To stay sober set a limit for yourself before you go to the event. Or, order a drink you don’t like and sip it slowly all night. It’s easy to do something outrageous when you’ve had too much to drink.

6. Stand tall. Poor posture tells others that you are uncomfortable or bored. Don’t slouch or cross arms. You want to appear confident.

7. Be gracious. Say “goodbye” and “thank you” to the host or party organizers. You will usually want to send a thank-you note, also.

I'll go one further: Enjoy. Not every employer sees fit to foot the bill for a holiday fete. Not to sound preachy, but if you're at a company holiday party, you are lucky to be there.

Business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter is the author of 9 books, including "The Power of Positive Confrontation" ($15.95, paperback, Marlowe & Co.) and "When the Little Things Count … And They Always Count" ($13.95, paperback, Marlowe & Co.).

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