It’s that time of year! You’ve stayed late, worked hard and delivered results, and now it’s time to celebrate the year end with your colleagues. But as much fun as it is to let loose, the office holiday party really isn’t the place for it and sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line, so here are my dos and don’ts to help you successfully navigate the holiday office party this year.
Dress for a Party
Call me old-fashioned, but the holiday office party is an opportunity to step up your fashion game. For a man wearing a suit, enhance your look with a festive pocket square, a great tie and cufflinks. For women, add statement accessories and some great heels, ideally in a powerful colour or a more flattering cut than your everyday workwear. Avoid wearing ensembles that are too tight, too short, or too “holiday” (i.e. excessive sequins or themed outfits, unless you are having an ugly holiday sweater party).
Be on Time
This is a professional event, not your friend’s drop-in holiday potluck, and that means that you have to respect the event time as you would any other office meeting. Often office parties also have an agenda of sorts and include a brief toast or comments from your boss or an executive from the firm, and the last thing you want to do is to walk in late during their remarks. Also, remember that some brave person in your office has gone to great trouble to organize this event, so be sure to RSVP — and if you have RSVPed, make sure to attend, because no-shows are never popular.
One of the most challenging things for many of us to remember is other people’s names, and this can be even harder in the workplace when we often communicate by email and don’t get a chance to connect the face with the person. Use this is an opportunity to make those connections and to make them count. A great tip is when you meet someone and they say their name, try to use their name at least three times in the next few minutes (e.g. “It’s nice to see you again, Lisa.” or “What are your plans for the holidays, Lisa?”).
Get Drunk (or drink very much at all)
Drinking and business rarely mix, so I would advise no more than two drinks over the course of the party. This is because this party is still really part of your regular workday. You’ll also have great opportunities to talk about your capabilities and skills, and the last thing you want to be is drunk trying to talk about your social media marketing skills. A tip here is that if you are not drinking, you should still have a drink in your hand while you’re chatting, I like a cranberry and club soda with lime, which has a cocktail-like appearance so that people focus on you rather than ask about why you’re not drinking.
As tempting as it is to chat about the latest office news, it’s important to remember that this isn’t high school — and you probably shouldn’t have gossiped then, either! This is a professional environment and part of that professionalism is understanding that office gossip is not appropriate, and can even have legal repercussions. When in doubt, there is always the old adage, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”
Yes, this is a work event, but the purpose is to connect socially and that is much harder to do if you spend the entire evening talking about key performance indicators and sales targets. It’s completely appropriate to have a short dialogue about a common department or a project, but after that it’s time to move on to getting to know each other better as people. Great topics to discuss are holiday plans or upcoming trips in the New Year.
Remember, although the office holiday is still really work, it is an important time to connect with colleagues and celebrate a great year and a job well done!