Q. The office holiday party season is in full swing. Do you have any suggestions for how to behave at these functions? I think some of my colleagues could benefit from your wisdom.
A. Office holiday parties are a time to relax and enjoy some time with colleagues and friends, but make no mistake, the way you carry yourself can affect your career. Your superiors, your peers and your subordinates are evaluating your behavior. Many people have had their careers derailed or at least materially damaged by poor behavior at after-hours office social functions.
We don’t pretend to be as well versed in decorum as Miss Manners and we don’t want to come off as a wet blanket or the party police. However, one’s behavior at a social event can either help or hurt your business relationships. Here are a few dos and don’ts to ensure you get another invitation in 2015.
1. It’s a party not a business meeting. It is a time to converse about non-business topics. Don’t use party time to discuss anything to do with your business or business relationship with the host. It’s not the time to lobby for a promotion or a raise. Push your pet project at another time. Relax, enjoy the evening. Focus on developing relationships not advancing your position in the company.
2. Dress appropriately. Most parties that immediately follow the workday are business attire unless stated on the invitation. Don’t be the woman who wears the too-short cocktail dress or the guy with the light-up bow tie. Don’t be too casual or too formal. Shoot for middle of the road. This isn’t the time to make a statement with your wardrobe.
3. Avoid being the life of the party. You don’t want your colleagues to remember you as the person who drank too much, sang too loudly, did a break-dance in the middle of the floor or told inappropriate jokes. Tables are for eating on, not dancing on. Be a standout at work because you landed a large client, solved a tough problem, significantly reduced costs or over delivered in some unexpected way. Being a “party animal” will not aid you in climbing the corporate ladder or help you avoiding being a victim of the next round of layoffs.
4. Limit your trips to the bar. Over indulging can lead to the bad behavior discussed in number three. If you are a social drinker, fine, enjoy a couple of drinks, but stay well within your limit at business events. Obvious intoxication will not improve your career prospects, particularly if customers are at the event. The poor judgment that often accompanies drinking too much can adversely affect you for years. Above all else, do not drink too much and then get behind the wheel of a car.
5. Don’t “hit on” anyone. We understand that office romances happen. That’s a normal part of the human condition. However, the festive atmosphere of a party coupled with alcohol can cause some people to become overconfident. Save the romance for a more private situation. This is not the time or the place to try to improve your love life, particularly if either party is married to someone else. Just say no
6. Thank your host. Always find your host before leaving the event to say good night and thank you. This is common courtesy. Sending a hand-written note containing a few lines of appreciation within a few days following the event will garner you special notice.
You’ve worked hard all year, enjoy your office holiday party. Make it a relaxed and pleasant evening. However, don’t let a few moments of revelry come back to haunt you. Enjoy yourself, but remember your manners and be polite.