Published December 06, 2011
With the holiday season in full swing, many companies will be showing appreciation for their employees with a party, but it's easy to overstep boundaries and present yourself in an unflattering light at these gatherings that may lead to missed promotions and fodder for office gossip.
The invite may say "party," but that doesn’t mean you should go wild and relive your college days, especially with upper-level managers present. Employees should enjoy the party, but use it as a networking opportunity to put your best foot forward in front of the bosses.
So, before you hit the dance floor with your manager, or drink too much punch, here are some expert tips for what employees should and should not do at this year's holiday office party:
DON'T: Skip the party. Business etiquette expert Patricia Rossi says to consider the office party an extension of the business day.
"You want to make sure you are there and at your very best," she says.
Anna Post, co-author of the 18th Edition of Emily Post's Etiquette, says even if you don’t like your colleagues or bosses, you still need to show up.
"Just because they are jerks doesn't mean you get to be one," Post says. "It's one night out of the whole year.
DO: Decide if you will drink ahead of time. If you decide to have alcoholic beverages at the party, take cues from the high-ups and be sure to limit yourself, says Dr. Gregg Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources.
"A lot of times people don't realize they are being judged and monitored in some instances at a party," he says.
DO: Dress appropriately. Rossi suggests finding out the dress code for the party and following it.
"Dress in a conservative manner. It's not Halloween or the day to break out the thigh-high disco boots."
Jantz stresses maintaining a sense of professionalism in your wardrobe. If in doubt, follow the golden rule of erring on the side of more formal, rather than showing up under dressed.
DON'T: Over consume…anything. Whether its food, alcohol or people, make sure you are enjoying every aspect of the party in moderation. While it may be fun to kick back with your office buddies, don’t monopolize them, the buffet table or the bar.
"Be aware of appropriate boundaries," Jantz says. "Don't try to just hang out with management because you want to impress them."
Rossi suggests having a goal of having three people you want to connect with at the party. It’s important to be perceived as outgoing and social; use the party as an opportunity to shine among your colleagues.
"Move about the cabin and remember that no matter where you go or what you do, you are representing your company," she says. "You don't want to be seen as grazing the buffet line or bar."
DO: Make proper intros. If you are bringing a date or spouse to the holiday party, be sure you are properly introducing him or her to your bosses and colleagues, Jantz recommends.
"Be prepared ahead of time about how you will make these introductions," he says. "Have the elevator speech prepared. Keep it brief and be consistent. It's also a great time to put in a positive plug for your manager or supervisor."
DON'T: Talk gossip, politics or religion. No matter who you are talking to at the party, keep conversation light. Staying away from hot-button issues is a must, Jantz stresses, and be sure to steer clear of office gossip.
"Do not talk about personal issues. Be very alert as to what you are saying," he says.
DO: Put away your phone. A holiday party gathering is the perfect opportunity to get some face time with prospective clients and higher-ups, and the last thing you want to do is be tied up on your phone. Post says employees should consider leaving their phones off or at home for the event.
"Make the people your priority," Post says. "You don't want to look distracted. Make sure you are actually taking advantage of that face time."
DO: Say thank you. Rossi says one way to make a good impression is to seek out the party planner and thank him or her. If you want to go one step further, send a thank-you note afterward.
"The planner usually gets overlooked. This will help you really shine and be remembered as a courteous person."
DON'T: Give the boss a gift. Post says it is not appropriate to give your boss an individual gift. The only time gifting a higher-up would be acceptable is when the team chips in to give a collective one.
"Giving a gift from employee to boss.. there's no way to not look like you are kissing up.”