How to Handle Office Parties

When the working day is done, girls – they want to have fun, oh girls just want to have fun.

These seemingly innocent words from Cyndi Lauper’s popular song could leave to a world of trouble and irreparable damage if you don’t understand that “the working day is not done” at the office holiday party. Even if this event is held after business hours, or at another location, it’s still a company event and you should be on your best behavior.

Your idea of a party may include dressing provocatively, doing shots, and dancing on table tops, or with lampshades on your head – but this is not your party, and it’s not a gathering of friends and family members who love you dearly and would probably laugh at or overlook your alcohol-induced actions.

No, this is your employer’s party, and like it or not, you need to maintain a level of professionalism. Think we’re exaggerating? During last year’s holiday season, NPR conducted a survey in which they asked respondents to reveal the most embarrassing things they’ve seen or done at an office holiday party:

  • “I fell into the band’s loudspeaker during an emotional, yet crowd-pleasing version of Frosty the Snowman.”
  • “When my husband and I were still dating, one of his co-workers kept hitting on me the whole night at their Christmas party; it was cute at first, but the more he drank, the more advanced it got. I think he forgot it wasn’t a frat party and we weren’t in college anymore.”
  • “I had three co-workers who lost their jobs due to behavior at an office holiday party. Let’s just say they were discovered in a restroom, and they weren’t resting.”
  • “One time I had a little too much and knocked over the Christmas tree. I’ll never live that one down!”
  • “It was open bar. I got so drunk that I smoked half a pack of my friend’s cigarettes (I don’t smoke). I also confessed to my best friend/co-worker that I was in love with him.”
  • “A fellow co-worker brought eggnog that contained whiskey, Scotch, as well as bourbon. It was delicious and the booze was almost undetectable. Everyone became incredibly sloshed. As the night progressed, someone made a makeshift slip-and-slide in the warehouse that was quite fun until the IT guy broke his collarbone going face first and 911 was called.”

While these examples may be humorous, you want to stand out for being an exemplary worker – not for being the woman who brought the party to a screeching halt with your party antics.

HER Magazine spoke with two knowledgeable women in this area, a business owner and an etiquette expert, to discover how to handle holiday office parties.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

Juli Smith, president of The Smith Consulting Group in Jackson, MI, warns readers, “The office holiday party is not the time to let your hair down all the way and show your wild side.” And now that everyone is a citizen reporter armed with a smartphone camera, good luck with the “No, that wasn’t me,” or “I didn’t do that,” defense.

SOCIAL SKILLS ON DISPLAY

One of the major functions of the party is to provide a place for people to socialize. According to Sharon Schweitzer, etiquette expert and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, “When you arrive at the party, be sure to greet, thank and shake hands with your hosts and the party planners. If it is a company or partnership owned by more than one individual, be sure to thank all of them!” However, don’t monopolize their time. “Chat briefly and compliment an aspect of the party that you sincerely enjoyed, such as the catering, music, or décor, and then move on to mingle with other people at the party,” Schweitzer explains.

DON’T DISPLAY YOUR WARES

It’s important to carefully observe the attire listed on the invitation. Yes, we know you purchased a sexy dress that you’re just dying to wear, but Schweitzer says this is not the time to “strut your stuff.” She advises women to resist the temptation to choose short, tight, revealing outfits, over-the-knee boots, etc. “Creating a professional image is hard work; don’t undermine it in one evening,” Schweitzer says.

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THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK

Most of the truly cringe-worthy behaviors that occur at a holiday office party are a result of drinking too much. Smith says it’s fine to drink but you need to keep it in moderation. “Pace yourself by alternating an alcoholic drink with a soda or a glass of water.” She also warns against consuming alcohol on an empty stomach.

In addition, you need to maintain a professional demeanor at all time. “Don’t let it turn into a frat party atmosphere by pressuring others to drink or by allowing yourself to do tequila shots if you really aren’t a drinker,” advises Smith.

BUFFET-BINGEING IS A BAD IDEA

I know we just told you to eat before drinking, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should chow down like you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Before you come to the party, Schweitzer recommends eating a small portion of some food item that contains protein. “You were not invited because the hosts thought you were hungry, so be considerate of others.” Schweitzer also provides a few bullet points:

  • Keep your hands clean
  • Avoid a mouthful of hors d’oeuvres
  • Avoid walking around with a full plate
  • Do not double dip or eat over the chafing dish
  • Properly discard of toothpicks, napkins, and plates
  • Carry your refreshment in your left hand
  • Leave your right hand free for handshaking

DON’T CLAP FOR YOURSELF

While this may not happen at every office party, Schweitzer says the company’s president may offer a toast. “When the toast is for a colleague, raise your glass at the conclusion of the toast, when the host raises their glass.”

However, she warns, “Do not touch your glass with everyone else; it is unnecessary and distracting. Pause afterward and watch because the recipient will most likely reciprocate with a toast.”

If you’ve been one of the company’s superstars, Schweitzer says there may be a toast in your honor. “Stand and accept it gracefully, but refrain from drinking to a toast offered in your honor since this is akin to clapping for yourself.” However, she says you should then raise your glass to toast the person who toasted you to thank them for acknowledging you.

 

 

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