Yes, it’s that time of year again. In just a few weeks, many corporate professionals will be attending holiday parties with their coworkers. Time to kick-off your heels and celebrate another year towards retirement, right? Wrong.
Even though you are attending a “party” there is still etiquette you need to follow to ensure that your reputation and job are intact on Monday morning.
Make sure your spouse or significant other is actually invited to the event before you show up with him or her on your arm. As many companies are scaling back their celebrations due to tough economic times, some are only having parties for their employees – no guests.
If your party is at a colleague’s home, take a small gift with you for the host/hostess. A holiday bouquet or goody that can be shared at the party would be sufficient. Only take a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverage if you know your host is serving alcohol during the party.
Know the dress code for the evening…and then abide by it. Even at the office party, what you wear can affect your coworkers’ and bosses’ perception of you. Wearing clothes that are too low cut or revealing is a no-no at a business function.
If there is a meal, whether sit-down or buffet, remember your table manners. If there is more food available at the buffet, make sure every table has already had their first trip to the food line before you make a second. Always take the time to thank the wait staff and others who are serving you during the party.
While there may be alcohol served at the party, this is not the time to see how much “holiday cheer” you can consume in one evening. As you are happily mingling with others, be conscious of how much you are drinking. Too much drinking, leads to too much talking which leads to nothing good on Monday morning.
If there is mistletoe at the party, steer clear. Although this is a holiday tradition that has been around for years, stealing a kiss from the wrong person under the mistletoe can lead to an awkward situation or even worse, a possible reprimand for sexual harassment (yes, we’ve heard of this!).
Network, network, network! Very rarely is there a time where all levels of an organization are together at once and there may be many new faces to greet. Try to meet colleagues in other departments and if you have the chance to rub elbows with the CEO, simply introduce yourself, thank him/her for the party and move on. While networking is okay, cornering the CEO to give him a 5-minute version of your resume is not.
Lastly, in today’s world of social media and smart phones, you can almost bet there will be a few pictures taken during the party. If you are asked to be in a picture, smile and keep it professional. Even though some of your coworkers may be your “friends” on social media sites, you don’t want inappropriate pictures of you being fed to others throughout the company.
While the annual holiday party can be a great time to socialize with your colleagues, the bottom line is that you need to remember that an office party of any type is still about business. Don’t overindulge in alcohol, put lampshades on your head and pose for pictures, or stalk the CEO the entire evening – you don’t want to be the one with the red face at the water cooler on Monday morning.
While the holiday season is supposed to be full of “good tidings and cheer”, we all know that this is not something that comes easily to many of us. Between long lines in stores, wallets that grow empty as the season goes on, and angst over what to get the person who isn’t happy with anything, the “cheer” part of the holiday season sometimes goes by the wayside, especially in the workplace. However, there are things you can do to make the holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable for you and your coworkers. Know your staff and their holidays:
If you are a department head, you should have an awareness of what customs/traditions your employees follow during the holidays. Saying “Merry Christmas” to the Account Manager who celebrates Hanukkah can be offensive, even if you don’t mean for it to be. If you take your staff to lunch as a holiday gift, try to organize the luncheon on a day when they are all present. Some staff may take days to celebrate holidays in their own cultures/religions, rather than the customary Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dates that most companies shut down. Gifts for coworkers:
Many of us already have too many people on our shopping list during the holiday season, and adding coworkers to that list sometimes puts us over the edge. If you have a group of co-workers you feel you need to buy a little something for, suggest drawing names and doing a gift exchange. Set a strict price limit, and encourage the co-workers to give gift ideas (within the price range) to help the buyer find something appropriate for that person. If you decide to buy for someone outside of the gift exchange, make sure you set up a special time away from the workplace to exchange gifts. Or, forgo the gift giving completely and instead do a cookie exchange or potluck with your coworkers to keep the mood festive. Both options cost less and still give you the holiday social time with your coworkers. Gifts for the boss:
This is a tough one. If you are the person who has been assigned the task of organizing the gift for the boss, there are a few things to remember. First, salaries are not the same. Find a gift where everybody can chip in and not have their wallets cleaned out. Set a limit (maybe $10/person) and if people want to give more they can. Have a card at your desk ready to go so when your coworkers bring you their donation, they can sign the card before they leave. Be prepared for those who may not want to donate and don’t badger them. Finally, when you are ready to present the gift to your boss, gather everyone together and give the gift to your boss as a group. Gifts for clients:
Before you even think of giving a gift to a client, make sure you are very clear on the gift-giving/receiving policies for your company, as well as your client’s. Many companies have established strict guidelines regarding what types of “gifts” can be exchanged between customers and suppliers, buyers and sales associates, etc. While some companies have a zero-tolerance policy on receiving any type of gift, they are not opposed to business luncheons. If this is the case, take your client out for a nice lunch and express your gratitude in words instead of a gift that could get you, or them, fired.
By following some of these simple guidelines, you can make your holiday celebrations in the workplace light on the stress and heavy on the cheer!