7 Tips for Proper Office Holiday Party Etiquette

Sailors assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and their guests dance at the command’s “Winter Wonderland”-themed holiday party.
Sailors assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and their guests dance at the command’s “Winter Wonderland”-themed holiday party at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Virginia, Dec. 3, 2018. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew R. Fairchild/U.S. Navy photo)

Your company's holiday gathering is just around the corner -- time to let loose and party with your co-workers after a long year, right? Wrong.

According to Hilka Klinkenberg, founder of Etiquette International, a firm specializing in business etiquette, the cardinal rule is to remember that no matter how festive the occasion, it's still about business. Don't fall off the fast track to success or risk damaging your professional reputation in one night of inadvertent blunders. Klinkenberg offers the following advice to ensure a smooth, enjoyable evening.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry -- in Moderation.

Where else but the office party can you find the CEO and the mailroom clerk bellied up to the bar together? Beware of the spiked eggnog, though. Alcohol plus you and your boss can equal Monday morning's "I can't believe I said that." If you drink, do so minimally.

Dress Appropriately for the Occasion.

Klinkenberg says this rule especially applies to women who sometimes use company parties to strut their stuff. Leave anything short, tight or revealing in the closet. You've worked hard to create a professional image, and revealing clothes can alter your co-workers' and manager's perception of you as a competent professional.

Your Company Party May Be the Only Time You See the President, CEO or VPs in Person.

Introduce yourself. This is a great opportunity to become visible to your organization's higher-ups. At the very least, don't spend the entire evening with your regular office buddies. Get in the holiday spirit and mingle with people from other departments.

Find Out Who Can Come to the Event.

Spouses and significant others are not always on the guest list. Check beforehand to avoid a potentially uncomfortable evening.

Toast Appropriately.

If you've been a star performer in your organization this year, you may be honored with a toast. Accept the honor gracefully, but don't drink to yourself or clap when others are applauding you. Also, make a toast to the person who toasted you, thanking him for the recognition.

Pay Attention to the Time You Arrive and When You Leave.

Even if you don't really want to attend, avoid arriving 20 minutes before the end just to make an appearance. On the flip side, don't party into the wee hours, either. Co-workers and managers will notice both errors in judgment.

Be Sure to Thank Those Who Coordinated the Party.

They likely put in a great deal of effort, hoping you would have a good time. Not only is saying thank you the nice thing to do, but it also makes you stand out from the many employees who don't.

If you're in charge of planning the party, a few reminders:

  • Consider your employees' diversity. A Christmas party may alienate some staff. Promoting a holiday party is more inclusive.
  • Is a daytime or evening party more convenient for attendees? For employees with children, arranging child care for an evening event may be an issue. If you plan a party during office hours, however, make sure everyone can attend.
  • Clearly convey to employees who is invited to the party. If spouses or children are not included, make that clear.
  • Plan an event that reflects well on the company. Choose an appropriate location, control the alcohol flow and take your employees' interests into consideration.

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