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The Office Party:
10 Tips to Have Fun While Maintaining Your Professionalism!

By Edward Leigh, MA

Office parties happen all year, but we are soon entering the holiday season and these workplace celebrations become a big event! There are certain rules to follow; otherwise your dream party could become a nightmare!

Office parties can be a bit a tricky in that people are accustomed to working together, but not necessarily socializing together. This situation could create many awkward moments, but that does not have to be the case.

Even if you don't feel like attending, go anyway! Not making an effort to attend could damage your reputation with co-workers. You need to remain at the event for at least an hour or you will give the impression that your appearance was merely obligatory. If you have a justifiable scheduling conflict and cannot attend, be sure to explain to co-workers that you would have joined them, but are unable to because of a pressing commitment.

Always remember this is a business function. Although office parties are intended as social events to reward employees and raise morale, they still are work-related events. Conduct yourself professionally at all times. It's still a company event, so the protocol of proper etiquette and decorum apply. The rules of "boys night out" or "bachelorette parties" do not apply in this setting!

Ask about proper attire. Is it formal or casual? By the way, casual does not mean ripped up jeans and a tank top! Is there a theme in which a certain type of attire is requested, such as a Halloween party? The party is still a business function; so conservative party clothes are a good choice. Having said this, skip revealing or overly flashy clothes.

Do not spend time taking about work-related activities. This is a time to socialize and have fun. You'll have plenty time to talk business at the office. If you plan ahead with some good open-ended questions, the conversations will flow freely. Ask questions, such as, "Tell me about..."

Keep all conversations upbeat and pleasant. This is not a time for complaining, bragging, correcting, whining, or ridiculing. Also, avoid controversial subjects (such as religion, politics, etc.) and tasteless jokes.

When it comes to food, moderation is the key. Just because it is a buffet does not mean to over do it. I have been to parties where people went right to the food and acted like they hadn't eaten in a week! The event is not about the food, it is about camaraderie.

If you plan to consume beverages containing alcohol, the same rules apply as with food, moderation is critical. Alcohol and business rarely mix well so limit how much you drink. This is an opportunity to build business relationships; too much to drink could permanently damage your reputation. You will want to keep your wits about you because your after-hours conduct will have a direct bearing on your business future. When drinking any cold beverage, use your left hand so you are free to shake hands with your right hand. This also avoids greeting a person with your wet and cold hand.

Don't spend all your time with people you already know well. This is a time to talk to people from other departments that you rarely see. Also, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet your co-worker's spouses and significant others. Try to talk to as many people as possible. Make everyone feel welcome!

Ask about guest policies. It would be very embarrassing to bring a spouse or significant other, when that wasn't part of the protocol.

Do not stay too long at the party. Even if you are having a great time, still try to leave 15- 30 minutes before the scheduled end time; otherwise, as business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey puts it, "You just might find yourself on the cleaning crew."

Be sure to thank the person / people who planned and coordinated the party.

The holiday party is not the time to get "wild and crazy." What you say and do at this office party will live on for a long time in the minds of your co-workers. If your behavior is inappropriate, this may be your last office party with this organization. If you conduct yourself with charm and confidence, your solid reputation will be strengthened.

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