10 Rules of Office Party Etiquette

You wouldn’t think something as simple in concept as an office holiday party would be so vexing to so many. You come, you eat, you have a drink, you make some jokes, and you go home with a nice warm feeling in your tummy. But let’s be honest: an office party is stuck in a weird no man’s land between work and play. You’re there to loosen up and enjoy yourself, but not so much that you have to be ashamed of yourself or fearful of your future when that next normal Monday rolls around. So how exactly do you do that? Here are some basic tips to arm yourself with this year and every year.

1) Show up– You don’t have to commit to staying for the whole party, but not showing up at all may send the signal that you don’t want to be around your coworkers outside of work. During the holidays, most of us have multiple commitments and family gatherings to attend to, so think of your work holiday party as an extension of a family affair. It may not be the place you most want to be at that moment, and your family may sometimes drive your crazy, but the holidays are a time to be generous with your time and your spirit. So show up, spread some love and cheer, and you’ve done your job.

2) Dress appropriately– The organizers of the party may have the same expectations for you as a regular work day, in which case you’re in the clear. But chances are you’ll be expected to spruce up a little for the holiday party – maybe a sweater and slacks instead of jeans and a t-shirt. Just think of it as a chance to strut your stuff a little around your work friends. That chic trench coat may be a bit ostentatious for a regular workday, but for the holidays you’re allowed to display your feathering a little more openly, so don’t miss the chance to let your coworkers see a more stylish side of you.

3) Use it as an opportunity to network within your company– Don’t just park yourself next to your usual work group. The party is your chance to mingle with coworkers you don’t often have a chance or a cause to talk to, and that kind of thing can lead to new pathways of opportunity opening up at the office. Or “just” make some new work friends, which is nice, too.

4) Get some face time with the boss– Chances are your boss will be in a good mood at the holiday party, and he’s probably hoping he’ll get a chance to talk to you a little bit without the pressure of work and your respective roles interfering with the conversation. Now is the time to discover if you have a favorite sports team or book in common. Don’t think of it as a chance for Machiavellian maneuvering, but rather as an opportunity to get to know your boss better as a person.

5) No shop talk– Don’t be that person who shows up at the party yammering about work and ruining everyone’s mood. The holiday party is a rarified atmosphere where you get to spend time without your coworkers without the burdens of a regular workday. It’s a strange balance, and work will almost certainly come up a few times, but all that can wait. Let a little goofiness in and crack some jokes instead of talking numbers, just this once.

6) Careful when bringing a date– Here’s where it gets a little tricky. If the organizers are encouraging you to bring someone to the party, you just want to make sure its someone who understands that this is a work function – no matter how laid back – and not the place to get too wild or personal. You don’t to have to keep an eye on someone the whole time, so make sure whoever you bring knows what to expect.

7) Don’t drink too much– Loosen up but don’t go crazy. You don’t want to say anything you’ll regret, and you also don’t want to seem like you’re being greedy on the company’s dime.

8) Thank the organizers– No matter when you do end up leaving, always remember to thank whoever put the party on for you. This is just normal manners and does not apply only to work-related situations, but it’s doubly important for the latter.

9) What happens at the party stays at the party– Despite all the warnings, inevitably someone will make something of a fool of themselves at the holiday party. So give that poor soul a break and forgive and forget the best you can.

10) Don’t be the first to arrive or the last to leave– Again, you don’t wanna be that person. Otherwise, enjoy yourself. That’s what a holiday party is for.

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