You might think the office party is the perfect opportunity to eat, drink and be jolly… and show co-workers your Will Ferrell Elf impersonation, but you’d better think again.
With weekly layoffs, free-falling revenues and companies looking for any excuse to save money (read: not pay your salary), having a few too many Nogs, bumping your best client out of the buffet line or making a scene by screaming at a waiter, is a definite ticket to the unemployment line.
For tips on how to enjoy some corporate holiday cheer, without ending your career, I spoke with Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and director of the Protocol School of Texas.
“No matter how casual the party or festive the occasion,” she says, “it’s still about business and you are expected to represent the company. Your behavior tonight will either close or kill business deals tomorrow.”
To ensure you still have a job after the holidays, here are some things Diane recommends:
Eat before you go.
Even at a dinner party or a function where food will be served, have a small snack that will hold you over so you don’t eat like you’re on Death Row and aren’t hovering over the food stations or buffet table. Plus it’ll help absorb some of the alcohol in that drink you’re holding. Which brings us to…
Watch your liquor consumption.
Conversing with superiors or making a positive impression on a client means you have to be totally alert and quick on your feet. Even one drink can impair your ability to be your company best. Use your best judgment and limit yourself to one drink. Then switch to club soda. And yes, I realize it’s an open bar.
Work the room.
When you arrive, make sure to greet your host and mingle with other guests. Preferably guests you don’t know, did not just talk to on the cell phone on the way over and are not going to have drinks with after the event. Mingling with others makes the host feel comfortable and is the primary role of a good guest. Plus, you never know what biz contacts you can make. And don’t set up camp at the bar as soon as you arrive. This isn’t happy hour.
It may be snowing outside and the atmosphere is fun and festive, but wearing your “hilarious” holiday sweater complete with blinking reindeer nose, is not appropriate for a business function. You want to be remembered for your professionalism, not your fashion sense, or lack of it.
Make a proper introduction.
For many, a company party is the only time they may see the CEO, and it’s an important time to make your presence known. The proper introduction includes a firm handshake, good eye contact and a clear introduction of your name. And never ask a senior executive for their business card.
Don’t try and sneak out the back door.
Even if you loathe the holiday office party – and the co-workers who are attending it – and are contemplating slipping out the back door, think again. Obligatory good-byes are necessary.
Pay attention to the amount of time you spend at the party.
You don’t want to be the first to arrive, or the last to leave.
Find the host, thank him/her for inviting you and follow up with a thank you note the next day.
Make sure and thank those who coordinated the party, acknowledging their efforts and the success of the event. It is a way to set yourself apart from the colleagues who disappeared out the emergency exit thirty minutes after the party started. And could help cross you name off the list of possible layoffs next month.
Don’t bring your buddies or kids unless the invitation specifically states they are invited.
If it doesn’t mention children or other guests, it is bad form to call and ask if they can attend. The answer should be a resounding NO! If an exception is made for one guest, it must be made for all guests. Besides, bringing your frat bros in town for the holiday and looking for free drinks, is a risk you don’t want to take.
And finally, no matter how much you want to go to another party across town, missing the office party would be detrimental to your future success.
Don’t even consider not going unless you are scheduled for major surgery. Put on your best suit, and plaster on a smile. Just like you do for your relatives.