If you want to stand out at your job, there are ways to do it in a positive light. Don’t let the office or work holiday party steer you in the wrong direction. Stick to these tips, and you’ll be sure to have a great time with co-workers and the bosses while making sure you don’t embarrass yourself.
DRESS THE PART
“Wear something festive: A colorful scarf, an interesting pin or fashionable shoes are great conversation starters,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and author of “Poised for Success.” Some experts say a flashy dress, low neckline or wacky hat may not be appropriate for an office or family gathering. But if it’s a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-style cocktail party with zany music, or your old college roommate’s glam late-night soiree, a sexy sparkling dress or a tangerine tie on a black button down shirt is just the thing.
Make sure the dress you select stays in place and can handle any moves like Jagger’s. (See the Don’ts list!)
“Something I’ve noticed over the years is that interesting people are interested,” said Julie Subotky, who owns a personal assistant business called “Consider It Done” and wrote a book by the same name. “They’re talking to the people not everyone is talking to. And those are the easy people to talk to — they’re standing by themselves looking awkward. They’re easy to find.” Have some questions in mind as conversation-starters: “How’s it going? Who do you know here? How did you get here?”
INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO EACH OTHER
‘There are always people who don’t know each other at holiday parties, and if you can help them connect with new friends, they will remember you for it,” said Meghan Keane, editorial director of B5Media, a lifestyle blog network for women.
Rachel Weingarten, who has hosted and produced celebrity and charity events, says she always has the best time when she’s working, “since I had a legitimate reason to introduce myself to everyone. I’d advise people to make themselves unofficial hosts by volunteering to help out the hosts. Help greet guests, pour drinks or pass around hors d’oeuvres, make a note of the cute or interesting people and find them again later on.”
BE A GOOD GUEST
If there’s a magic show, a Secret Santa activity, a sing-along or a game, enthusiastically join in and encourage others to join you. Do it, even if you don’t feel like doing it.
“Know when to go,” advises Jodi R.R. Smith, an etiquette consultant. “Don’t wait for a conversation to wind its way to an awkward pause or for the party to draw down to the last stragglers. As things begin to slow, wish everyone a happy holiday and either move on to the next person or the next party.”
SAY THANK YOU
This little thing might be just as important as behaving appropriately at the actual party. Be sure to thank the organizer of the party at the time. You might even send a written thank-you note a few days later.
WATCH THE BOOZE
Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away when you have an open bar at your fingertips. Just remember that rather than being at the bars on a Saturday night with friends, you’re with your co-workers and bosses, who could potentially be watching your every move. Even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system could loosen you up enough and lead you to do things you might regret.
Just because an office function is after work hours doesn’t mean it’s an invitation to dress flashy or wear a revealing outfit, says Smith. “Skirts should hit your knee, and nothing should be too tight. Absolutely no cleavage.” Avoid dresses that are too short, too revealing, too casual or excessively see-through.
Get it out of your system before the party. Check in with your peeps and tweeps before you get to the party. Burying your face in a phone will never make you the life of the party. Many experts say to put the phone completely away.
THE BOSS IS PRESENT
“It’s dicey for an employee to get the boss a gift because it may be seen as vying for favoritism,” says Diane Gottsman, a modern manners and etiquette expert. A better idea is for workers to pool their resources and purchase one item for their supervisor. If you feel especially close to your boss or have known her for years, a gift may be OK, but choose something neutral, inexpensive and not too personal.
Don’t bring up politics or religion. That’s pretty much a good rule anywhere you go socially. Jokes can be good, but be careful not to offend.
FRIENDLY, NOT FLIRTY
Whether you’re married or single, be cautious about how you act around other people’s romantic partners, cautions Marley Majcher, owner of The Party Goddess in Los Angeles. Regardless of how close you are with a work colleague, don’t be too friendly in front of his wife whom you see only once a year. “The fastest way to alienate a pal’s significant other is to be too informal with her man,” she says. That means no touching or inside jokes.
Don’t complain about how busy you are. “It’s annoying when someone whines about her hectic life during the holiday season,” says Majcher. “It implies that she thinks she’s Superwoman, and that the party is lucky to have her for 10 minutes.” Everyone has demanding schedules this time of year, so give it a rest. Avoid complaining altogether, for that matter. Party conversation should be upbeat.
DON’T STUFF YOUR FACE
“You don’t want to spend the evening with your head in the shrimp bowl,” says Gottsman. Have a snack before you arrive so you’re not famished, and go through the buffet line only once. If you absolutely must have more food, at least wait until everyone’s had a first serving. After all, you’re not there to fill up, reminds Gottsman.
MIND THE CLOCK
Don’t arrive late or skip it. Holiday work events aren’t optional, says Gottsman. Plan to mingle for 60 to 90 minutes for a cocktail affair. If it’s a sit-down dinner, you’re expected to stay through dessert. It’s rude to duck out early when the company is footing the bill. If you absolutely can’t stay and have an excellent excuse, let the hostess know when you arrive that you might need to leave early. Compensate by getting there on time, bringing a nice bottle of wine and spending time with her and her guests.