This weekend I am attending my husband's holiday office party. By now, I have been to enough holiday parties to know there are unwritten rules. So, I know to tread carefully. I also know that office holiday parties are important -- maybe more so than most people realize. If you are thinking of skipping your holiday party, don't do it. The boss knows exactly who was there and who wasn't.
Now, let's say you do go and you decide to make the most of your company's generosity. Do so cautiously. One year, my husband's co-worker made a big pig of himself by ordering two meals -- a giant steak and a full size lobster. I guess he figured it was the company's dime, but he came across as someone who would run an expense account up just for the heck of it. Not a good impression to leave on the boss.
Holiday office parties can be landmines for embarrassing behavior, or they can be huge opportunities to impress the boss and strengthen relationships with co-workers. Here are a few tips from many years of navigating the office holiday party.
1. Eat something before you go. Take a nibble on something small but sufficient to soak up any alcohol you ingest quickly. (It's a good idea to pace yourself on the alcohol, too) I have been on the wrong side of this one so I speak from experience.
2. Dress appropriately. We all know what that means -- no sleazy outfits, no ratty shoes, no stained clothing. Ask ahead what people are wearing so you don't show up too overdressed or too casual.
3. Mingle. It's easy to hang out with the people you already know well but this is great chance to get to know co-workers from other departments or managers who might be helpful in the future. Introduce yourself so you don't spend the whole night talking to someone who has no idea of your name.
4. Make conversation with your boss' significant other. You may not realize it, but significant others have a huge influence on your manager's perception of you. Making the extra effort to converse with his or her other half can help your career. When my husband considers raises, I can't tell you how many times I have pleaded someone's case, so again, I speak from experience.
5. Arrive timely. We joke around in South Florida that people are on "Miami time" but at a holiday party arriving late deprives you of the chance to hang out early in the night when people are most talkative and drinks are just beginning to flow. Even if you don't really want to attend, showing up on time and scooting out shortly after should be enough for people to remember you were there.
6. Be receptive. If someone kisses you on the check, don't stand there like a cold fish. If someone shakes your hand, look him or her in the eye and welcome the introduction. If someone pinches your tush or hugs you too long, that's another story. Let them know right away that you find it offensive. Using humor is a good way to do that.
7. Show appreciation. Before I leave, I always say thank you to the person who planned the event, and the person who paid for it. Someone put in a great deal of effort hoping you would have a good time and someone spent money to make it happen. Even if you didn't have the best night of your life, not only is saying thank you the nice thing to do, but it also makes you stand out because most employees don't.
Monster.com has some tips as well, including some advice for the party planner.
My favorite part of the holiday party is seeing my colleagues dressed up and in a good mood. How about you -- do you love office holiday parties, or dread them?