Friday, December 5, 2014

How to Enjoy Yourself Professionally at the Annual Office Party

It’s time for the annual office holiday party.  No matter how festive the occasion however, it’s important to remember that a holiday party is an extension of the work environment. While it’s okay to relax and have fun, a professional demeanor is still important because your behavior reflects on you as an employee or as a leader. 

Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author of Poised for Success: Mastering The Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, offers these 10 tips to avoid a night of barefaced blunders:

-          Don’t make a beeline for the food and drink. It's best to eat a little something before the event so you don't come to the party hungry. Scope out the crowd first and the goodies second.  Stay away from messy or difficult-to-eat foods (anything in a red sauce or on a bone) or large hors d'oeuvres that can't be eaten in one bite.

-          Hold your glass in your left hand. Always keep your right hand free for handshaking. No one likes to shake a cold, wet hand. Avoid juggling your food and drink and don't talk with your mouth full of food. Ladies, leave your large handbag at home. It only gets in the way. Carry a wristlet instead.

-          No swinging from the chandeliers.  An open bar isn’t an open invitation to drink yourself into oblivion.  Indulging in too much alcohol could have unfavorable repercussions if you’re not careful.  To maintain your professionalism, limit your alcohol intake to one or two drinks.

-          Choose your guest carefully. The person you bring to the party can reflect either positively or negatively on you. Follow the dress code and make sure your date does too. This is not the time to wear your most revealing outfit or your favorite blue jeans and a t-shirt. Keep it festive, yet professional. 

-          Don't talk shop. Though work topics are bound to come up, this is not the time to plan your company's next advertising campaign, talk about the recent layoffs, or gossip about a co-worker's divorce. Keep the conversation light and positive. Be sure to include spouses, partners and guests in the conversation.

-          Be all there. A holiday party is a great time to get to know others on a personal level. Be engaged and don't spend a majority of the evening texting, talking on your cell phone, or posting photos on Facebook. Put people first and put your phone on silent.

-          Make an appearance.  When you make an effort to attend the office holiday party, even for just a half hour, you show interest in and support for your colleagues, organization and supervisor.  If you are unable to attend, let the host or someone in charge know that you have another obligation and will not be attending.  Simply not showing up shows a lack of respect.

-          Practice remembering names. The sweetest sound to someone's ear is his or her own name. When you meet someone new, repeat his name immediately after hearing it. Use the name a couple of times in conversation. If you can't remember someone's name, say something like, "It's been one of those days. I know you’re Paul’s wife, but please tell me your name again." Or, extend your hand and say your name. This will prompt the other person to say her name too.

-          Don't sit with your friends. Reach out and introduce yourself to people you don't know rather than sticking with only those you do know. An office party is a chance to shine and mingle with those you don't see very often. Have some conversation starters available. Most people love to talk about travel, food and hobbies. 

-          Give thanks to those who helped.  Saying thank you is not only cordial behavior, but will make you stand out from those who don’t express their gratitude.  Send a thank-you note to key persons who helped organize the event and to those who made the event possible. 

For more information and tips of business etiquette, visit Jacqueline Whitmore's websites at: and

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