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10 Things You Need to Know Before Your Office Holiday Party

It’s the time of year to learn about office holiday party etiquette. Whenever you hear the words “office holiday party”, you probably immediately think of a whole list of things you need to “Google” on the internet.

What do you wear to an office holiday party? Can you eat at an office holiday party? And, what time should you arrive to your office holiday party?

Do these questions sound familiar?

Today I’m going to share with you the 10 Things You Need to Know Before Your Office Holiday Party.

1. It’s Still a Business Event

That means you need to maintain the same level of professionalism you would in a regular work day. I know it’s the end of the year. I know you want to de-stress and let out all of that pressure that’s been building up throughout the year.

But don’t forget, your boss is at that party, and your coworkers are at that party. If you let loose too much, you could ruin your professional reputation in an instant.

Imagine, everything that you’ve spent years building, gone in one night because of one drink too many or one tactless comment. Treat your office holiday party like you would any other networking event.

2. You Really Should Attend

Just like networking events, quite often professionals dread going to their end-of-year festive party. But if you want to move up that corporate ladder, you absolutely need to go.

Office holiday parties are a fantastic opportunity for people in the office to get to know you better, and for you to get to know your colleagues better.

Quite often we only communicate with people in the office via e-mail, so an end-of-year party adds a nice human element to your work relationship.

3. Wear Clothes That Are Festive But Appropriate

Even though it’s a party, it’s still a professional function where your colleagues and boss will be present. Don’t hinder your professional reputation and career advancement by wearing clothing that is too casual or too revealing.

Basically, the outfit you wear for your office holiday party should be something you would be comfortable wearing to work, with maybe a little more colour, formality and festivity.

4. Know Your Own Limit for Alcohol

Consuming too much alcohol at a work function immediately brings into question your integrity, responsibility and authority.

Much of the advice I give my readers in these posts is about how to establish confidence and power in the workplace.

All that effort you’ve put into your outfit, your body language, and your voice can quickly be erased by one too many drinks at the end-of-year party.

My rule of thumb is: 1-2 alcoholic beverages, and never drink on an empty stomach.

5. How to Eat, Drink and Talk at the Same Time

Basically, you can’t. It’s not possible to eat, and drink and talk all at the same time, if you want to look professional. Your office holiday party is just like a networking event.

You’re there to mingle and to get to know your coworkers on a more casual basis, so eating and drinking should take second place.

Talking and socialising should be your priority. And never arrive at your office holiday party hungry. If you’re hungry, all you’ll be thinking about is making a bee line for the buffet table.

I always tell my clients, eat before you go.

6. Arrive Early, But Don’t Be the Last to Leave

Arriving early at your office holiday party will give you a chance to talk to somebody whom you’ve never spoken to before.

You never know who can be the decision maker for your next promotion, so it’s always prudent to get to know as many people in your office as possible.

But when it comes to the end of the party, don’t be the last to leave. Again, it’s all about protecting your professional reputation and not being labelled as the office “party animal”.

7. Talk to Someone You’ve Never Met

Another advantage of arriving at the party early is that it’s much easier to strike up a conversation with somebody you’ve never met before.

You see, when you arrive late to a party or a networking event, it can be quite daunting to walk into a crowded room where groups have already been formed.

You don’t know who to speak to so you immediately look for somebody you already know.

But sometimes it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and have new conversations, meet new people and put yourself into new situations.

You never know who you could meet, or what new job openings you could learn about.

8. You Can Bring a Spouse, If They’re Invited

Generally, office holiday parties are for employees only. But in some companies, they may open up the invitation to include a spouse or partner.

If your invitation says that you can bring your spouse or partner, then feel free to include them.

But if it doesn’t specifically state that your spouse or partner are invited, then chances are it’s an employee-only party and it’s best if you attend alone.

9. Don’t Talk About Business

This is your chance to get to know your coworkers on a more casual basis. Conversations about next week’s meeting or the report you filed last week are not suitable topics for an office holiday party.

Instead, ask what the other person is doing for the holidays. Or ask: if you could go anywhere or do anything during your December holiday, where would you go or what would you do?

10. Be Very Selective About the Photos You Post on Social Media

Not everybody has a social media profile. And not everybody wants to find out that a picture of him or her has been posted on somebody else’s Facebook profile for all of their friends to see.

If you’re going to take photos of your colleagues at the end-of-year party and you’d like to post them on Facebook or another social media platform, simply ask, “I’d like to post these photos on Facebook, do you mind?”.

That is enough to let the other person know what you intend to do and to see if they have an issue with it.

In a professional and social setting, it’s important to respect the privacy of others. We all have different preferences.

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox