Many of us will be attending an office Holiday party over the next few weeks. This could be at your own place of work, an event for the workplace of your spouse, or a get-together given by one of your clients. These events can be great ways to network and showcase your talents but they can also be riddled with opportunities for missteps. Here are some tips to help you navigate any workplace gathering:

  1. Go. Simple enough. A lot of times workplace events are not mandatory the way a meeting would be. It may be easy to decline the invitation because you would rather do anything than hang out with people at work in your “spare time.” But people are watching. If you don’t have an actual conflict on that date that you can’t move, accept the invitation and attend the event.
  2. Beware of Festive attire. Much like casual Friday, it can be tempting to go all out for a Holiday party. It’s a party after all. And it’s the Holidays. Anything goes right? Not so. If your outfit would work at the Club it is probably not appropriate for the workplace party. Definitely mind the dress code and also note the venue. It may be fun to wear reindeer ears and an ugly sweater to a party at your workplace but that may not go over so well at a Country Club (or for those in Philly somewhere like the Union League).
  3. The alcohol is not really free. An open bar means you should drink enough to compensate for that bonus you didn’t get right? Not really. If you drink too much at your office Holiday party you may act inappropriately or say things you shouldn’t. This could impact your future at your workplace or your relationship with an important client long term. Have one glass of wine or another beverage and leave it at that. And no shots!
  4. Seize the day. Prepare for the event. Note who will be there. Use the time to talk to a higher up, people in other departments, or just to get to know others. In some companies it is not easy to get in front of certain people so here is your chance. Research points of commonality. Have some talking points about the projects you are working on. And obviously avoid controversial topics such as religion or politics. Finally, avoid spreading office gossip at the Holiday party.
  5. Don’t be a Business Bore. While it is a good idea to have some talking points if asked about what you are working on or to showcase a project, this is a rare opportunity to get to know people on a personal level so don’t miss out by “talking shop” the whole time. That is NOT the way to build relationships with others.

Please feel free to comment with questions about your own holiday workplace/networking events. Or maybe share a story of something that happened at an office holiday party (good or bad)?

Caveat: I “met” my husband at an office holiday party. We had worked together for almost a year but it was not until the office Holiday party I really started to get to know him and look at him differently and see him as not so “buttoned-up.” I know certain workplaces have rules about dating in the workplace (it was permissible at ours as long as we were at the same level i.e. not a boss/employee situation) and I am not saying it is the best idea but in the interest of being genuine and honest, that is my story. I was much younger. . . .