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Follow these rules of behavior and etiquette at the office party

Lydia Ramsey International business etiquette expert, professional speaker and author Manners That Sell

One thing you can count in the modern workplace is the obligatory office party. It may be the summer picnic or the Christmas/Hanukkah holiday celebration. Regardless of the size of the organization, there is always an effort at some time during the year to bring employees together for a good time. Some people look forward to the chance to mix and mingle outside the confines of business and others would rather give up the annual bonus than have to spend precious personal time with the gang from work.

No matter which side of the issue you fall on, there are certain rules of behavior and etiquette to follow at the office party if you want to have an office to go to when the party is over. When the invitation arrives for the company party, make sure your business etiquette skills are as sharp as your on-the-job expertise.


Do attend the party

Failure to show up is not an option unless you have a superbly justifiable conflict. The office party is part of your job. Its purpose is to bring together coworkers and colleagues for a bit of camaraderie and some well-deserved recognition. If this is not your idea of a great time, then just consider it work, put on your best attitude and go.

Do find out who else has been invited

If you assume that it is just your department or your work team, you may not be prepared to interact with everyone else. Any sort of mixing and mingling event requires advance preparation. Knowing who will be there and what you will talk about to each one is critical to making this a successful venture.

Do plan what you will talk about no matter whom you encounter

Have three topics that you can discuss with just about anybody. Of course, you will want to avoid anything controversial so check the latest news for current polite topics. And keep in mind that It’s not what you have to say; it’s about what other people have to say. The trick is allowing others to talk. If you plan ahead with some safe subjects and use good open-ended questions, you won’t have any trouble The less you say and the more you listen, the higher you will rank as a conversationalist.

Do pay attention to whom the invitation is addressed

If it is addressed to you and your spouse, he or she is expected to accompany you. If the invitation reads “and family,” take the kids. Otherwise leave them at home with the babysitter. If you are single and the invitation comes in your name with the words “and guest” ’added, by all means take a friend or significant other. When your name is the only one mentioned, you and only you should show up.

Do stay at least an hour

The office party is no time for a cameo appearance. Assuming there is not a cast of thousands, stay long enough to speak to everyone there. With a large crowd, interact with as many people as possible, especially the key people like your boss. Dashing away in less than an hour is a clear indication that you didn’t want to come to begin with. If you have to leave early, make sure that your boss or host understands that you have another obligation and express your regrets.


Do not arrive too early, but be on time

A late arrival could send a message that you really didn’t want to come at all. On the other hand if you show up before the time indicated, you run the risk of getting in the way of the host’s last minute preparations. Sit in your car or walk around the block if you have minutes to spare. Never ever walk in more than five minutes ahead of schedule.

Do not overstay your welcome

Even if you are having the time of your life, check your watch. Leave before the party time has elapsed. If your invitation was from 5-7, don’t stay one minute past 7 o’clock. You don’t want to be thought of as part of the clean-up crew unless that is the job you want when you get to work the next day.

Do not wear inappropriate attire

Remember that this is the office party, and keep your guard up when deciding how to dress. Whether this is a summer picnic or a cocktail reception, it is still business. If you aren’t certain what to wear, check directly with your host or with coworkers whose taste and judgment you trust. Make sure that what you wear reflects well on you professionally. This is not the time to show up in your most revealing outfit or to display that great new body you earned by working out all year.

Do not spend your time grazing at the refreshment table or loading your plate in the buffet line

No matter how good the food is, you are not there to set the world record for consumption. Neither your boss or coworkers will be impressed with how much you can get down. If the event is a lunch or dinner buffet, keep in mind that you are not the only diner. Be considerate about how much you put on your plate. The food supply may have its limits and so should you. Eat something before you go. In doing so you are guaranteed not to leave hungry. And even if you do, there is always a McDonald’s or Burger King on the way home.

Do not overindulge when it comes to alcohol

If ever there is a time to drink in moderation, it is at the office party, regardless of the type or the time of the event. If your boss offers everyone free taxi rides home, the message is not that you can drink to your heart’s content. The idea behind that is to limit company liability. Alcohol and business rarely mix well.. This is an opportunity to build business relationships and to promote yourself. You will want to keep your wits about you since your after-hours conduct will have a direct bearing on your business future.

Jumping cartoon

The office party is not the time to let down your hair or throw caution to the wind. What you do and say at the event could live on for a long time in the minds of your associates. If your behavior is inappropriate, your career may be shorter than everyone else’s memory. If you conduct yourself with charm and savvy and like the polished professional you are, your rise up the ladder of success could pick up speed.

More expert advice about Managing Your Career as an Employee

Photo Credits: andres/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Lydia RamseyInternational business etiquette expert, professional speaker and author

I founded Manners That Sell 15 years ago after working in the healthcare industry, the non-profit community, the retail sector and hospitality world. In all of those arenas as well as in daily life, I recognized the need for people to hone their...

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