Effortless Etiquette to Get You Through Your Office Holiday Party

Etiquette is a must-add to your business skills portfolio, especially at office holiday party time.  If you feel a bit stressed by your less-than-formal comportment, take heart.  With a few tips, you can shine at your company gala without becoming tomorrow’s water-cooler entertainment!

Job One:  Attend!  

Yes, many corporate functions can be tedious, but there are upsides to appearing.  First, read the invitation and note if it includes a “plus-one,” which means date optional.  Always RSVP!   Do not arrive early at the event but plan to be present if your boss addresses the staff.   Even if you stay only for an hour, relax, and enjoy the celebration.  Your employer is saying ‘thank you’ for everyone’s hard work.  A career bonus is mingling on a social level with executives who potentially could weigh in on advancement.  Practice your friendly smile and confident demeanor and use this opportunity to strengthen business ties.  Limit shoptalk, avoid sensitive topics, and be culturally and socially aware, respecting other beliefs and traditions at this time of the year.

Festive Style That Fits the Occasion 

Typically, the invitation will include information about what to wear.  Pay attention, because how embarrassing would it be to show up in pub clothes at a black-tie event?  Here are your style clues:

Dressy Casual or Informal Wear   If your holiday party begins on-site, work attire is expected.  However, plan ahead and bring a satin blouse or nice blazer to throw over your button-down to make a more festive fashion statement.  Avoid jeans, tennis shoes, sleeveless or printed t-shirts.  DO wear slacks or trousers, a sweater, or a button-down shirt with a blazer. For women, sparkly knitwear paired with a flared skirt and boots or office basics with a boost of holiday color is a smart choice. 

Cocktail Wear   Suit and tie or crisp slacks and sweater for men, and a conservative, but elegant satin blouse or short dress for women are perfect.  Cocktail hour is what the “little black dress” was designed for!

Formal Wear, Black Tie, or Black Tie Optional  Tuxedos typically fill the formal/black-tie requirement for men, although anyone can rock this style.  A not-too-sexy elegant gown or sparkly cocktail dress is spectacular. Black-tie optional for men means dark suit, crisp white shirt, and a conservative tie.  Do not forget to polish dark leather shoes and matching belt until they shine!

Creative Black Tie  This is formal wear but jeuged up.  Have fun with a tuxedo or suit that sports additional flair with a textured holiday-themed jacket or vest in velvet or plaid.  Women might go up-trend in chic formal wear that seems more contemporary and creative.  Just keep the style business-appropriate, so that your intellect impresses and not your cleavage!  

Polish That Impresses

Wash your car!   Arriving at the country club looking like you just drove off a Mad Max set appeals to no one.  Also, don’t be a Scrooge; plan for valet tips or on-site parking.

Greet the host   Impress everyone by warmly greeting your host or party organizer.  By meeting the CEO, it is an opportunity to tell her or him what you have accomplished without boasting. Shake hands firmly but avoid squeezing a woman’s hand if she is wearing rings.  Do not forget to thank your host before leaving.  Following up with a handwritten note of appreciation is the icing on the cake!

Stay sober!   While teetotalers do not a party make, many holiday events are now alcohol-free to limit liability.  Drink moderately; getting hammered at the office party is career suicide.

Table etiquette   Formal dining can be a daunting experience; do not become rattled by forgetting to turn off your cell phone!  Before sitting, men should pull out the chair of their plus-one or unaccompanied women on either side.  Diners should place napkins in their laps and select silverware beginning from the outside and working in. Unless a buffet, wait until everyone at the table is served before eating.  No elbows on the table, slouching or tipping the chair.  Chew quietly with mouth closed, and never place used utensils on the tablecloth. Initiate polite conversation on both sides, and once finished, push in the chair, so others can get by.  

Selfies with Santa and co-workers are cute on your Instagram, but think twice before posting that drunken duckface of you and your partying supervisor!  Always get a subject’s permission before sharing and avoid tagging or posting pictures potentially damaging to your company’s reputation.

Though office parties might seem boring and obligatory, they can also be fun, memorable, and career-enhancing.  By following these basic rules of social engagement, you will feel more comfortable as you build the confidence you need to impress at any company event!