If you look up ‘office party etiquette’ you will notice that the protocol advisors unanimously recommend to remember that the corporate events are more about business than about party.
Yet somehow, extensive drinking and lewd behaviour are common at the team building events. I should confess, there were several office party moments that still make me blush.
To get the best out of the next event and avoid the morning-after shame consider the following:
1. What’s the purpose of a corporate party?
Business parties are social affairs that give you a chance to communicate with your co-workers in a more casual setting.
In addition to rewarding employees and letting them have some fun, such gatherings are meant to boost company morale and encourage a sense of teamwork. Managers should take advantage of these events and try improving relationships with their team.
2. Can I skip the annual office party?
Etiquette experts advise against it. A professional speaker and corporate trainer Lydia Ramsey offers to see corporate events as part of your job and put your best attitude.
Keep in mind that your absence will probably be noticed and can hurt your career. Of course you are not required to stay all evening, but try to be there at least for an hour and a half.
Use this time to talk with senior executives of your firm and don’t forget to tell the coworkers and team members how much you appreciate their help and support.
If you arrive early after the event is scheduled to start you have much better chances to thank the company CEO for hosting this party. It can also be a great opportunity to chat with the boss, just avoid monopolising him.
3. Who should I take with me?
No one, unless the invitation mentions you and a guest. Corporate parties are often made for employees only. Always confirm in advance whether it is all right to bring dates. If guests are welcome don’t bring an inappropriate person as your “plus one”.
You can take your children only when the invitation reads “the family”.
4. What do I wear?
Your attire should depend on the event schedule. If the party happens on the weekend or later in the evening you can opt for something more relaxed. But however tempting it might be to put on your night club attire, super high heels or favorite ripped jeans, stick to clothes that are more sophisticated and less revealing.
Whatever you choose to wear keep in mind that your look should reflect well on you professionally. You can also check directly with the host what is the event’s dress code or see our recommendations about smart casual attire.
5. Do I bring gifts?
It’s unusual to bring gifts to corporate parties.
Presents are only appropriate when you are asked to bring something to exchange with your coworkers or in case of more formal dinners. Then you can consider bringing the host gift baskets with gourmet food or chocolates, or a bottle of good wine (but make sure he drinks alcohol).
If you decide to bring flowers make sure they are prearranged in a vase so your host wouldn’t need to bother about where to put them.
6. What should I talk about?
Keep your conversations positive. Avoid complaining, bragging, gossiping or ridiculing others. Stay away from offbeat jokes or controversial topics (like politics or religion).
Because business parties is a great possibility to get to know your colleagues better on a personal level, try to limit your business talk. Good conversation topics are kids, local sports, movies or travel.
Network and mingle. It’s an opportunity to chat with people from other departments, employees from different locations and top management. These functions are designed to initiate new business relationships and strengthen existing ones.
Show interest in others. Allow people to talk. Think ahead about good open-ended questions, use “tell me more” form and you won’t have troubles with conversations.
7. What’s with eating and drinking?
Here is a great advice from Dr. Randall S. Hansen, the founder of Quintessential Careers:
“Do keep one hand free during the night so that you can offer handshakes to people as they come by. And do keep your drink in your left hand, so you are not offering people a cold, wet handshake all evening.”
In general, moderation is the key. You are not there for the meal, so avoid piling your plate with dainties and try to limit alcoholic cocktails to 2 per evening.
It’s better to have a plan B just in case you have had a little too much to drink. Book a cab or arrange for a designated driver.
Earlier today I spoke with Julia about different company cultures. She believes that it’s important to detect the signals that executives send to their employees. ‘Who drinks more tequila shots’ game can be a traditional part of the entertainment program for one company and outrageous for the other.
Julia is right, customs vary office to office. Some firms are more reserved, others are low-pressure, especially during the business parties. The trick is to pay attention, understand your environment and integrate while staying true to yourself.
Let us know if you have any questions about corporate party etiquette. Leave a comment below!