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RSVP, Plus Ones, And Other Holiday Office Party Tips

The holiday office party season is in full swing for the next few weeks. Certainly, it’s a moment to relax, have some fun and enjoy the company of your colleagues. But it’s still a work event, and as such it’s important to remember that what you do will reflect on you the next day. By being a good guest—by leaving a positive impression of yourself on others—you will build stronger, better relationships with your colleagues and your boss while still having a good time.

Here are five tips to help you be successful at your company’s holiday office party this year:

1. RSVP. This tip is simple but it really makes a difference to the event planner. Their number one frustration when organizing events is the failure of invitees to respond to invitations. “But,” you say, “I’m not sure I can attend. Shouldn’t I wait to respond until I know my answer?” Respond even if you’re not sure. Let the event planner know you received the invitation and you’ll confirm by a specific time. Then be sure to follow up with your answer by that time.

2. A plus one—or not. I can think of nothing more embarrassing than being the only plus one at a holiday office party. Some offices only include employees. Others include spouses, significant others, or a plus one. If the invitation isn’t clear on this issue, ask when you respond. If it is okay to bring a guest with you, let the event planner know so he or she can plan for the right number of people for food and beverages.

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3. Make the rounds. The holiday office party is a great opportunity for you to get to know your colleagues better. It’s also a great opportunity to start building a relationship with people you don’t know well by engaging them in conversations. Don’t spend the entire evening with your two or three good friends. Branch out and use the party as a time to build relationships with a wider network of people at the office.

4. Don’t indulge too much. Certainly enjoy the food, but don’t gorge yourself on it. And be careful of alcohol consumption. The worst thing that could happen would be to have alcohol affect you before you realize it. You could end up doing or saying things you find yourself apologizing for the next day. Moderation is the watchword here.

5. Thank twice. Show your appreciation at the end of the evening by being sure to thank the host of the party and the event planner. Then, send a note to each of these people the next day. Doing so will be the best way for you to leave a lasting, positive impression. And that, after all, is the real goal of attending the party.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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