Holiday party guidelines

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Q: Holiday parties are typically events that I avoid.  Our company typically holds one in January to increase attendance. I am socially awkward but I feel pressured to go.  It means a lot to our senior leadership to “see the whole team” at these events. I want to attend but I really don’t want to be a part of the drunken after parties which go on into the early morning hours.  There are always horror stories about who did what and who was drunk, etc.  How do I avoid this?

A: Holiday parties are a bit of a minefield, both socially and professionally.  Here are my tips:

  1. Don’t skip it.  Employees that skip it are saying they don’t really care to socialize with work colleagues.
  2. Dress appropriately. If it is a formal event, wear formal clothes.  If it is business casual, dress the part.
  3. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. This is not the time to try tequila.  Think about how you will be traveling home.  Can you walk home?  Can you take a taxi or carpool?  You want to be able to travel home safely.
  4. Be friendly and approachable but realize it is a work event. No PG-13 (or worse) topics.  Keep religion, sex and politics out of the party.
  5. Don’t be the last to leave (unless you are the organizer). Don’t feel like you have to shut the place down.
  6. If you are socially awkward, be visible early on. Greet and converse with several colleagues at the beginning of the party.  Then, you can leave after an hour or so.  An hour or so is a reasonable commitment.  Anything less than that would be considered rude.  One exception: if it is a dinner or a meal, you should remain for the meal even if that meal may take two hours beginning to end.
  7. Be positive. This is not the time to complain about Ann in Accounting or Jose in Sales.  People will avoid you if you begin raising all of your workplace concerns.
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Finally, I think it is good manners to thank the organizers a few days after the event.  A quick email thanking them for their hard work would likely be appreciated.