2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on office holiday party etiquette, but you may also want to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette.
I’m working on a monster post about what to wear to your office holiday party, and in the meantime found all these great articles about office holiday party etiquette, which we haven’t discussed in forever — so I thought we should discuss today, as a bit of a precursor to the “what to wear to your office holiday party” post. (Although of course feel free to share what you plan to wear to your party this year!)
For my $.02, it comes down to some simple rules:
- If it’s your first holiday party, don’t assume — talk to others so you know what to expect, because there can be a huge variation in office holiday parties. Some offices have a midday Santa hat+suit kind of luncheon; others have a Friday night affair at a hotel ballroom. (One of my old offices did the hotel ballroom for the low key affair, and another black tie ball in January just for attorneys.) If you can’t ask anyone, look for clues — if it’s a Friday night after work, odds are good that people are going to be still wearing their office clothes (with one small tweak like a party blazer or statement necklace). If it starts at 5, it may be over by 7. Another way to gauge the formality: where the event is held. If it’s chosen for locality (the closest hotel ballroom, the closest restaurant, etc), odds are it’s going to be more low key than an event a bit further from the office.
- Do not get tipsy, let alone drunk. Save it for the office after party or when you’re at an event that isn’t affiliated with work. (Many moons ago, we also talked about what your drink says about you at the office cocktail party.)
- Make it about the people, not the food or drink. That’s a good hallmark of any party attendee, but it goes doubly here.
- Talk to everyone. Fight the urge to huddle in the corner with your friends, or only try to network with the VIPs. It’s a great time to smile and laugh with your subordinates, as well as support staff. A corrollary:
- Don’t just talk about work. If your boss comes over and needs to discuss a project, that’s one thing — but assume that people want to talk about anything but that. Politics and religion are still dicey topics, of course, but there are a ton of other party-appropriate conversation topics.
- If the next day is a work day, it’s business as usual.
Office Holiday Party Etiquette, Further Reading:
- Holiday Parties and You: All the Basics You Need to Know [Above the Law; guestpost by me!]
- 23 Rules of the Office Holiday Party [WSJ] (amusing!)
- Office Holiday Party Etiquette [Boston Globe]
- Career Advice for your Office Holiday Party [HuffPo]
- Office Holiday Party Etiquette [Monster.com]
- 14 Survival Tips for the Office Holiday Party [Business Insider]
Ladies, what are your best etiquette tips for the office holiday party? Care to share any fun stories about misunderstandings of office holiday party etiquette?