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The Office Holiday Party: Are you following the ‘unspoken’ rules?

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Some people love it, some people dread it – the office holiday party! A party that can have just as many people talking about it beforehand, “what are you wearing? will there be an open bar? And just as many people whispering about it afterwards– “did you hear what happened to Jane?” So, how can we ensure that your career is still intact, the morning after? Read on…

Whether you have been to dozens of office parties or this is your first one, here are a set of ‘unspoken rules’ surrounding the big office event! First and foremost, always remember that business IS business; when the two words “office” and “party” are combined, the emphasis is always on the word “office,” no matter how freely the drinks are flowing, how hot the dance floor is or how festive the ambiance looks. What happens at the office party DOES NOT stay at the office party (fortunately or unfortunately) - take note.

Ensuring you’re on your best behaviour can be easy when you follow these eight simple rules:

1. Don’t be Late

Arriving any later than 20 minutes to a cocktail party is considered rude and disrespectful. In doing so, you are telling others, “my time is more important than yours.” Alternatively, showing up early, is also a faux pas. There are always last minute things that need to be set-up, chilled or prepared, as anyone who has hosted before is well aware. So, when the invitation states, 6:30 read that as 6:30 onwards… but no later than 6:45-6:50.

2. The Dress Code

Much like the red carpet at the Oscars, people will be talking about what he/she wore. Ladies, don’t show more skin than you would at a business meeting. If you normally wear 2-3” heels, opting for 4-5” heels is fine, 6” heels will not end the night well. Gentlemen, not sure if to wear a tie or pocket square, always follow the rule, better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. As the saying goes, “always dress for how you want to be addressed!”

3. Thou Shalt not Kiss under the Mistletoe

The same rules that apply at the office, will apply at the party. Just because there are drinks, flowing, good conversations happening and remix of Daddy Yankee’s Con Calma, do not use this as an opportunity to approach your crush, make advances, have wandering hands or make inappropriate comments. There undoubtedly will be rumors, regrets and possible consequences.

4. Network

Remember when we said that the emphasis of this evening was primarily on ‘business?’ Use this opportunity to your advantage – talk to people outside your circle. You may not always have the opportunity to converse with people from different departments or the other side of the office. Show off your wonderful social skills, your poise and grace and learn something new about someone that you didn’t before. Show interest. You never know how this might result in a great return on investment (ROI) down the road. Remember the saying, “your network is your net worth!”

5. Shop Talk

As much as this party is ‘business’ I would steer clear of ‘shop talk’ and instead focus on getting to know your peers. Remember that you always want to avoid any taboo subject (at least for the first 15 mins): health, politics, money, family, religion and instead do ask about hobbies, sports, how you know the host, travel and the how lovely the venue looks…

6. One Tequila, Two Tequila…

Drinks can be a funny thing at parties: one too many and your reputation may be compromised, walking around with an empty hand makes you look stand-offish. So, what does one do? The rule of thumb is no more than one drink per hour (with food) and you shouldn’t exceed more than two for the evening. If you don’t drink, I always like to hold a sparkling water with a lime or lemon. This will help avoid the inevitable questions of why you are not drinking, ‘are you sick? Are you expecting?” And if anyone does ask, a polite response is simply, “I don’t drink but please do enjoy.”

7. Basic Dining Etiquette

If part of the office holiday party is a formal sit-down dinner, you’ll want to ensure your table manners are in check. My top five must know rules for dining etiquette: how to hold your cutlery, how to navigate your place setting, including: glassware and utensils, when to start eating, how to pass around the table and how to take part in the table conversation. Of course, there are so many more elements but these certainly are at the top of my list.

8. With Thanks…

As with any party and with any social interaction, always remember your first and last(ing) impression. Be sure to thank the party organizers who put in a lot of work behind the scenes. They’ll appreciate your gratitude.

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