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Festive Etiquette: Mastering the Dos and Don’ts of Office Holiday Parties

As the festive season approaches, it’s time for the annual round of office holiday parties. These gatherings serve as a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of work and provide a chance for employees to unwind. Whether it’s a casual lunch outing, a happy hour, or a larger function, office parties offer a chance to bond with colleagues and build camaraderie.  

To ensure you make the most of these festive occasions, here are some universal “dos and don’ts” for workplace holiday parties. 

What to do at office holiday parties  

Do attend  

While you aren’t required to attend, office holiday gatherings are a great way to get to know your co-workers better and celebrate the year’s hard work. Unless you have a conflict, your colleagues may feel you lack team spirit if you skip out. It’s best to try to attend, even if you don’t want to. You’ll probably have a better time than you anticipate, and your co-workers will appreciate your presence! Additionally, be sure to RSVP to the party and arrive on time; this shows that you are respectful of the organizer’s time and effort.  

Do mingle 

Holiday parties present a great opportunity to connect with people you may not usually interact with, such as your boss or colleagues from other departments. Taking advantage of these gatherings can help you expand your professional network and build relationships with people who can be helpful in your career. Be sure to be polite and respectful to everyone you meet at the party, from your colleagues and boss to any guests who may be attending.  Do be considerate to other religious affiliations  

Keep in mind that this is a holiday party, and it’s important not to make assumptions about people’s religious affiliations or what holidays they celebrate, if any. 

Do choose your +1 carefully (and double-check that guests are welcome) 

Introducing your significant other to colleagues can be an excellent way to build relationships at work. However, it’s important to choose a guest who will reflect positively on you and contribute to a pleasant experience. Be sure that your companion is comfortable in social settings, interacts appropriately with others, and avoids behavior that might impact your professional reputation. 

Do dress appropriately 

The dress code for an office holiday party varies depending on the company, but it’s generally best to err on the side of caution and dress a little bit nicer than you would for a regular workday. 

Do have a variety of food and drinks available 

If you are on the party planning committee, consider having a variety of food options. Attendees with dietary restrictions, allergies, intolerances, or religious or cultural preferences need something they can eat without compromising. Guests will appreciate the inclusivity and thoughtfulness.  

What NOT to do at office holiday parties

Don’t talk business 

Work parties are a time to celebrate accomplishments, connect with colleagues, and let loose. While it’s perfectly fine to make small talk about work, avoid getting bogged down in discussions about deadlines, projects, or anything else that could bring stress or tension. Instead, focus on keeping the conversation light and engaging. Ask about people’s hobbies, families, or travel plans.  

Don’t gossip or complain about work  

Keep your conversations positive and lighthearted – this isn’t the time or place to air your grievances. 

Don’t abuse the open bar   

No party is worth risking your reputation (or job). If you do drink, know your limits, pace yourself and eat plenty of food and drink water. No one wants to be the person other people are talking about come Monday morning (or even next year!). Also consider having a designated driver or using a ride share service to ensure you get home safely.  

Don’t discuss politics  

Staying away from political discussions is advisable in most settings, especially during work events. Politics often ignite heated debates, making them unproductive and potentially harmful.  If someone initiates a political conversation, politely excuse yourself from the discussion. 

Don’t misuse social media  

In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of peoples’ privacy, especially at work events. While you’ll want to capture the fun of the moment, it’s important to remember that anything you post online could potentially be seen by your colleagues and clients. Is the photo or video you’re about to post something that you’re comfortable with everyone seeing? Even if the answer is yes, your colleague in the photo with you may not be. Be sure to ask permission before posting or tagging anyone in your photos or videos.  

Don’t leave the party too early – or too late.  

Leaving too early can give the impression you’re not interested in celebrating with your colleagues. But you also don’t want to be that person who lingers too long. To make a good impression while respecting your own needs and obligations, stay for at least an hour or two and make a polite exit when you’ve had enough.  

Most importantly, have fun – it is a party, after all! You and your co-workers have worked hard all year, and this is your company’s way of thanking you for a job well done! So, eat, drink, and be merry and have a good time.