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Every December, companies nationwide host informal or formal holiday parties. And every December, excess celebration and improper etiquette at these gatherings become fodder for morning-after watercooler stories. So to make sure you don't become part of company lore, here are nine office party DON'TS.
1. DON'T Arrive Late.
Pay attention to the time you arrive and time you leave. Arriving "fashionably late" is inappropriate. Don't arrive early, but do plan to arrive within the first 15 to 20 minutes. Even if you truly don't want to attend, avoid at all costs arriving 30 minutes before the end just to make an appearance.
2. DON'T Bring Extra Guests.
Be sure to read the invitation carefully. Know the company policy on guests, or whether the event is "Employees Only" or has a "Plus One." Discreetly check ahead of time to determine whether spouses or dates are welcome.
3. DON'T Forget to Greet Hosts and Party Planners.
When you arrive at the party or very early on during the party, be sure to greet, thank, and shake hands with your hosts and the party planners. If it's a company or partnership owned by more than one individual, be sure to thank all of them. Chat briefly and compliment an aspect of the party that you sincerely enjoyed such as the catering, music, or décor.
4. DON'T Hide in the Corner.
Everyone watches the entrance to a room. When you arrive, don't head straight for the bar or buffet. Enter, pause, step to the right, greet and shake hands with the person standing there. Executives enjoy speaking with employees. Your company party may be one of the few times you see them in person. Introduce yourself, state the department you work in and shake hands. This is a good time to become visible to your organization’s leadership. Greet your superiors, and chat with as many colleagues as you can, introducing yourself to those that you don't know well. Greet coworkers warmly, and with a smile on your face. Resist the urge to spend the entire evening with your office buddies. Get in the spirit and mingle with people from other departments. At all costs, avoid appearing bored and ready to dash for the door.
5. DON'T Give Monologues.
Strive to keep business talk to a minimum! When socializing with business colleagues it can be difficult not to talk shop. Instead, view the office party as an opportunity to get to know colleagues a little better on a personal level. Stay with topics such as travel, children, sports, pets, and movies. Remember to avoid religion and politics (not easy at the moment!). Keep discussions positive and no more than five to 10 minutes. Avoid gossiping, complaining, and bragging. The party is intended to be a time to celebrate the successes of the year. A cheerful mood is in order!
6. DON'T Reveal Too Much (With Respect to Your Attire).
Pay attention to the attire listed on the invitation. The holiday party may be a festive occasion, but it's still attended by your coworkers. Resist the temptation to use company parties to strut your stuff. Leave short, tight, and revealing clothing in the closet. Use good taste to select an elegant outfit and leave the over-the-knee-boots and skintight clothing for purely social events. Creating a professional image is hard work; don’t undermine it in one evening.
7. DON'T Binge at the Buffet.
Eat a small amount of protein beforehand. You were not invited because the hosts thought you were hungry! Be considerate of others and remember your etiquette basics: keep hands clean and avoid a mouth full of hors d’oeuvres. Avoid walking around with a full plate, do not double dip or eat over the chafing dish, and properly discard toothpicks, napkins, and plates.
8. DON'T Gossip.
This is probably the most common mistake that executives make during the holiday party. Alcohol and a loose tongue may add up to a regretful Monday morning. Consider tea, club soda, or water. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly. Remember to carry your refreshment in your left hand. Leave your right hand free for handshaking.
9. DON'T Toast Yourself.
The CEO may offer a toast during the evening. When the toast is for a colleague, raise your glass at the conclusion of the toast, when the host raises their glass. Don't touch your glass with everyone else; it's unnecessary and distracting. Pause afterward and watch. The recipient will most likely reciprocate with a toast. If you've been a star performer, you may be honored with a toast. Stand and accept it gracefully. Refrain from drinking to a toast offered in your honor; this is akin to clapping for yourself.
Sharon Schweitzer is an international protocol and etiquette expert, author of Access to Asia, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. A previous version of this article appeared on protocolww.com.
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