November 1st, 2010

Top Holiday Office Party Etiquette Advice

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Everyone loves a party. But when it comes to office parties, especially around the holidays, not everyone knows or remembers how to behave.

Plenty of us will get our chance to party with our bosses, clients and co-workers during the next few weeks. But we need to keep a few things in mind if we want to be professional and still have fun at the holiday office party. Here are my answers to some frequently asked questions.

Q: What is the proper attire for an office party?

A: I would say something fun but professional. In other words, stay away from anything too risqué, too tight, too loose, too see through, too anything. Keep it professional.

Q: So what’s “fun” attire that is appropriate?

A: You could wear a blue suit, but you could wear a more fun tie. You could wear something with a lot more color. You could wear something that could showcase your personality that you wouldn’t ordinarily wear at work: a beautiful shawl, maybe even a funkier pair of shoes.

Q: Is there anything men should avoid wearing?

A: It depends on the venue, but I would say stay away from T-shirts with rude sayings like “I’m With Stupid,” or maybe muscle shirts or pants that are too loose. Avoid wearing jeans with holes in them or maybe the wrong type of shoes, like tennis shoes.

Q: What about women?

A: Anything too tight, too low, too short, too revealing.

Q: What are the risks of not being properly dressed?

A: It might not affect your career immediately, but in the long run it sends a signal that you’re making a poor judgment. It says that you don’t put enough care and consideration into what you’re wearing or you’re not respecting your audience or your peers or workplace.

Q: What about drinking at the party? Is anything off limits, like a tequila shot? Or is this about fun, so it’s all OK?

A: I think that it’s important to stay sober at the office party and know your limits. Loose lips sink ships, so if you drink too much you’re probably going to say something that you’ll regret the next day. So cross tequila shots off the list. I would probably stick with beer or wine or maybe one cocktail.

Q: Is it polite to ask if it’s an open bar, or do you just assume you have to pay for your drinks?

A: You have to know your company. With some it’s just an unspoken rule that it’s going to be an open bar. I wouldn’t necessarily ask, I would definitely carry a credit card with me and a few $20 bills, just in case. But you can’t just assume it’s an open bar, especially in this economy.

Q: What if your boss offers you a drink and you don’t want it? Is it OK to turn it down?

A: If he or she offers you an alcoholic beverage and you don’t drink, it’s OK to say ‘I’ll have a diet coke or a Perrier with lime.’ No one should make you feel bad that you don’t drink or are choosing not to drink on that evening.

Q: When it comes to dancing, how loose and free can you get?

A: Obviously you shouldn’t rip off your clothes and do dirty dancing with your co-workers. I would certainly reserve the suggestive dance moves for a more appropriate time. I would also suggest being yourself and having fun. From an etiquette standpoint, people are going to talk about you on Monday morning if you’re doing that type of dancing.

Q: Is bad dancing something that could make people lose respect for you?

A: Everything you do affects you indirectly. People remember these things, people remember the office party for years. This is a scene that never ever dies; you can remember office parties that happened five or 10 years ago. You remember what people do and what they say, so it creates an impression and also gives people a more well-rounded picture of your personality.

If you want to portray a certain image, you have to behave in a certain way. If you don’t care, go ahead and let loose. But I would say don’t be surprised if people hold it against you, and they’ll be talking about it years from now.

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