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Coping With The Office Party

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes that political minefield - the Office Party. Described as one of the trickiest social events of the year, Monster the leading online recruitment company has issued some guidance.

Lori Erickson, vice president of human resources, Monster says:

"The most important thing employees should always remember regarding office holiday parties is, regardless of where the party is held, it is an extension of the workplace and you need to behave accordingly. Employees should have fun, but remain cognizant of the fact that these events provide a great opportunity to casually network with colleagues, people in other departments, and even executives. And, of course, getting drunk and making a spectacle of yourself can haunt you long after the holidays are over."

Monster identify some major office party issues:

  • No Shows - Employees who snub the office party may risk seeming pompous and also miss an excellent networking opportunity. A recent survey by Tickle found that 31% of respondents regretted 'not showing up' more than drinking too much (20%) or arriving late (18%).
  • Being Clique-y - Holiday parties offers a rare chance to meet employees from other departments and more senior staff in an informal setting. This is a great opportunity to get to know others and make yourself known.
  • After-Party Parties - Carrying on after the 'official' party can provide workplace gossip well into next year unless you are careful to continue the celebration with a very close-knit group of colleagues,
  • Arm Candy Dates - Don't bring a friend unless you know that guests are invited. Then be careful to choose someone who can converse well with co-workers and superiors - not someone who just looks good in evening wear.
  • Not Saying 'Thank You' - Be sure to thank the event organizers or - when appropriate - the manager who authorized the party.

"Office holiday parties are a great venue for entry-level workers or interns to introduce themselves to more senior-level employees with whom they would not otherwise interact," observed Mark Charnock, vice president and general manager, MonsterTRAK, the division of Monster for college students and recent graduates. "However, being both social and professional can be challenging for anybody. Often times junior, as well as more seasoned employees, do what is most comfortable - they only socialize with their friends and sometimes take advantage of the open bar too much - as opposed to doing what is best for their careers."

Find more advice on the Monster website.

Top Ten Company Party Blunders

In 2002, Nichols College (Dudley, MA) compiled a list of the Top Ten Company Party Blunders. In reverse order:

10. Dressing for failure. Company parties are the place to put your best foot forward, which means dressing like your job depends on it. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. But donít overdress and make your boss look shabby.

9. Loose Lips. Nothing sinks a career faster than a few ill-chosen words. Be upbeat about your company and its employees, but please, refrain from a critical blunder - the obvious suck up.

8. Using racist, sexist, or other offensive language. If you hear folks (the too much egg nog crowd) getting racy, excuse yourself or simply drift off to another conversation.

7. Hanky panky. Office liaisons are the number one source of office gossip, and you donít want to be a target. Keep your hands and comments to yourself.

6. Poor manners. While drunken and inappropriate behavior can torpedo a career, a lack of manners can chip away at its foundation. Greet people appropriately, introduce your date, and eat properly.

5. Failing to prep your date. Make sure that your date follows the same rules as you. Donít dress too flashy or messy, know who the important players are, donít gossip, and never reveal personal details of your partner.

4. Mistreating bossí spouse or partner. Be gracious, polite, complimentary, and appropriate. An invitation to a slow dance would not be appropriate.

3. Ignoring upper management. Introduce yourself to key players, but act modest, donít overstay your welcome, and be positive. Donít approach bosses if at all inebriated.

2. Not showing up. Think your boss wonít notice your absence in all the excitement? Think again. Not attending the holiday party is inexcusable, and harms morale. Show up on time, donít leave too early, and make sure your presence lends positive energy to the event.

1. Too much spiked egg nog. This is the classic employee mistake. Alcohol loosens inhibitions, and is the number one cause of the dreaded 'Foot in Mouth' disease. If you feel that youíve had enough, duck out before you say something stupid.

Nichols College is at Center Road, Dudley, MA 01572-5000

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