The Serious Business of an Office Party

The office party is not really a party. Sure there is a social context to it but it is still a business function where everyone is one faux pas away from the unemployment line. You could be one of those who learn from other’s mistakes, but here are some tips to ensure that, not only do you impress the boss, but rock the office party as well.

People FeatureRead the invitation. Carefully. Smell it. Lick it, if you have to. But make sure you don’t turn up with the missus and a dressed-in-the-frilly-best kid only to find out too late that spouses and children are not invited. If your kid is little enough, you can probably salvage the situation by asking him/her to hide behind the punchbowl and not come out till you whistle, but it is still a superbly embarrassing situation to find yourself in.
Attendance is compulsory. Bunking the office party is totally cool and anti-establishment. However, unless Sex Pistol’s Steve Jones is your rich, generous uncle, you shouldn’t even think of not going. The management has gone through a lot of unnecessary trouble and expense to host a party and it’s your solemn duty to acknowledge it. But don’t make it look like your presence is purely obligatory. Stay for at least an hour. Don’t arrive 20 minutes before the party ends.
Dress right. Dying to try out that halter neck LBD with the plunging neckline? Or thinking the office is finally ready to see you in your distressed jeans? Well, think again. Unless told otherwise (if it is a costume party, for instance) the dress code is always smart casual. This means you can probably lose the tie but a tattoo-flaunting vest will not be well received. Remember, you’ll have to go back to work with these people the next day.
Moderation is the key. Sure, gulping down half a litre of beer in under 15 seconds is a noteworthy talent. Doing it three times in a row is even more so. However, in this world, you can either burp loudly on your boss’s face tonight or get a positive grade on your appraisal tomorrow, but not both. If not drinking at all is not a feasible option, go slow and alternate alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks. Try to nurse one drink for the whole evening, preferably sipping a cocktail that doesn’t need refilling and lets you focus on the conversation.
Respect your colleagues’ privacy. You might be under the misconception that everyone wants to be part of your Facebook pictures and think it is the next best thing since microwave popcorn. This might not be true. Just because you have a hi-resolution top-of-the-line camera, don’t start clicking away willy-nilly. Ask your colleagues first if they would like to pose for a picture. Allow them a minutes’ time to sort out their hair, un-crease their dress or pick out the spinach wedged between their teeth.
Mingle. Take advantage of the party atmosphere, the fact that everyone’s defences are slightly down (note the word ‘slightly’). Seek out the individuals who can influence your career. You can talk business, but don’t ‘talk shop’. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to handle business situations of a social nature, something that is required of senior executives. Strike up conversation with people you don’t know. Don’t be in a rut, hanging out with your cubicle buddies all night.
Can the gossip. At the same time, don’t be lured by the relaxed atmosphere into thinking that you are free to shoot your mouth about whoever and whatever. Sure, you might be tempted to share the deliciously scandalous story about how A from accounting and B from business development disappeared into the ladies room together and weren’t seen for another hour, but A might just happen to be within earshot or you might unknowing be talking to B’s husband.
Finally, please remember – no matter how festive the occasion, it’s still about business.


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