About this time of year, a bevy of articles hit the web giving advice on how to best navigate the office holiday party — a party often filled with its fair share of faux pas. But instead of just focusing on this often-awkward celebration, and how to avoid being “that guy” at the bash, we thought it might be best to provide a guide on how to handle yourself at any business event.
Whether a team outing, company picnic, or interview over lunch, the following tips should help you put your best foot forward, no matter the occasion:
1. Arrive on time. Fashionably late isn’t actually fashionable. You’re attending a work-related event, and common courtesy dictates that you arrive on time — if not early. In fact, many professionals see tardiness as a sign of disrespect. Leave home with enough time to park and arrive at the destination prior to the event.
2. Dress the part. Your attire says a lot about you as a professional, and that means you should always dress appropriately for the occasion. If it’s an office holiday party, feel free to kick it up a notch to reflect the event. If it’s a company picnic, however, don’t choose something you’d wear to the beach. The key is to always keep it professional.
3. Order wisely. From time to time, you’ll attend business functions where you’ll order off the menu. Being on the company dime, you might think it’s the perfect opportunity to go hog-wild. Resist the urge, and take your cues from the person footing the bill. Or, ask for recommendations of what to order, and then choose the lower priced option. Check out this article for more advice on dining etiquette.
4. Limit libations. One drink is almost always enough to get you through an office holiday party. Business lunches, on the other hand, should be kept alcohol-free. Even when the employer is partaking in a nip or two, it’s best to steer clear. Level heads, as they say, win in the end.
5. Greet everyone. Most people at business functions tend to congregate into groups of those they already know, which is a wasted opportunity to form new bonds within the office. Make a point of circulating throughout the event and greet everyone, assuming there aren’t thousands of guests.
6. Turn off the phone. You wouldn’t take a call during an interview — at least we hope not — and you really shouldn’t at a business event either. You can go a couple hours without texting or checking social media. Turn off your phone and give everyone your undivided attention. It shows that you’d rather be there than someplace else.
7. Keep shoptalk to a minimum. Unless you’re attending a business meeting over lunch, you should really use the time to get to know your colleagues. Too much shoptalk can leave those not in your department feeling left out. Plus, your coworkers may not want to talk about goals or work issues. Keep conversations light and fun.
8. Avoid gossip. A business event isn’t the right venue to air your grievances. When speaking with coworkers keep the conversation positive and upbeat. The last thing you want to do is get involved in office politics or share something you’ll regret on Monday.
9. Show up. Although you may not want to go, it is important to show your commitment to the company and not attending could hurt your reputation. Consider it an opportunity to network. Remember, it’s not what you know but who, and this is one of the few times to interact with colleagues in a social setting, which could help you form stronger relationships with people who could help your career.
10. Thank the host. Sneaking out can come off as a bit immature. When you leave, make a point of thanking the host, and then exit right. You may also want to say a few quick goodbyes to others, but never leave unannounced.
Office functions, by their very nature, are uncomfortable. There’s just no getting around that. But you should still try to relax, have fun, and be yourself.
Whether it is a formal office party or a company BBQ, a work-related event isn’t strictly social. The impression you make can impact your professional career – for better or worse. No matter the occasion, the tips above can help you find the balance between having fun and keeping your reputation intact. Remember, what happens at the office party doesn’t stay at the party.