4 Ways to Keep Your Office Holiday Party Out of Poor Etiquette Hell

Posted by Bridget Beirne
December 12, 2014

by Bridget Beirne

bridget-beirne-1Who doesn't love that cheery, end-of-the-year, raise-a-glass-for-auld-lang-syne office holiday party? (OK, even if you don't, SAY you do — 'tis the season, after all.) Chances are, you talk to Sue in accounting more than you do to your actual best friend. (Unless, of course, Sue IS your best friend, in which case I applaud your efficiency!) At year's end, it can be a joy to cut loose for a moment with those folks who fill your inbox, ring your extension, and generally make your work life possible. And lucky us: Consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas (no, we didn't adapt that for the holidays...) informs us that this year, 89% of companies are planning a holiday party. Huzzah!

"What I really love is when the office holiday party descends into etiquette hell, where behavior becomes SO bad that I can't look anyone in the eye for a month!" said absolutely no one, ever. Sure, the principles of business etiquette may make even the most refined question their fork habits. But abandoning them all together? Being trapped in a bacchanal of poor etiquette hell? No, thank you.

As Kevin Bacon reminded us so many years ago, everyone's got to cut loose. (Footloose! Sorry, couldn't help it...) And while the days of lampshades on one's head may have been replaced with questionable Snapchats, there's still always a potential for things to go awry. At the end of the day, you're still at a work function, and you want to make sure that you're doing your part to keep the party festive, rather than frightening.

While we know none of you will need ANYTHING akin to these tips (we're sure you've heard before — and you heed! —  some of this advice), at this time of year it's always worth trotting out a reminder. Maybe share them with a co-worker in need and open a discussion. (And be cool about it! Especially if it's gong to Sue from accounting. Come on, she's your best friend!)

Here are 4 things to remember:

1. The internet, like the musical Cats, is forever: You may think nothing of popping a picture of you and your colleagues onto social media — no big, right? Sure, if everyone in the photo is cool with it. While you're snapping away, it takes two seconds to ask, "Hey, is everyone ok with me sharing these on social media?" If everyone says yes, good for you! If someone says "No," the considerate thing to do is to refrain from posting. What you put online is permanent, and your colleague may not want to preserve his runny nose, or blemish, or bad hair day for posterity. That is his prerogative.

Also, do you have that colleague that thinks it's funny to post pictures of people at less-than-their-best? I speak from experience — it is not. Don't be that jerk. And if you find someone has shared a picture of you dancing with toilet paper on your foot, feel free to ask them to take it down. While you can't force them to (that whole "free country" thing...), chances are if they know they've upset you, they'll be willing to make the change.


2. Leave the over-imbibing to the Rat Pack: If your name isn't Frank Sinatra, it's not 1957, and you're notetiquette-hell-2 filming a movie, than drinking too much and musing about life with the bartender at the office party isn't going to be charming. And even if you were Frankie, you'd be pushing it. You may be thinking, "Really? REALLY does this need to be said?" and yet I'll bet that every year there is someone at the party worthy of this warning. Yes, it's a party. Yes, you should have fun. And yes, you're still at work. Think "one and done" for the office party. Save the extra cheer for your own personal Rat Pack.

There is nothing charming about being poured into a cab by an embarrassed boss. Just take that image with ya.


3. Receive gifts in the spirit in which they are given: Whether you're doing an office swap, or a colleague has baked you some cookies, or your team buys you lunch, the ONLY acceptable response to a gift is "thank you." Even if you hate it, are gluten intollerant, or have 5 of them at home, if someone hands you a gift at the office party, say thanks. Don't be the Scrooge who's dirty look and cold response ruined a colleague's good intentions.


4. Remember the planners: Don't forget that someone, or someones, in your office spent weeks, if not months, planning an event that would be a hit for everyone. I recall working with an awesome colleague who had planned an amazing party one year. At one point in the process, she said to me, "You know, no one has ever said thank you to me for this." My heart sank for her! 

As you're enjoying your Chicken Satay, remember your co-workers who put together the event. Raise a glass in their honor, write a thank you note with some chocolates, or even simply say "thank you" in person for their hard work. Give them some consideration, respect and gratefulness for a job well done!

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