The 6 Vital Dos and Don’ts of Holiday Work Parties

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A 2014 poll among 100 Human Resource business professionals revealed that over 89% of their companies hosted a Holiday party. That’s up from 82% in 2012, and 68% in 2011.

A good work holiday party is a positive thing because it gives people a moment to celebrate all of their successes with their colleagues, and to get to know their team better in a more casual setting. So why do holiday parties sometimes cause people anxiety, or even jeopardize their careers? What to wear? What to say? Who to bring? Never fear! Unwrap these Holiday party guidelines to make sure you don’t get a lump of coal in your work stocking:

1. Do Read the Invitation

Not all office parties are the same. If you’re new to a place and heading out for that first holiday soiree, ask around and get a feel for the vibe before you show up. Some parties are more sit-down affairs whereas others are themed or more casual. Make sure you read the invite before you head out the door. And don’t forget to RSVP if it’s asked for!

2. Don’t Abandon Your Fashion Sense

That ghastly sweater your Aunt Matilda knitted for you this year may be good for a laugh from your co workers and managers, but save it for a casual Friday. Make sure to find out how formal or informal the party will be, then dress appropriately. This is not about kowtowing to some monolithic corporate culture, but simply showing respect to your colleagues and friends by the way you dress when interacting with them.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Engage the Bosses in a Little Light Conversation

A party is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to someone you admire or want to meet, and to get some visibility as a real person, with interests outside of work. Thanking them for hosting the party, congratulating them on a recent announcement or outcome are both great places to start after you introduce yourself. After that you can veer towards current events, sports, or even ask about their hobbies outside of work. These are effective ways to keep the attention off of you, but keep the conversation going.

4. Do Keep the Chit-Chat Light and Upbeat

This goes for whether you’re talking to a boss or a co worker. As Firmex CEO Joel Lessem counsels: “An office party is no place for big brain philosophy discussions or hyper-critical remarks about your company and its personnel. Remember that you’re a guest, and are there to enjoy the company’s hospitality and add to the good cheer of the season, not try to solve the world’s problems.”

5. Drink in Moderation

holiday work pary tips
Holiday work party tips.

The free bar is making a comeback at many company parties. But that’s no excuse for you to drown your sorrows by drinking like a fish. Talk to the bartender ahead of time to fix you up with a 7-Up or ginger ale after you’ve had your self-appointed limit, if you feel you must stay neck-and-neck with the heavy drinkers at the party. People remember alcohol-fueled bad behavior and you don’t want to leave anyone thinking you are anything less than a serious professional.

6. Don’t Offer a Toast Unless You’ve Been Asked To

This is especially true if you are a company newcomer or the management is the least bit conservative. The bigwigs may have already planned out a series of toasts to be given by senior management; so don’t get the reputation as an upstart. That being said, it’s a good idea to have a brief one up your sleeve in case you are asked to give an impromptu toast.

Here’s one that is appropriate for just about any occasion:

“May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.