Top 10 Office Party Tips
By JACKIE LOOHAUIS
So how should you behave when your boss is the host? We polled some business experts and local restaurateurs who have seen the best and worst office party behavior. And we’ve come up with a list of tips for “Surviving Your Holiday Office Party with Your Face and Your Job Intact.”
1. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Even if your boss is named Ebenezer, you should show up at your company office party.”You cannot skip these parties,” said Margery Sinclair, etiquette teacher and head of Good Manners are Good Business in Glendale. “You have to put in an appearance. This is an extension of the business office.”
2. Mind your threads. Dress appropriately. (Hint: Leave the “desperate housewife” lingerie look at home).”Avoid the too-toos – too short, too tight, too transparent, too low-cut. Cleavage is not in good taste at an office party,” says Sinclair. Sometimes party invitations will specify festive attire, “but nobody knows what that means,” she said. What it means is: bright colors. Black is always sophisticated, but color says “holidays.” If the party is being held at an elegant locale, dress up. For women, that means pulling the better fabrics – silks, satins, velvets – out of storage. For men, it means an overcoat and shirt with a tie and “nice dress slacks,” Lewis said.
3. Watch the clock (in a good way). Just like your mom told you: Arrive on time.” But leave early, don’t overstay,” Sinclair advised. “An hour and a half is time enough. Tact is the pleasant side of truth, so if you say you have another party to go to, that’s all right. Perhaps that ‘other party’ is for the two of you at home.”
4. Come with ‘tude in tune. The party is being given for your benefit, so leave your Grinch personality and memories of lousy raises at home. Elizabeth Meinz, special event coordinator at Trocadero, 1758 N. Water St. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), has seen employee attitude make or break holiday events.” Guests should attend parties realizing that it is being given for their benefit,” she said. ” So people should have some gratitude for the party instead of acting like, ‘We’re here and we should get whatever we want,’ and being ultra-demanding. Come to enjoy yourself and realize a lot of planning has gone into this, so have a good time.”
5. Bag the booze. Career planning experts agree that staying sober is the most important “do” at any office party. Alcohol clouds judgment. At the time, you may feel that doing your Rambo impression makes you look dashing, but your boss may think differently when he sees the digital pictures of you wearing your silk polka dot tie as a headband with a plastic knife between your teeth. In fact, most company party horror stories begin at the bar.” Whenever they drink too much, things go wrong,” said Marc Bianchini, co-owner of Cubanitas, 728 N. Milwaukee St., and Osteria, 1028 E. Juneau Ave., venues that host dozens of holiday parties each year. ” They start having it out with their co-workers and it gets a little hostile.” Remember that you have to face your colleagues again on Monday, warned Dawn Rosenberg McKay, guide of the Career Planning Site on About.com (careerplanning.about.com).” The director of a graduate program threw a party for his fellow faculty and students at his house. He got so drunk that he tripped over his dog, who in turn bit him on his posterior,” McKay said in an e-mail. “Imagine getting up in front of a class after that . . . or running a staff meeting?” How much alcohol should you knock back? Several experts advise a one-drink maximum, but Sinclair has another suggestion:”A beverage is a beverage is a beverage. Having a drink in your hand makes you look sociable, but that just means liquid. It could be vodka, or apple juice or water.”
6. Mingle. Office experts suggest that parties are not the time to shrink into the wallpaper. Mike Halloran, program coordinator and instructor for the management development department at Milwaukee Area Technical College, suggests you prime yourself by learning the names of the senior corporate biggies who will be at the party too. Then, said Halloran: “Go around and introduce yourself to everyone at the party. Start at the top and work yourself down.”
7. Talk the talk. Now that you’re mingling, what do you say? The trick is coming armed with “the gift of conversation,” said Debra Fine, author of “The Fine Art of Small Talk” (Hyperion; $16.95).” Have two or three things to talk about in your head,” Fine said. “The worst time to think about what to talk about is when you don’t have anything to talk about. Tell people your name and help people play the conversation game with you. Have some ice-breakers ready.”Some suggestions: “Hi, what’s your connection to the firm?” “What are your plans for the holidays?” and “Bring me up to date on your life.” Guaranteed conversation deflators include: “Do you have kids?” (If the answer is no, there’s no place to go from there.) Also, Fine warns, at all costs avoid deadly faux pas like “Are those real?” – whether you’re referring to diamond earrings, or anything else. And under no circumstances should you traffic in office gossip. You never know who is standing behind you.
8. Skirt the flirt. This is an office party, not a singles bar.
9. Leash guests. First, make sure guests are welcome at your office event. Then find out if your colleagues are bringing significant others; you both may feel twitchy if you bring the only non-employee. Guests should also be savvy enough to follow the same rules you have to follow. “Their actions could damage your reputation as well,” McKay warned.
10. And, last, leave the leftovers. There’s nothing that says “greed” to your boss like seeing you try to sneak out the door with buffet booty in a doggie bag.