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The dreaded much anticipated holiday season at work
Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer – O Holy Night!!!!
Happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Diwali, Merry Christmas
The holidays are a minefield of emotions, stresses, and demands on the budget and time of everyone this time of year. Family requirements are always a concern but even more challenging are the expectations in the workplace during the holiday season. Family responsibilities might be tricky and taxing but expectations at the office have higher stakes.
Some things to consider regarding office holiday party etiquette:
BEFORE YOU ATTEND
Commit to attend the party if at all possible. Some planning committee worked hard to provide a way for everyone to celebrate as a group. Yes, I know it is sometimes hard to relax with people you may not even enjoy being around – get over it. You might find these people to be entirely different in a more relaxed atmosphere. Hey, at least try. Remember all that rhetoric about team building??
Prepare mentally for some small talk
Remember most people’s favorite subject is themselves. Ask questions about where they went to school and grew up. “Do you follow the Saints?” “Are you an LSU/SU fan?” “What keeps you busy when you aren’t at work?” Another topic which always gets someone talking is family. “Do you have children?” Ages? Schools? Activities? Any pictures? Off limit topics (do I really need to remind you?) – religion, politics, office politics and policies, and controversial topics such as legalization of marijuana or immigration issues.
If you receive an invitation without a mention of formality or informality, ask around. Especially if you are new to the company, check with employees who have gone to previous parties. You don’t want to show up in a Christmas sweater with reindeer and bells and others are in a sleek suit or a cocktail dress. Consider a compromise between sexy and attractive and professional and serious.
It is always welcome information when the office sets a gift giving policy. Having a Secret Santa or drawing names for a single non gender specific gift with a suggested spending limit is a great idea. Just remember personal items are not a good idea. Gift certificates are an excellent option. If you feel compelled to buy individual gifts, do not present them to the person(s) at the office party. Find a time/place before or after work to give such gifts, even if they are small tokens of friendship or appreciation.
Gifts to the boss are tricky and usually not expected. Be mindful of the workplace’s holiday culture and follow customary gifting which may be a single gift to which all have contributed or absolutely not giving boss gifts. Consider being creative and socially responsible in your gift giving. Perhaps you have a favorite charity that you would like to make a donation to in someone’s name, or think about interests and causes the recipient of the gift may embrace and donate in that area in their name. Shopwithmeaning.org lists organizations which fund causes from clean water, fair trade, fighting poverty, hunger relief and education in third world countries. The holiday season is a time when MANY agencies solicit – they are easy to find.
BEHAVING AT THE OFFICE PARTY
It might be awkward but make an effort to acknowledge all your coworkers and especially your superiors. The setting may seem really informal but defer to supervisors and bosses. Don’t use this as an opportunity to speak your mind, question or comment on work policies.
Avoid any romantic or sexual advances
Discretion is important. This is not the time or place to declare your romantic intentions to a coworker. You certainly don’t want to be the object of workplace gossip after the party. If you are the object of unwanted attention, let the person down gently – especially if you find yourself being “hit on by the boss.” Remember innocent attention can turn inappropriate and lead to claims of sexual harassment. Don’t touch people in ways that can be misconstrued or say things that can be considered sexually provocative or demeaning.
That drinking thing
First, remember that it is not a requirement to have any alcoholic beverage. Many people do not drink because of religious convictions, health issues, or perhaps because they are recovering alcoholics. No one should ask why you aren’t drinking alcohol and unless he is a dullard will not. It is perfectly acceptable to have a soft drink, water or coffee without any explanation offered. That being said, many people use a holiday party as an opportunity to imbibe at the company’s expense. Most post party gossip concerning improper behavior (think dancing with the lamp shade on your head, giving TMI -too much information about your personal life, or telling people exactly how you feel about fellow employees or company policies) is fueled by too much alcohol.
Problems arise that can cause others to think poorly of you or in extreme cases cause dismissal from a job. The more drinks, the more likely a person is to do something he/she will regret. I’m just guessing here, but if you are a drinker who has sometimes overdone it, think back to things that you did or said that might have caused you embarrassment upon cold, sober reflection.
So consider if you are drinking to eat food before drinking. You might order rum and coke or gin and tonic for a first drink and then switch to plain coke or tonic. No one will notice. If it is a long evening pace yourself and drink water and eat between alcoholic beverages. If you feel like you might be overdoing it, duck out early instead of getting drunk in front of the boss. In the holiday spirit, consider helping a coworker that might need to be encouraged to leave the party – and drive him/her or call a cab. On final thought – Don’t let these suggestion be a concern that overrides your decision to attend, as Holiday Office Parties can be great relationship builders with co-workers, clients or prospects.
SOOOOOOO – HAPPY HOLIDAYS, KWANZAH, HANUKKAH, RAMADAN, DIWALI –MERRY CHRISTMAS AND REMEMBER AN OFFICE PARTY IS STILL THE OFFICE AS FAR AS GOOD SENSE AND PROPER ETIQUETTE ARE CONCERNED. ENJOY AND BE SMART.