A holiday party is a time to connect, but make sure you'll be comfortable with your behavior in the cold, fluorescent light on Monday. Credit: Getty
Sure, the halls are decked and there’s an array of festive booze ready to be guzzled, but an office holiday party is a ruse. In fact, “office” matters a lot more than “party” in the grand significance of the event. If you’re smart, you can make an office holiday party good for your career (and have a little fun, too).
Karen Elizaga is an executive coach and author of “Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence,” and she says it’s important to walk into the holiday bonanza with a certain amount of decorum. “It’s certainly a time to celebrate with your colleagues, but it’s definitely not a time for payback,” she advises. “I tend to think of these parties as a work event, so I go prepared.”
Preparedness doesn’t mean arriving with a Santa beer helmet or a naughty little elf outfit. A holiday party is an internal networking event, Elizaga says, so she recommends you walk in with a few topics of conversation prepared — and never on an empty stomach. “If you show up well-fed, the chances of you doing something crazy is much less. Watch your alcohol intake.”
As the founder of the catering and event planning company Between the Bread, Ricky Eisen may have a different perspective from Elizaga, but her first piece of advice is the same: “Don’t drink too much.”
She also says there’s no classier move than for employees to thank the person who planned the party. And if the tinsel and holly aren’t really your style, don’t mention it, Eisen says. “Respect the effort of the person who put it together, whether or not it’s the kind of party you would throw.”
Both experts agree on one thing: It’s about the people. “You want people to see your personality. It might not shine through [at work] when you’re so focused and serious,” Elizaga says. Most importantly, just because you’re not shotgunning beers doesn’t mean you can’t revel in the festive spirit: “Make sure you have fun.” she says.
Tips to use by the punch bowl
Network “An office party is such a great time to make those connections,” Elizaga advises. “Somebody who works outside of your immediate vicinity or who you want to pay special gratitude to because they helped you get something done — it’s a really great time to connect.”
Be aware of monopolizing people’s time “There may be somebody you want to talk to because you think they can help you professionally, but understand that they want to talk to other people, too. Be cognizant of the time that you’re taking,” Elizaga reminds revelers.
Say thanks “If you’re attending, make sure you go over to the person who planned it and thank them. I think that goes a huge long way to showing that you have manners and proper etiquette,” Eisen suggests.
You can flirt, cautiously “I think it’s perfectly acceptable to make a connection with somebody you’ve had your eye on at work. But be guided by what’s appropriate. This is not some random bar or party you’re at. This is your office,” Elizaga says.