Work parties are kind of the best and kind of the worst. On the one hand, you get to hang out with your favorite coworkers, have a few free drinks, and see what's up with that cute person from accounting. On the other hand, you can't truly have fun because the ol' boss is watching. So, what are the etiquette rules to follow at work parties? And, how can you have an OK time while still remaining super professional and making a good impression?
Let's talk about it, because it doesn't matter what kind of job you have — your place of employment will eventually have a holiday potluck, office birthday party, and/or networking event. If you can get through it without doing anything too awkward, you should consider yourself a winner. But trust me when I say there's more to these parties than just surviving until it's time to go home.
On the surface, work gatherings exist to celebrate your company's hard work. Or, you know, that upcoming holiday. But, deep down, they're the perfect opportunity to truly stand out. As modern etiquette coach Maggie Oldham says, "... behaving in a classy and sophisticated way at a work party can actually help you succeed in the workplace ... Remember, the way we carry ourselves can be our greatest source of competitive advantage." Not to add more pressure, but it's so true. Read on for some easy ways to stand out, be super polite, and really make the most of your next company party.
1. Go Ahead And Get Dressed Up
It might be tempting to ditch your typical "business casual" and show up to the party in something a bit more comfortable. If you want to make a good impression, however, it's better to take your look up a notch. "Find out the location and attire exceptions before you go, and put on something like what your boss would wear," etiquette expert Aimee Symington tells Bustle. You'll feel much more confident as a result.
2. Grab A Snack Before You Go
My favorite part of any party (work or otherwise) is the food. Whether it's pizza, a buffet, or a fancy sit down dinner, I am all about it. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that work parties aren't actually about eating. (Sad face.) As Symington tells me, they're all about the networking and socializing. So make sure you grab a snack before you go.
3. Walk Into The Party With Confidence
Sure, you see these people every day. But there's something about a work party environment that almost makes it feel like you're meeting your coworkers anew. It can be pretty intimidating, so be sure you walk into the party with confidence. "Put your cell phone away, have positive body language, and put a smile on your face to show you are happy being there," Symington says.
4. Don't Bring A Date Unless It's OK
If you aren't sure whether or not it's OK to bring a date, you can go ahead and ask your boss (or look at the invitation). But if you still aren't sure, the best bet is to show up solo, author and national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman tells me. Nothing's worse (or less professional) than walking in with an unexpected guest and making everyone scramble to find extra chairs or drinks.
5. Put Your Name Tag In The Correct Spot
For networking events or huge company get togethers, you'll probably be required to slap on a name tag. If so, make sure you put it in the right spot. "Place your name tag on the right side of your chest, because then when shaking someone’s hand they can easily read your name," Symington says. So smart, right?
6. Hold Your Drinks The Right Way
Or, rather, the left way. Since people shake with their right hands, make an effort to keep your cocktail in your left hand so you're free to greet others, Symington tells me. It'll also save you from shaking hands with moist fingers from holding your cold drink. Gross.
7. Try To Remember Everyone's Name
This is easier said than done, for some people. But if you just met your boss's partner, try your darndest to remember their name. It can help to repeat their name often and introduce them to others, Symington tells me. Not only will it lodge their name further into your head, it'll make you seem super polite, too.
8. Have Some Drinks If You Want, But Don't Go Overboard
It's perfectly OK to enjoy a few cocktails, and it's also perfectly OK to enjoy yourself. It's not so OK, however, to get super tipsy. If you have a few too many, suddenly you're the focus of the party — and the person who gets to be embarrassed the next day. To prevent this, monitor your drinking and know your limits, Gottsman tells me. You'll be glad you did.
9. Keep The Gossip To A Minimum
A work party can feel like the perfect time and place to gossip. You aren't on the clock and yet you're surrounded by all your coworkers who know your day-to-day pain so very well. Still, as Symington tells me, it's not a good idea to get too chatty. Not only is it rude, but you never know who is listening.
10. Skip The Controversial Topics
Every workplace is different, so it might be a-OK to bring up politics and religion at your company dinner. You'll know best, but it's usually a safe bet to avoid getting too personal or controversial whilst at work, Symington tells me. Of course you can chat. And you should get to know your coworkers by asking questions. Just don't let the convo go downhill.
11. Remember To Thank Your Host
At the end of the party, go up to your boss and thank them for the dinner/party/drinks. As Oldham says, "... so many people forget to do this, and it's such a nice gesture to say 'thank you' to the host. It is super classy and you'll stand out from the crowd (in a good way!)."
And really, that's what it's all about. Showing up, chatting, networking, and leaving as gracefully as possible. If you can do these things at your next work party, I promise you'll be the most professional person there.
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