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Office party anxiety is a problem for everyone; not just those who suffer from social anxiety.
A study of British office workers revealed that nearly two-thirds of employees would rather stay at home than go to the holiday office party and the same percentage were anxious about making a good impression on superiors and co-workers.
Monique Harrisberg, founder and CEO of The Voice Clinic, says an office party handled well is a chance to get to know your co-workers better.
“This is the perfect opportunity for you to make an impression and have one-on-one time outside the work environment,” she says.
“Although it may seem obvious, you will have a better time and meet more people if you are open and friendly. Even if you feel anxious, do your best to smile, make eye contact and appear approachable.”
The Voice Clinic offers the following tips to use the office Christmas party to your advantage:
l Who to talk to – If you are not particularly close with your co-workers, it may be hard to know who to talk to at the office party.
Often it is easiest to join conversations that are already ongoing. It may also be easier to talk with spouses of co-workers, since they may not know anyone at the party and would be grateful to have someone with whom to talk.
Even if speaking with the boss makes you nervous, it is important to shake hands and say hello so that your presence is known.
Prepare something in advance to say about what you are working on, and bring it up if it seems appropriate at the time. Having more than a one-word response to questions will help you to make a better impression.
l What to talk about – Although you are at a party with co-workers, the conversation should not revolve around your work.
Try to get to know people on a personal level. Ask questions and listen to what others have to say.
Brush up on current events, and have a couple of jokes memorised just in case. Give sincere compliments and avoid spreading office gossip.
l What not to do – The biggest mistake that you could make at the office party is to not show up. Treat the party as a work function and force yourself to go even if you are anxious.
l Once there, it is not enough just to show up – If you spend the evening sitting alone, you will not only have a miserable time, but you’ll send the wrong impression to your co-workers and superiors: that you are not interested in them.
If you are simply too anxious to mingle, see if you can volunteer for a job at the party to keep you busy and interacting with others.
l Be sure not to drink too much – If you do drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks and ensure you eat too.
“What people forget, is to follow up on conversations from the office party, to firmly cement those new bonds,”says Harrisberg.
“If you want to develop personal relationships with your co-workers, continue office party conversations afterwards. Immediately after the party, make some notes.
“Write down the names of spouses and children. Note interests and hobbies. Then, follow up with conversations or e-mails that show you remembered important details about others.
“Even just sending a link to an article that someone may be interested in shows that you were listening. Remember, the office party is your opportunity to form friendships and put your best foot forward, so make the most of this opportunity that only comes round once a year.”
l The Voice Clinic offers free voice and communication skills assessments. For more information about The Voice Clinic’s voice programmes call 011 880 2334.