London - The Mad Men-esque days of over-the-top office parties, where co-workers got roaring drunk and ended up wearing lampshades, are out of style.
The office party has matured, by and large, into a more relaxed event, where workers can socialise and enjoy the holidays without thinking about deadlines, or getting hit on by Bob from marketing. Here are some ideas on making them work for you:
Plan early: If you’re in charge of scheduling the office party, you should have planned it by now. Send invitations or let employees know the date, time and location in advance. Also be sure to let co-workers know if the invitation includes spouses and significant others, or children.
Spouses: Make sure they feel included and comfortable. Let them know what to wear, and give them a heads-up on the names of bosses and colleagues likely to be there. At the party, don’t ditch them. Introduce them to your important workplace family. If there is a seated dinner, couples should be seated together.
Gift exchanges: Avoid purchasing a gift for your boss, unless you go in on it as part of a large group. If your office is holding any type of gift exchange, come prepared. Keep your choice office-appropriate (hand lotion, yes; perfume, no), and stay within rules, especially regarding price. Be a good sport and participate in the exchange; it shows you are a team player.
You’re going to have to talk to someone: If the thought of party small-talk makes you sweat, don’t panic. People who blather on usually embarrass themselves, not the quiet type – think before you speak. Provide a frame of reference: “Hi, I’m Sarah; I joined accounting this summer.”
Have a list of potential topics in mind to help you get a conversation going – current news, pop culture and sports are good places to start. Avoid yes or no questions. “What are your plans for the holidays?” will generate a more detailed response than “Are you travelling for the holidays?” And remember, the wallflower near the buffet is probably looking for a conversation just as much as you are.
Be present: Though this is an office party, leave your work at your desk. Switch off mobile devices or set to silent. If you must take a call or check an e-mail, step away from the party. Give your attention to those you are chatting to – don’t look over their shoulder while you look for someone more important to speak to.
Was photocopying your backside ever a good idea? People who drink too much at office parties take the risk of seriously harming their careers. The chemistry you thought you had with Jennifer at the holiday office party might seem less than romantic in the clear, sober office environment.
And management might think twice about trusting you with their biggest client after your drunken karaoke rendition of Lady Gaga’s latest hit song. The safest way to avoid embarrassing situations is to stay in control and limit your drinking.
Be thankful: Be sure to thank the host of your party, and people who worked to plan the event.
* Jo Bryant is the London-based etiquette advisor for Debrett’s, the UK’s modern authority on all matters of manners and behaviour. The opinions expressed are her own. Debrett’s website is www.debretts.com – Reuters