Halfway through December, we’re already thick into the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. So you may already have been through the holiday gathering of your workplace. But just in case it’s yet to come, Etiquetteer has a few words of advice for getting through it with Perfect Propriety.
Keep it light. Office socializing can help colleagues work better together by fostering a sense of community as well as personal understanding. That doesn’t mean that the annual holiday do is the right time to dig more deeply into that budget issue or policy disagreement, and especially not to be adding action items to anyone’s list. Think of your office party chatter as a feather. It can only stay airborne if it’s light. If you need some help getting started, topics most people will have something to say about include holiday plans and shopping, and of course the weather. Etiquetteer should not have to tell you to Stay Off Politics.
Dress appropriately. This is still a professional gathering and you need to appear as a professional. Unless otherwise stated in the invitation, wear what you’d ordinarily wear to the office with one or two “deft and tasteful suggestions” of holiday flair. (You may be sure that Etiquetteer will have on a Perfectly Proper Christmas bow tie when the time comes.) If there’s a theme dress code (e.g. “Holiday colors” or “Ugly sweater”), accommodate as much as you feel comfortable.
No more than one drink. Really! The stereotype of the drunk coworker is well known in American life, and there’s a reason: it really happens. Dorothy Parker’s witticism “One more drink and I’ll be under the host” takes on alarming connotations when your host is the CEO of your company or, worse, your boss. Remember the wise words of Billie Holliday in “God Bless the Child:” “You can help yourself, but don’t take too much.”
Don’t drink and dash. Holiday parties come in all sizes and formats, but it’s best not to leave until after the remarks or, if a meal is served, after dessert. This isn’t always possible, of course. Alert your supervisor in advance if you really can’t avoid leaving earlier.
A toast! Sometimes at these gatherings a speaker will call for a toast in honor of a company leader, or even of the entire staff, as a salute for a job well done. It’s still Bad Form not to drink a toast. But the old supersition about drinking a toast with water bringing bad luck has been swept away with greater sensibility about Alcohol Abuse. Don’t let anyone force alcohol on you, but be sure to have a glass of sparkling water on hand (perhaps with a festive shot of cranberry juice in it). And no clinking of glasses, please. When standing around in large groups, all that’s needed is to raise the glass, repeat the toast (“To us!”) or reply “Hear hear!” and take a sip. Etiquetteer still remembers this commercial from childhood, but it is Not How Things Are Done.
Thank the organizer(s). Gatherings like this can be a lot of work for little acknowledgement. Etiquetteer encourages you to find out who Made Things Happen and thank them, either in person at the party or later by Lovely Note or email. Your expression of gratitude will go a long way.
Finally, don’t be that guy. Seriously, don’t be that guy.
Etiquetteer would like to wish you a Perfectly Proper Holiday Party at the office.