The holidays are quickly approaching, and so is the inevitable office party. If you’re a new college graduate or started working for a new company this year, you might not be sure what to expect. In fact, the more you start thinking about office party etiquette, the more nervous you get.
Relax. We’ll guide you through it!
5 Tips For Attending Your First Office Party
1. Find Out If It Is Work or a Party
First and foremost, it’s important to know what the tone of the office party will be. Chat with your coworkers to double check. Usually, office parties lean toward business casual. Don’t go to the office party expecting it to be like a night at the club. However, each company has its own culture. Maybe there will be party games and karaoke. Or maybe you will all just nibble on pretzels and peanuts, make small talk and go home.
Try not to think of the office party as an obligation. Such an attitude will only steal the fun! Think of it as an opportunity to get to know your colleagues better. After all, you spend half the day with these people; it would be nice to find out if you have anything in common other than work.
Be sure to also ask ahead of time where you can bring a plus one. Sometimes office parties are just for employees and guests are discouraged.
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2. What to Wear
Ladies, leave your stilettos and short, tight dresses at home. What’s the fanciest thing you would wear to the office on a work day without feeling embarrassed or overdressed? Wear that, and make it a little festive with holiday-themed colors, patterns or jewelry.
For example, you could start with a simple and modest white dress, like the Time Warp Midi Dress pictured below. The skirt hits below the knee and the neckline is very high. If you don’t like the exposed back, you could pair it with a pashmina, cardigan or jacket in a rich, festive color. Add some colorful Mary Janes or ballet flats, and you’ve got the beginnings of a cheerful office party outfit. (Special thanks to Tobi for allowing me to use their image below in this article.)
3. When to Arrive and When to Leave
Be polite and arrive within 10 or 15 minutes of the party’s start time, if not precisely on time. Do not show up with the mindset that you will “make an appearance” and then skedaddle after quickly helping yourself to drinks and snacks. Try to stay for at least an hour.
If the party has a specific end time, prepare to leave about half an hour beforehand. You’ll need some time to finish conversations, say goodbye and gather your things. Otherwise, when the party naturally begins to wind down, it’s time to say your goodbyes. Take your cues from other people. If they start heading out the door, it’s time for you to leave as well. No one likes having to usher someone out the door because they just can’t take a hint!
4. What to Do and What Not to Do
Get ready to listen and to engage in small talk. Stay positive in your chit-chat. This isn’t a time to hotly debate politics or to moan and complain about so-and-so in the accounting department. Even though it’s a work function, try to avoid talking about work.
Although you surely have friends that you’ll want to spend some time with, don’t stay huddled up in one particular group. Roam around the room. Introduce yourself to people you don’t interact with on a daily basis. This is the perfect time to put names to faces. Mingling is the name of the game!
Avoid stuffing your face with food. Eat beforehand so that you’re not tempted. The more you eat, the messier you’re likely to get. You don’t want to shake hands with the CEO after eating a greasy appetizer or have crumbs all over your mouth from a cookie. First impressions are, after all, important. Snack moderately.
Even if they do serve alcohol, try not to drink. This is particularly true if you know you have a hard time stopping once you get started. You don’t want to be the punch line of the party. If you do want to have an alcoholic drink or two, sip on water in between drinks.
5. Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
When it comes down to it, you’ve handled more stressful work activities than this. Have fun and stay classy, and the office party will be a breeze.
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