Etiquette tips and advice to avoid a career malfunction

Remember that party where… Janis totally tuned up the HR director, or the one where John from accounting was caught in flagrante delicto with the intern. Those office parties become the stuff of legend. If it happened at a friend’s place, no big deal, but at a work related event, it has caused many a career malfunction.

Etiquette tips and career advice for the holiday office party

Remember office holiday parties are still business.

Try to avoid the following:

1 – Foot in Mouth disease
Some conversation topics are as dangerous as holding a live string of Christmas lights while walking on thin ice. To keep the evening peaceful, our advice is to avoid hot-button topics like religion and politics, especially office politics. This isn’t the time to whine that you should’ve got that promotion or point out to HR what they’re doing wrong.

2 – Spousal Neglect
If spouses or partners are invited, it’s good etiquette to introduce them to others and avoid shop talk. Don’t ignore them or you’ll hear about it when you get home. Bonus tip: Being overly affectionate in public is just as bad. Passionate kissing can make other people feel uncomfortable, especially if one of the witnesses is your spouse.

3 – Wearing a lampshade
Have you ever seen anyone actually wearing a lampshade? Okay, besides Lady Gaga? If you or your partner is in doubt as to what to wear, call and ask the organizer what’s typically worn. Bonus tip: Dressy-casual doesn’t mean come in your sweats or yoga wear. Dress up a little, so you’re in the top 25 percent of the attendees.

4 – Drunken Disorderly
Our most embarrassing moments usually involve alcohol. If this happens at the office party, it can be a major CLM (career limiting move). You may not remember it the next day but you can bet that everyone else at work will. As a bonus, it will probably be immortalized on YouTube for your spouse, your boss, the courts or anyone else who missed it.

5 – Last and probably least
You don’t want to be the first to arrive or last to leave. So don’t arrive too early unless you are willing to give a hand setting things up, otherwise you’ll be in the way. The same goes for being last to leave, never a good idea (especially if a lampshade has attached itself to your head).

Tis the season to be… moderate

Moderation is the operative word for successfully negotiating the office party.
It can be an excellent opportunity to raise your profile, network with people in other departments and get to know clients or colleagues better. OR not! Celebrate the season, but treat it like the business event it is and you won’t go wrong.

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Posted by Joanne Blake –  Canadian business etiquette expert and mindful party-goer

About the author 

Joanne Blake

Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

  1. John, I’m glad our post was as helpful. As for the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I’m sure her pedigree allowed her certain privileges…we will never know exactly what others thought about her arrival and departure practices, but it certainly made an impression!

  2. Hi Joanne and Terry,
    I will be attending an office party shortly. Thanks so much for your blog posted Nov 22, 2013 in Etiquette & Manners / Networking / Five Things Not to do at the Office Holiday Party.
    Although Christmas is long gone, I am sure that many of the rules of etiquette apply to almost any party, especially the one on being the first one to arrive or last to leave.

    I suppose I could do what Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis did as a child and up to her entire adult life. Apparently her father John Vernou Bouvier III would be sure that whenever his daughter was invited to a party, he always made sure that she was the last to arrive and the first to leave. His modus operandi worked for it would turn heads both all through her childhood years and in her entire adult life.

  3. Hi Joanne,

    great advice!! I hope everybody hears that.
    One thing to add: Find out whether there are hostess gifts and/or donations to a charity in order. You don’t want to be the one who looks bad.

    Have a Merry Christmas and happy New Year

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