Many mixed emotions come from the arrival of this season: from holiday merriment to the stress of wrapping up final projects to the enthusiasm that comes with traveling and seeing extended family. Company holiday parties are another event that make the season buzz. So what should you expect?
For most people company holiday parties are an annual norm of festive fun to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year – whether it’s passed hors d’oeuvres and wine at the office or a catered dinner and open bar at a hotel ballroom – for those new to a company or who’ve never been to one, holiday parties can be a source of uncertainty. What should you expect? What is the proper etiquette? How will this party vary from your previous employer’s holiday party?
The fact is no two companies (or holiday parties) are alike, and of course there are multiple variables at play including budget, capacity, and type of venue. However, some rules of conduct apply no matter what kind of party it is. Whether you’re a veteran employee or a newbie, here’s some tips to keep in mind so you can make a good impression, but still have a great time.
What to Expect
Considering the scope of variety that holiday party’s fall into, it’s actually somewhat difficult to know exactly what to expect. The basics usually include some appetizers and drinks, but for larger companies or ones with a bigger budget, these aspects can expand to a catered buffet with a menu of winter fare as well as an open bar or one that accepts drink tickets.
For company holiday parties that take place outside the office, other common activities or amenities can include a dance floor, a holiday raffle, photo booths, and/or Secret Santa gift exchanges. Another common trend is the incorporation of philanthropy into the festivities due to the holiday spirit of giving. This can take form in multiple ways from a silent auction to a holiday gift drive to donating ticket proceeds to a specific charity.
What’s the best way to find out what to be prepared for? Ask veteran colleagues or even your boss what to expect, what’s been done in the past, and general advice to get a sense of the rules of engagement. This can be anything from what to wear to how long to stay to what you’re expected to bring. You can then plan accordingly and avoid any embarrassment from showing up dressed too casually or empty-handed.
Moderation Is the Watchword
As for etiquette, it’s all about maintaining a sense of balance in your conduct. This is especially true for new employees who should let loose with co-workers, but still veer towards conservative behavior rather than give the wrong impression by getting too comfortable. The key idea to remember is it’s still a “work” event and you should behave appropriately. Shawnice Meador, Director of Career and Leadership Services for Working Professionals at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program, puts its perfectly: “Remember, impressions of your character and professionalism are being made even at ‘off the clock’ events like these.”
So in what respects should you keep yourself in check? You should:
- Eat and drink in moderation; eat beforehand if there’s only going to be hors d’oeuvres.
- Abide by the dress code or if one isn’t clearly stated, ask co-workers what they plan to wear or have worn in previous years to gauge what’s appropriate; wearing something festive doesn’t hurt, but don’t go to the extreme with an ugly Christmas sweater.
- Be social and feel free to talk to people you don’t already know, but don’t explicitly talk about work—it’s a party after all and conducting business can come off as tacky.
- Find out who can come to the event such as spouses or significant others. Also, don’t arrive too late!
- Remember to thank those who organized the party and say goodbye to everyone before you leave.
And of course, make the effort to go! Unless you have some prior obligation that can’t be rescheduled, you should definitely try to attend the holiday party to not only celebrate the end of the year, but also build a sense of camaraderie with your co-workers. And if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to ace it and have a good time to boot!