The holiday season is upon us and with this time of year comes many social engagements – some more enjoyable than others. We’re kicking off our series on holiday etiquette primers with perhaps the most anxiety-inducing question of them all: how to master the office party.
What to wear
Confirm in advance what the dress code is for the party. If it’s the all-encompassing and increasingly popular “business casual,” err on the side of “business” rather than “casual.” Wear something flattering that wouldn’t be out of place at a business lunch at a nice restaurant or to dinner with your in-laws (who you are trying to impress). Look like you made an effort.
If your party is right after work, you can wear what you wore to the office that day, with a pair of heels and some pretty jewels to put on after hours. A swipe of red lipstick can add a festive kick to your makeup.
When to arrive and leave
If the evening is a cocktail party, arrive 15 to 30 minutes after the start time. If the evening begins with a cocktail reception followed by a sit-down dinner, arrive at the mid-point mark of the cocktail reception.
Leave early, especially if you work the next day. This is a pretty hard and fast rule.
Who to bring as a guest
Bring a guest who is engaging but not overbearing, polite but not stiff and able to chit chat without being too chatty. If you can’t find someone who meets this criteria, don’t go with anyone. That includes husbands, wives, boyfriends or girlfriends. If your significant other isn’t a mingle-with-strangers kind of person, don’t subject them to the experience. Leave them at home to watch video-on-demand in peace.
If you don’t bring an outside date, you can employ the buddy system with a coworker and show up at the party together. As long as you know one person you can stand by the bar and chat with, the evening should be a good time.
A couple final tips
Yes, a work party is an opportunity to relax and have a drink or two with colleagues, but keep it professional. Holiday party shenanigans can become water cooler legend. No one will forget when Betty from accounting got plastered and streaked upper-management in 2009.
And no matter how much you’d prefer not to be there, check your attitude at the door with your coat – a lot of money and planning work has gone into this event on your behalf and the very least you can do is pretend to have a good time for once in your miserable life.