By Anita Bruzzese, freelance writer on topics related to workplace/career issues
It’s the time of year when many of us are celebrating the holidays with our colleagues and business associates at office parties.
But if you’re not careful, your celebration could become a landmine of career pitfalls if you make mistakes such as having too much to drink or saying the wrong thing to the boss’s spouse.
While most of us know not to consume too much at the office party, there are other, more subtle things you need to understand about how to make the right impression.
Here are some tips to keep you out of trouble:
1. Do participate. Office parties are a great chance to get to know colleagues from other departments, and to chat with the boss in a more relaxed atmosphere. Your absence will be noticed and you may be seen as not being “part of the team” if you ditch it. Unless you’re getting a brain transplant, try to be there.
2. Dress appropriately. Most holiday parties are business casual, so stick to the theme and don’t wear that low-cut, sparkly number or decide to sport your leather chaps.
3. Pose for photos. If you notice someone taking photos, put down the drink, straighten your hair and don’t lean drunkenly on the guy from finance. These photos often wind up on Facebook and the bulletin board in the break room. If you want a lasting impression to be positive, don’t pose with a lampshade on your head or you’ll be the office joke on Monday morning.
4. Coach your guests. It’s a good idea to clue your guest into some of the office dynamics before a party. For example, let your date know the boss hates the Green Bay Packers, and claiming to be a huge fan may not go over well. It’s also worth reminding your spouse/guest not to mention any of your complaints about your job or the organization. At the same time, spouses can be great assets if they offer something like “I’ve heard great things about you!” to a colleague. (Just make sure it’s true and he or she can offer an example if questioned.)
5. Meet new people. You may feel you know everyone well in your department, but this is a chance to reach out to others. Find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Exchanging holiday pleasantries with someone in another area can be a great starting point for more conversations in the future and to perhaps help you learn of new or exciting opportunities.
6. Talk to the boss’s partner. Just as you may rely on the opinion of your spouse or partner, bosses are no different. Take the time to introduce yourself to the boss’s significant other and make a friendly overture, such as offering a compliment. (“That scarf is so beautiful! I’d love to get my sister something just like it!”) If you’ve met before, make a good impression by recalling something from a previous conversation. (“I remember you said you had taken up yoga. How is that going for you?”)
7. Have fun. By no means should you go to a holiday party so afraid you’ll make a career goof that you don’t have fun. This is a time to celebrate a special time of the year with colleagues, so enjoy!