I just received to an invitation to a holiday party at the home of one of my husband’s clients. I am also friendly with the hosts, so I know that I will feel right at home at this event. Still, I must be mindful of my behavior at this social event because I am not only representing myself, but I am also representing a company.
Career-limiting holiday parties
I can remember many company-sponsored holiday parties where people got into trouble by over-doing it. Their festive spirits dominated their common sense. They forgot that they were at a work function and that their integrity, self-control and decorum still mattered.
Careers were tarnished and relationships were damaged. And it all happened in just a few short hours at a holiday party. It almost makes you want to stay home and avoid the risk.
Holiday networking with confidence
There are many good reasons to attend company-sponsored holiday parties. Networking and relationship building are chief among the reasons why you should show up and exchange some yule tide cheer with your colleagues, clients and professional associates.
The goal of this blog post is to help you mix and mingle with confidence this holiday season. Whether you will be attending a company sponsored holiday party, a community event or a dinner at your boss’s house, you’ll want to be on your best networking behavior.
I found this article “10 Things You Don’t Want to Say When Having Dinner at Your Boss’s House” (written by Meredith Lepore and posted on www.TheGrindStone.com) to be particularly informative and entertaining. Ms. Lepore humorously addresses best practices when it comes to what you should do and what you should not do or say when attending a social event with your boss or colleagues. She covers critical areas including: alcohol consumption, bringing a date/guest, your attire, conversation, compliments, food/diet, your manners, and judgments. It’s well worth the read.
The Dirty Dozen
Below are the important outtakes that I gleaned from Ms. Lepore’s article, plus a few more to make the dirty dozen.
1. IMPRESSION. Your goal is to make a positive impression in an environment outside of the workplace. Be yourself, but be an amplified version of yourself with the manners and etiquette of Emily Post, the wit of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and the style of Audrey Hepburn.
2. ALCOHOL: Do not allow yourself to be “over-served.” Alcohol consumption should literally be limited to one drink, if any at all. Abstain if you are driving. Conversing with your superiors or making a positive impression on a client means you have to be totally alert and quick on your feet. Even one drink can impair your ability to be at your company best.
3. GUESTS: Only bring a guest if the invitation is extended. It’s best to bring someone whom you trust to be polite because their behavior will be a reflection on you. (even if that person is your spouse)
3. DRESS: Look professional but different from your normal work attire. Don’t wear anything too revealing, but do look festive. Don’t allow your attire to speak so loudly as to draw attention away from you and your host(s). There is nothing worse than being visually distracting.
5. CONVERSATION. Be aware of current events and latest news at your company. Avoid discussing politics and religion or sharing any confidential information. Show that you are well-read and well informed outside of work. Extend non-business courtesy to other guests who may not work in your office. Don’t dominate the conversation or be argumentative. Get people talking about themselves.
6. FOOD. If you have dietary restrictions, let your host know ahead of time. Eat before you go to the party so you don’t appear ravenous or preoccupied with the food stations or buffet table. Have small snacks because not eating will make you look rude and difficult.
7. COMPLIMENTS. Avoid kissing up to your boss. Make your compliments broad. Don’t pass judgments. Don’t gawk or act overly surprised by the show of wealth or lack there of.
8. APPRECIATION. Be on time. Bring a hostess gift. Compliment the cook or host. Write a thank you note afterwards. Note: texting or email a thank message to your host is nice, but it is not enough. Invest 45 cents in a first class stamp and mail your thank you card.
I’d like to add a few others to keep you on your networking toes this holiday season:
9. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES. Don’t assume that everyone celebrates the same holidays as you do. Read up and understand the meaning and specifics behind different holidays including: Christmas (Dec 25th) Hanukkah (Dec 8-16, 2012), Kwanzaa (Dec 26-Jan 1) and any other religious celebrations that might be observed by people that you work with. Do your research and ask people in your network to explain things to you. Be non-judgmental and accepting of their faith and practices.
10. TOUCHING. There seems to be more acceptance of hugging and kisses around holiday time (think mistletoe), but you should be careful not to take advantage of the situation. Don’t ever let alcohol be your excuse for offensive , abusive or sexual behavior.
11. MIXING AND MINGLING. Don’t set up tent next to the bar, but move around the room and meet as many people as you can. Standing is better than sitting, because you will have more mobility. Try not to hang out all night with the same people you already know. Make a goal to meet 2-3 new people and have interesting conversations with them. Follow up after the party and invite them into your network.
12. SOCIAL MEDIA. Refrain from posting compromising photos or comments from the company-sponsored holiday party. In fact, it’s best not to bring your mobile phone or camera to these events. Do not “tag” anyone on your posts. Never put yourself in a compromising position that could be exploited on Facebook or other social media. Once posted, it’s forever.
Your Networking Goal for the Week
Holiday parties are excellent venues for networking and building your professional connections. You just need to adjust your approach to fit the situation. Even if it’s listed as a party, it’s still business. You are still on the job, even if you are at a fun-filled company function.
As you prepare yourself to attend a holiday party or company-sponsored seasonal event, give yourself a pep talk and review the rules of business etiquette. Remind yourself how much you value your job, your professional relationships and your reputation.
Make an agreement with yourself that you will conduct yourself with the highest possible standards at this function. Don’t let 2 hours of holiday fun turn into 2 years of employment uncertainty.