Enjoy your organization's holiday party but remember, you're at work

Holiday parties are a wonderful time to celebrate the season with co-workers but make no mistake--you aren't just at any ordinary party--you are still at work. Memories are long when it comes to social gaffes and political blunders and you don't want stories being told about you long after you'd like them to be forgotten. 

Here are some career-healthy do's and don'ts for your workplace celebration:

  •  Attend! This is a great opportunity to join your colleagues to celebrate your good will as a work family. If you don't attend you will be missed and your teammates-and boss- may even feel slighted if you don't show up.
  • Decide in advance how much you plan to drink at the party and stick to it. We've all heard stories about people who have made fools of themselves because they had a few too many and told the boss what they really thought.
  • Mix with people from different departments. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself to executives and fellow employees you wouldn't normally have an opportunity to meet. You can cross department lines and jump hierarchy levels without stepping on any political toes so why not take advantage of it?
  • Stand near the buffet or bar so you're in the best spot to meet the most people. This will also enable you to break away gracefully if you are caught in a conversation you would like to escape.
  • Avoid talking shop. Use the occasion to get to know your co-workers on a more personal level. Find out about their lives outside of work. Knowing something about their children, their hobbies and their friends will help you relate to them as whole people and it will give you new insight into their approach to work.
  • If you are interested in mingling don't sit down. Once you are parked at a table with a group of people, it's more difficult to leave.
  • Avoid gift giving at the holiday party. Public exchange of gifts can cause discomfort or even embarrassment; Did you spend too much? Too little? Was your gift too personal? And gag gifts aren't a good alternative because they can backfire if they're in bad taste or cause hurt feelings.
  • Watch what you say. Remember, you are at work. Don't say anything at the party that you wouldn't say in a meeting. Stray remarks in a "social" setting can do great damage to yourself and others.
  • Coach your spouse or date so they are on their best behavior. I've seen cases where a spouse has cornered a boss to demand why her husband wasn't given a raise! In another incident, two spouses were chatting and one of them revealed that her husband was thinking of looking for another job. The remark got back to the employee's manager and caused problems.
  • Discuss gift-giving among co-workers early in the season. Instead of exchanging gifts, many groups choose to do things together such as going out for a holiday lunch or doing something for a worthy cause. Some have a cookie exchange or an ornament exchange--it's inexpensive and fun.
  • If it's customary to exchange gifts, agree as a group about the cost limits. Many people have a tough time affording gifts for their families and the added expense of buying for co-workers can be a burden they feel pressured to bear.
  • Use the holidays to update your contact list and keep up your networking. Send holiday cards to update your address book. Take colleagues and mentors to lunch. Attend holiday gatherings sponsored by professional organizations to keep up your professional affiliations with people who can potentially influence your career.
  • Take some time off to shop, cook, wrap, party...The holidays can be stressful and trying to squeeze it all in while your working can make you less effective in both areas of your life.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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