Have fun at your company’s holiday party

Just about this time every year the old office party stories surface just as predictably as "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." "Remember when Hal drank too much at the office Christmas party and got sick in the waste basket?" "Remember when Tom was hitting on the woman at the bar and it turned out to be the boss's wife?" And it's also the time of year we recall the gift gaffes that take on a life of their own in office legend and lore. "Remember the gag gift the boss didn't think was very funny?"

The holidays are a wonderful time to get to know your colleagues on a more personal level at social gatherings, but a few tips will get you through the holidays with your career intact. If you're smart, you may even give your career a boost. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you're making merry this holiday season:

·        Go to the company party. If you don't you could be labeled a Scrooge. Even if you can only show up for a portion of the event, you will demonstrate to your co-workers that you value them enough to spend time with them even when you don't have to.

·        Before you go to the party prepare your guest or spouse. If you've told them some unflattering things about your boss or teammates, coach your partner if you feel the need. Imagine the consequences of a poorly placed remark or careless slip. For example, I know a case of a man whose wife complained bitterly to the boss's wife about the unfair treatment he had been getting from the company. In another situation, a manager's husband congratulated an employee on his promotion. That would have been fine except that the employee hadn't been notified about it yet.

·        Don't drink too much. It may feel like a social event but remember you are still "at work." In fact, you are more visible at the Christmas party than you would be on your regular job. You are exposed to people from all departments and levels across the organization. This is a heck of a time to make a spectacle of yourself.

Before you leave home, decide how much (if any) you plan to drink. If your tongue gets loose after two glasses of wine, know when to stop. Once you're past the "safe" limit, it could be too late.

·        If in doubt, dress on the conservative side. Your sparkled spandex body suit may look great on you but think about who will be seeing you--and judging you.

·        Use the party to mix with other people across the company. It's the perfect time to introduce yourself to people you've always wanted to meet. If you want an introduction, corner your co-workers who always seems to know everyone and ask them to point out people and make the introduction.

Hang out at the bar or near the food. If you station yourself where the people traffic is flowing you're able to meet and talk with people naturally, instead of having to approach them to make a formal introduction. It will also be easier to slide away from one person to talk to another.
Don't sit down right away. If you sit down, it's harder to remove yourself from one group of people to join another.

·        Don't gossip or say anything negative about other attendees. Not only is there a chance it could be overheard, co-workers may have looser lips than normal and be tempted to spread the word.

·        Don't use the party forum to push your business agenda. If there is a formal agenda for the event, be careful to keep the focus light and uplifting. People don't want to be weighted down with deep subjects or bad news--save those for regular business meetings.

Along the same vein, don't single out another person to resolve a business issue or conduct a discussion that should be handled at work. They will resent it and will only give you half an ear anyway.

·        If gifts are exchanged, keep them inexpensive and "safe." Gag gifts--though they may seem like a great idea--are mostly inside jokes only half the room understands. What's worse, gag gifts have a tendency to backfire if they are misinterpreted or hit a sensitive spot. Gifts such as food items, wine, books, gift certificates are neutral and tend to be safer.

The holidays are a great time to get to mix with old friends and meet new ones. If you're smart, you'll be well positioned to have a successful, prosperous New Year.

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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