BloomStra Consulting

‘Tis the season to be jolly! However, being too “jolly” at an annual office holiday party could potentially impact your career. Remember that the annual office holiday party, though wrapped in a social context, is still a business function. How you behave will be observed and remembered by someone whose opinion can impact your job.  Your professional presence which impacts your reputation, is key – so be on your best behaviour at all times. To ensure an enjoyable and successful evening, consider the following tips:

1. Not Going is Not an Option

The office party is part of your job. It is a time for co-workers and colleagues to gather together outside of the day-to-day workplace for some fun and well-deserved recognition. If attending your office party feels like a chore then it’s time for a mind-set change. Put on a smile and see the event as a networking opportunity.

2. Recognize the Opportunity to Advance Your Career

The office party is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from the crowd. It is a chance for you to demonstrate your ability to handle business situations of a social nature – notable soft skills considered by management for career advancement. It is an opportunity for you to make your presence known with the top executives of your organization, especially if you do not see them at work on a daily basis.

3. Dress Appropriately

Dress appropriately for the occasion. Always be conscious of your professional image. Find out if the event is business attire or formal. Leave anything short, tight or revealing in the closet. Like it or not, unprofessional attire can alter your co-workers’ and manager’s perception of you as a competent professional.

4. Arrive On-Time and Don’t Overstay Your Welcome

Plan to arrive soon after the event is scheduled to start. You don’t have to stay all night, but make sure you stay long enough to circulate around the room.  If the event is small, take the time to have a conversation with each of your colleagues.  If the event is large, make your presence known to key people within your organization.  You need to remain at the event for at least an hour or you will give the impression that your appearance was merely obligatory.  If you are having a good time, make sure to leave before the party time has elapsed. You never want to be noted as the person who is always “the last to leave.”

5. Find Out Who Else has Been Invited

Do not assume that only your department or your work team has been invited to the office holiday party.  Confirm who has been invited and then ensure you are prepared to interact accordingly.  Knowing who will be there and having an idea what to talk about is critical to a successful venture. Do your homework. Seek out the individuals who can influence your career. Speak with them about their interests. You can talk business, but don’t “talk shop” – this can be very boring at a business social event. After an appropriate amount of time, excuse yourself and move.

6. Be Professional at All Times

As soon as you arrive, find your host and thank him or her for the invitation. Take some time to chat, but do not monopolize the host’s time. Do be gracious and thank co-workers and team members for all their help and hard work during the past year. Do not use the office party as an excuse to complain, brag, whine, gossip or ridicule. Do avoid controversial subjects such as religion, politics, or off-colour jokes.  And remember that this is not the appropriate environment to let down your hair and dance on the speakers. Proper etiquette and decorum are key at such an event. This is a business social event, not a personal social event.

7. Eat and Drink in Moderation

The office holiday party is an opportunity to build business relationships and promote yourself. You will want to present a professional image at all times. How you behave outside of the office in a business social context can positively or negatively impact your career. If you have poor table manners or drink alcohol in excess, you open yourself to criticism and judgment which can hinder your reputation and future career opportunities. Moderation is key.

8. Be Approachable

As much as you will have an obligation to mingle at the office holiday party, others will be doing the same and will want an opportunity to meet and chat with you. Be open, friendly and relaxed. Always keep your right hand free during the night so that you can shake hands easily and with grace.  Hold your beverage in your left hand so you are not offering people a cold, wet handshake all evening.

9. Do Not Drink and Drive

Find out whether your office will be providing taxi service for employees attending the office holiday party.  If not, make sure you appoint a designated driver or hire a taxi yourself. Never drink and drive.

10. Exit Gracefully

When you leave a party, it is polite to find the host and express your gratitude. You should also consider sending a thank-you note to top management for hosting the party. In addition, be sure to thank those who coordinated the party. They likely put in a great deal of effort hoping you would have a good time. Saying “thank you” will help you stand out from those who do not take the time to do so.

After 14 years working as a lawyer and law firm manager, Erin Crotty was ready for a change. Trained through the Protocol School of Washington and the Conselle Institute of Image Management, Erin is now a certified business etiquette, protocol and image management expert who has turned her passion into a thriving business – BloomStra Consulting, based in Ottawa, ON.

Erin helps her clients harness the power of etiquette and image management to build successful relationships in business and reach their professional goals. Her clients learn how to increase their confidence and credibility, distinguish themselves in any business or social situation and, ultimately, ‘Outclass the Competition’. Are you ready to bloom?  Learn more at or contact Erin at or 613–614-4540.