Holiday Parties Know-How: Code of Conduct

Repurposed blog.  This blog was first published in December 2014.  It was edited for 2016.

It is that time of year again for parties!  The invitations are coming in for holiday parties from clients, family and friends.  If you are an employee or business owner, it is easy to get carried away with the holiday hoopla, but please keep in mind that you must still be on your most professional behavior even during the most mundane of holiday dinners.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Know the dress code: Is the event black tie, business casual or completely casual?  Ensure you wear the appropriate attire as company management will take note.  It can become uncomfortable if everyone is in formalwear and you are in khakis.  You don’t want to be the negative standout.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Know your limits.  Have a glass or two of wine and then switch to non-alcoholic beverages such as ginger ale or club soda.  It will give the appearance that you are still participating, but allows you to pay attention at the event.
  • Hire a car service or limo. If you know alcohol will be flowing, do not drive to the party as you will have to drive away after having a few drinks.  Ordering a car to pick you up at a specific time gives you a little more freedom in enjoying the event without the worry of how to get home.  You can also offer a ride to a colleague who did not have the foresight to hire a driver.  If you know more than five people attending the same event, besides arriving in style, getting a limo will give all of you a worry-free night.  It also forces you to leave the event at a reasonable hour instead of shutting it down.
  • Be humorous: Leave your “Ms. or Mr. Professional” face at the door – that does not mean to be unprofessional; it just means you should allow yourself to have fun and enjoy the event.  Humor provides levity and allow others to open up to you in a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Watch your manners. Don’t eat and talk at the same time.  Try to get to the event early so you can eat before others arrive.  That way, you will not be caught in a situation where you need to speak with your mouth full.  Also, use utensils unless it’s finger food, and hold your drink in your left hand so you can shake with your right.
  • You see your colleagues every day so there is no need to be stuck in a corner with them all night.  This is an opportunity to meet senior leaders to whom you would not normally have access.  Move from group to group so that you meet several people at different levels during the event.  Play a game with yourself by setting a goal to see how many new people you can meet at the event.

It’s the little things that count.  Seek out and thank the host or department head for the invitation.  Let them know that you enjoyed being appreciated for the evening.  Follow up by sending a Thank You note or email following the event as well.  These small, but important, things will keep you in their minds for a long time.