Office party dos and don’ts

Parties are often where relationships are formed that make things happen. It is a time when office lines are blurred, the atmosphere is more relaxed and you can converse with those you may not get a chance to during working hours. Generally, the party atmosphere will reflect the corporate culture of the office and may change, depending on the time and location of the event. If the party is in the office during working hours or directly following the workday, employees should dress and act just as they would for any company event.

However, professionals often find themselves attending parties and functions that are outside the office and not during business hours.

With the lines between business and social events blurring, it is important to be on our best behaviour and not forget party manners and office etiquette. this is a business event, though it may appear to be a social gathering.

Before you arrive

• Consider your attire. You always want to err on the side of conservative. Wear what you would to the office or a semi-formal event. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. If your office is casual, it is a good idea to dress up a little more for a party.

For more formal events, you will want to look at the invitation to determine the dress code. Avoid anything that is sexy or revealing, no matter what the invitation says. Your appearance is a reflection of your attitude and personality; when business is involved you want to look professional, even if that means slacks and a polo shirt at the company picnic rather than cut-offs and a tank top.

• There are times when business and social life overlap and it is difficult to know whether to invite a guest. Bring a guest (or spouse) only if invited to do so. RSVPs are a must to let the appropriate parties know there will be more than one of you attending. Keep in mind you are somewhat responsible for your guest’s behaviour as well your own. Not only do you want your date to look presentable, you want them to be presentable.

• Leave your cell phone in the car or at least turn it to vibrate. Don’t take calls or make them at the party.


• Hold your drink in your left hand so that when you greet people, you do not offer a cold, wet handshake. The same rule applies to food; if your fingers are full of mayonnaise from the finger sandwiches, don’t offer to shake. It is a good idea to have, and use, a cocktail napkin. Talking with food in your mouth is a no-no.

• Talk to everyone. Don’t spend the entire evening in the corner with your sales team. Use this as an opportunity to meet and greet people you share office space with.

• Be gracious to the hosts of the party. If the owner or management is there, make sure you take a moment to say thank you for arranging the party, and don’t neglect to say goodbye.


• Remember, you are not just there for the free food and booze. Watch the alcohol intake. It is a reflection of your self-control and could decrease your authority if you embarrass yourself in front of employees. Furthermore, you could make things uncomfortable for those who have to see you the next day at the office.

Likewise, don’t pig out on the food like it was your last meal. Visit the hors d’oeuvres table once and take moderate portions.

• Avoid subjects that are not appropriate for the party. Though this is a work party, you should try to avoid talking about work. You can talk about holiday plans, family, current events or find out what your co-workers like to do in their free time.

• Don’t place yourself in an uncomfortable position by becoming too intimate at the office parties. After a few cocktails and the festive spirit have taken hold, don’t share personal secrets or promise the world when you may regret it in the light of day. Likewise, don’t get too friendly with the new office assistant because you think this may be the time to find a date for Saturday night.

• Don’t be the last to arrive and first to leave. Your presence at the party shows your dedication and commitment to the organisation. This is a great place to build camaraderie with co-workers you would not normally spend time with in a social environment.

Use the same rules of manners you would in a meeting, only now there are drinks and hors d’oeuvres involved. Don’t interrupt others, be respectful, allow others to talk and concentrate on listening attentively. Don’t say or do anything that will be the topic of hot debate the next day.