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The Office Christmas Party: Rules Of Engagement

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‘Tis definitely the season to be jolly! As we head into the last few days of work before the big day, offices and workplaces have a healthy dose of work and play. No matter where you work or what you may think is ‘after hours’, office parties still come with rules, spoken or unspoken. Even as you celebrate, the festivities are part of your professional life. Here are some tips for negotiating having fun under the mistletoe and making merry without making a mess of your career.

  1. Dress Appropriately: Where is your office party? If it’s in a club then club dress is appropriate, but keep it on the right side of professional. This isn’t TOWIE or Jersey Shore. Especially for those working in fashion, you’re always representing your company, especially when the brand is footing the bill. If the get together is more casual, and is happening at a pub or a laid-back lounge, this is a perfect opportunity to show up and show your off-duty personality. Many luxury retail employees are required to wear a uniform so a seasonal checked shirt and jeans would go over well. If your company is booking out a members-only club, best to get well acquainted with the clubs dress code.

  2. Food: Communicate any allergies or dietary restrictions beforehand. Christmas parties are about getting together. You don’t want to end up being the centre of attention for the wrong reasons. If it’s more casual or buffet style, enjoy the food by all means. But don’t be the glutton holding up the food table and leave your co-workers feeling like you haven’t eaten all year.​

  3. Blah Blah Blah…: Christmas parties are a great opportunity to spread your social wings beyond your department and immediate colleague circle to chat up and get to know people in other departments. Especially for retail brands, the teams are so large that it’s a brilliant time to get some face time with someone from HQ you speak to on the phone often but never see in person. Having said that, don’t talk shop. Everyone is looking for a break from the day to day pressures of delivering under their job titles. Keep it personal but professional.

  4. Selfie Sensitive: Not everyone is selfie-obsessed. Get permission from your colleagues before snapping and posting images. If you’re going to go on a selfie spree, try and get it done when everyone is still sober. With more and more employers checking out the social media accounts for job seekers, it’s important to keep privacy settings aligned with your career. Licking your boss's face no matter how appropriate it seemed after multiple tequila shots isn't going to go over well when you’re back at work or when you’re looking for a new job.

  5. Guests: Definitely qualify whether plus ones or spouses are invited beforehand. You definitely don’t want to make an awkward entrance with an uninvited guest and then usher them out into the cold.

  6. Secret Santa: Definitely honour the Secret Santa guidelines. Quite often someone will go rogue and gift an item well above the allocated budget. Whereas this may win you favors from the person you’ve gifted, the overarching message this sends to your boss is you can’t follow direction and you’re not a team player. Both of which will see the frost of winter spill into your work days after the warm glow of the festivities has waned.

  7. Drinking: Always remember work parties have the word work in it. Destroying your liver like you’re on a bender weekend with your mates in Ibiza is not the moda operandi here. If you’re fortunate enough to have an open bar, pace yourself and keep tolerance levels top of mind. If the party is more formal or an intimate setting, let the senior team members order drinks first so you’re not ordering a magnum of champagne while they order the house red. Knowing when to be a follower and when to be a leader will pay off big here.

  8. Networking: There is a way to network at the office party. It isn’t by talking shop. If you’ve got your eye on an internal job posting then definitely make an effort to connect with the person who is doing the hiring for it or would be your direct report. However, instead of chatting them up about your interest in being considered for the post, get to know them personally. If they have kids, ask them questions about how many kids they have, or how they balance their career with parenthood. Showing a personal interest will make you much more memorable and leave a favourable lasting impression.

  9. Arrivals and Exits: At both points, keep them timely. If you’re attending a get together with a reservation, plan your journey so you arrive on time. This time of year many restaurants have table turn around times, so you definitely don’t want to be the one holding up the reservation then being the reason everyone is shovelling food down at rapid speed. For larger functions don’t arrive too early so it makes it awkward for anyone who is organising the event and don’t be the straggler who refuses to leave. At parties like in much of life, timing is everything.

  10. Mistletoe Mischief: Know your company policy on office romances and hook-ups. Especially with sexual harassment being such a hot-button issue lately, if you’re eyeing someone cute from accounting and hoping to sneak in a smooch under the mistletoe, best to do it on your own time and away from colleagues.