Columns: Après Office Soirees … More Than Just Leftovers

By Deborah Bullock. The winter blues sometimes sets in after all the glitter and glitz that Christmas brings and fades as a distant memory. Reality sets in when we are faced with leftover food, bills, unwanted weight gain and oh yes sometimes unwanted memories and repercussions from that office ‘Christmas’ party.

Many of those surveyed said they had learnt from the ‘ghosts of Christmas past’ and have vowed never to get involved in activities they would regret at office soirees all year round.

Often dreaded, more often regretted, the office Christmas party or any other gathering of associates can be a potential minefield, with the twin threats of social and professional humiliation combining to form an explosive deterrent. Traditionally employees feel it’s a time to let their hair down for a job well done – but for some it could spell the end of their career. The stakes are certainly high, but if you can manage to stay away from the spirits and steer clear of the photocopier, then office gatherings present a great opportunity to put yourself at the top of the management wish list. This also applies to top management as well, to set an example of proper office gathering protocol.

I recognized this quality in a great leader who lead by example and elevated himself above being the last one to leave the party. Soon as the crowd started playing ‘fire in the hole’ that was his exit queue while he wished everyone adieu. As a boss you don’t need to be everyone’s friend you just need to be friendly. On the other hand I have heard the exact opposite scenario of the same level of management, felt she needed to be one of the guys and participated in all areas of activity and was the last to leave. You decide who was respected more Monday morning.

With that in mind, here some points on how to avoid any office party faux pas and possibly set into play your next promotion.

1) Prepare:
Dale Carnegie once wrote: “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours,” so a quick brush up on important names, current affairs and likely topics will help you sail through the small talk. You could also mobilize on social networking sites to find out associates interests in advance. A great tip for remembering names is to load the company phone directory onto your mobile device to use as a discreet reminder of names.

2) Show Your Fun Side:
There’s nothing to gain from being self-conscious or aloof, so demonstrate you’re a fun team-player and embrace the party spirit. If it’s a costume party, make sure you show some effort. Karaoke, get up and rock the mike. Showing a secure sense of humor certainly won’t do your stock any harm and it’s a great way to break the ice. If you’re more of a conversationalist than a performer there are still steps you can take to widen your circle. Don’t get stuck only talking to the people you know, so get out and make new connections you can later follow up on.

3) Fly alone:
Do your spouse and yourself a favor by giving them the night off. They don’t want to be dragged along for inspection by a room full of strangers having ‘in jokes’ that go over their head. There are also professional benefits to going stag It can be hard enough to break the ice with someone new, without the added pressure of feeling responsible for another person. This frees you from an evening of awkward introductions and leaves you with a better chance to network. It also ensures the pair of you won’t be swayed into a painful dinner with Jo and June from accounts.

4) Watch out for ‘shutter bugs’:
Think twice before going for that “Gang Nam style” pose which will inevitably spend the best part of the year displayed proudly above the office copier by merciless colleagues. It’s not the fun side you want to be remembered for.

5) Don’t mention work:
Show you have a life outside the office by filling the evening with more cordial topics. This is a great chance to utilize what you prepared and form some valuable alliances. People are more likely to help people they like or know, so figure out who you might need in the future and just spend a few relaxing moments with them. This is where you could share a little creative storytelling, so long as you keep it credible.

6) Clothes make the man (or woman):
You want to show you’re a well-dressed stylish individual, so it’s important to make an effort, but always keep it classic, classy and understated. “Better to be over dressed than underdressed” my mother would always say. And underdressed could have a whole different meaning for the ladies. Remembering the camera factor and the propensity of office party mishaps will often remain hot topics well into June.

7) Don’t be a scrooge:
As we’ve established, any misdeeds will be discussed for months to come so it’s worth injecting some festive cheer into your wallet. If there’s a secret santa arrangement or birthday collection don’t scrimp, make sure your contribution is just enough to ensure yours is at the classier end of the gift spectrum. Always remember through the year those that make your job easier and occasionally do something special for them. Not only will you find yourself hailed as a generous soul, but you’ll probably reap the benefits when that special favor needs to be done. But don’t overdo it. Be careful you are not seen to be trying too hard, as that can be equally as bad!
8) Follow up:
The office party is intended to be a treat and not a form of torture. Show your consideration by thanking the organizers for their efforts –a handwritten note or card is a gesture that will make them feel good and do your reputation no harm at all. Meanwhile, it’s crucial to build on any office party successes while the iron’s still hot. Be sure to follow up after parties, especially if a decision maker has shown they’re interested in taking the conversation further. Making the right impression on the higher ups can open many doors.”

As the new year is well underway remember that any office get together is an extension of your working environment, you remember that, you should be ok.

Now, where did I put that Easter bunny costume …


About Deborah Bullock: A lifetime resident of the Fraser Valley, Deborah has built a successful and storied career as a social planning engineer, media and marketing guru, professional fund raiser and convention and events architect.

Deborah Bullock & Associates
Event Architects

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