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By Colleen Rickenbacher

Michelle and her husband, Don, planned to attend her company’s holiday party. It was her first year with the organization, and they stock-photo-two-drunk-men-113051161were looking forward to making the best possible impression. Unfortunately, they made some serious mistakes.

First, they forgot to RSVP, and Stephen, the host, and Michelle’s regional manager, was forced to bring in additional seating to accommodate them. Second, Michelle and Don brought their hosts a bottle of wine; however, they didn’t realize that Stephen and his wife do not drink due to their religious beliefs. At the end of the evening, Don ended up having too much to drink and accidentally spilled red wine on the carpet. Instead of getting off on the right foot, these mistakes damaged Michelle’s reputation at the office.

The key to success when attending any office function or event lies in preparation and planning. Part one of this two-part post contains four etiquette guidelines – the remainder will appear in a separate post later this week.

* Attending office parties – First, you SHOULD attend. At the very least, make an appearance and find the host or hostess as soon as possible to extend your thanks for the invitation. Don’t make an obvious exit, and never tell anyone you’re leaving because you have another party to attend! It will give the impression the other party is better.

* When to arrive – Get to your party or other engagement within 15 minutes of the designated start time. You don’t have to be the first to arrive, but food or other plans may be geared around the starting and ending time of the event, so you never want to be overly late, either.

* Don’t talk only about business — Parties should be networking opportunities only. You may approach someone to set up a future meeting and exchange business cards, but leave it at that for the time being. Remember, people also love to talk about their families, hobbies, etc., not just work.

* Food and alcohol — Watch how much you eat and drink. Continuously eating and drinking may mean you won’t be invited again. The key is moderation. Your focus should be on talking and mingling, not seeing how much you can eat and drink.

LATER THIS WEEK: Tips on buffets, party gifts, and gift giving will be presented.  This article appeared in the December 2013 Employee Assistance Report. For more information, check out the “employee assistance professionals” tab a Impact Publications – http://www.impact-publications.com

Colleen A. Rickenbacher, CMP, CSEP, CPC, is a business etiquette expert and author of “Be on Your Best Business Behavior” and “Be on Your Best Cultural Behavior.” For more information, check out http://www.colleenrickenbacher.com

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