Be on Your Best Holiday Behavior
By Colleen Rickenbacher
and her husband, Dan, planned to attend her company’s holiday party.
It was her first year attending, and they were looking forward to
making the best impression. Unfortunately, they made some serious
mistakes. First, they forgot to RSVP to the party. Michelle’s
regional manager, Stephen, the host was forced to bring in
additional seating to accommodate them. In addition, Michelle and
Dan brought their hosts a gift of wine; however, they didn’t realize
that Stephen and his wife abstained due to their religious beliefs.
At the end of the evening, Dan 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
back at the office.
The key to success when attending any
office function, event or party is preparation and planning. This
maybe the ideal opportunity to meet someone who can influence your
career, so take advantage. Here are some etiquette guidelines to
Attending office parties: Yes, you should attend. At 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,
but try and work the room as much as possible before you leave.
Never tell anyone you’re leaving because you have another party to
attend. It will give the impression the other party is better and
you are only here because you need to make an appearance.
rule for attending is to arrive on time or within 15 minutes of the
designated start time. Your host may have announcements or food
presentations scheduled throughout the evening, which would be
geared around the starting and ending time of the event. You don’t
have to be the first to arrive and you don’t want to be the last to
leave. Gauge your time to fit the activities and the size of the
crowd. If the crowd is larger, it is much easier to depart without
notice. But if it is an intimate dinner or party, you may be
required to remain for most of the evening.
talk only about business: If you are at a neighbor’s home for
their annual pool soiree, don’t come with a car full of portfolios
or brochures. Parties are networking opportunities, so leave it at
that. You can approach someone to set up a future meeting and
exchange business cards, but leave the brochures and proposals at
the office. Before the party, prepare by reading the newspaper or
watching the news. Be familiar with the events calendar of your
city. You’ll always have something to talk about if you stay
in-the-know. If you’re on the shy side, just remember to ask
questions. People love to answer questions about their families,
work, hobbies, etc.
Food and alcohol:
When you attend a function in a person's home or even in a
restaurant as a guest, the food may be free but it’s not your last
meal. Drink and eat moderately. Consuming food and drink from the
time you arrive until you leave may be the last time you are
invited. You can partake in both, but the key is moderation. Your
time should be spent mingling with guests. It can be difficult to
carry on a conversation with a prospective client or the president
of your company when you have a drink in one hand and a plate of
food in the other. Mingle and then ask a client or the person you
just met to join you for a drink or some food.
Buffet: When people think of buffets, they
think of all the food they can possibly eat. Keep in mind you can go
back again, but don’t stack your plate so high you need help. If the
entire table is going through the buffet line, try to start at the
same time. When at least two or three people have returned to the
table, you can begin eating. It is not necessary to wait for the
entire table to return. When you are ready to return to the buffet,
leave your plate on at the table so the wait staff will take it
away. Always start with a clean plate each time you return for more
If you are with a client who does not
want dessert, try and bring the dessert back with you when you go
for your entrée. However, if you know the client enjoys dessert,
then ask them at the end of the meal if they would like coffee and
dessert. You can order the coffee first and then return to the
buffet for one or two desserts.
Gifts for parties:
You should always bring a gift when invited to someone's home for
the holidays, or any time of the year. The exception to this rule is
when you have a get- together every week or monthly. Bring something
that you know the host and hostess would enjoy. If you are not
familiar with their home or décor, then stay on the safe side with a
bottle of wine, candles or a small non-personal gift. If you do
present them with wine, make sure they drink alcohol and don't
expect them to open the bottle of wine immediately. Food is always
good to either complement their presentation or to be enjoyed after
the party. Avoid bringing flowers the night of the party because it
might involve the hosts stopping to place them in a vase, or it may
interfere with their selection of decoration. Send flowers the
giving at the office: The holidays can be tricky with gift
giving and various celebrations and religious beliefs. Who do you
give a gift, how much do you spend, what happens if you receive a
gift and do not have one in return?
If you are exchanging gifts in the office with
all but a few, avoid exchanging them at the office. Instead,
meet after work, and do not talk about your gifts the next day
in the office.
Do you give your boss a gift? Not necessarily.
It becomes a contest of who gave what and how much did they
spend. The boss can give gifts to the employees, but not
necessary to reciprocate. A nice card showing your appreciation
is always welcome or giving something homemade, such as cookies
or artwork. Another nice gesture is getting your co-workers
together on a gift.
Be respective of traditions and religious
believes. It does not mean you have to exclude people from
holiday parties and gift giving, but give them the option to
participate. Office festivities and holiday cards should state
“Happy Holidays,” “Holiday Greetings,” or “The Best for the
Always personalize your holiday cards. If your
company name is embossed or printed at the bottom of the card, a
signed name or names should still apply. If possible, handwrite
the address instead of using labels and use holiday stamps,
instead of the meter.
Have a few gifts in reserve. A gift certificate
to the local bookstore could come in handy; a few candles in
gift bags could save you an embarrassing moment. If you receive
a gift with nothing in give in exchange, do not apologize for
not having a gift; just be extremely appreciative and follow-up
with a nice thank-you note.
Client gift giving: Be careful in your gift giving to clients.
Your intention should be a gift they will enjoy and appreciate, not
a lavish or outrageous gift that will “outdo” the competition. The
gift should be sent to the office and should be business
appropriate. Check with the client’s assistant for their likes and
dislikes. Certificates to a nice restaurant or bookstore, or their
favorite shop, are very appropriate and enjoyable. If more than one
person from your office is sending this customer a gift, make sure
you check before sending duplicate gifts.
Thank-you notes: When
you receive a gift or are invited to a party, a thank-you note
should be sent the next day, or at least within a week. The
handwritten note only needs to be a few lines thanking them for the
specific gift or invitation. Do not include a company brochure or
any other pieces of printed material. It is a thank-you note and not
a ploy to get more business.
be on your best behavior, no matter what the situation. By
remembering the proper ways to dress and socialize, you may be doing
more than just building your contacts. You could be making some of
the most important connections of your career at the next event or
party you attend!
Read other articles and learn more about
Colleen A. Rickenbacher.
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