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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Office Party Survival Tips

Once again, we are in the midst of the holiday season, and many of you will be attending a celebratory event this year. With all of the day-to-day pressures we face, a holiday party will be anticipated with excitement or trepidation, and for those who see it as an opportunity to ‘let loose’, it could be the last event attended with their organization. Sad, but true, there will be people who lose their jobs as a result of their behavior at the holiday party, and others who are at risk for harming their reputation.

Over the years, I've heard story upon story of embarrassing, and often shocking behavior of coworkers at holiday parties. Too many people mistakenly assume that at a holiday party is a place where "anything goes", and willingly engage in unusual and unpredictable behavior, often at the expense of others. Although the holiday office party is meant to be enjoyable, exercise caution to ensure that you won't be the one everyone talks about on Monday morning. You don’t want to be remembered for your outrageous behavior, flirtatious manner or the stupor you were in.

If you don't handle yourself well at the holiday party, others may assume that you can’t handle yourself anywhere, and you could hurt your chances for advancement in the future. The holiday party is a business event. You can and should enjoy yourself, but keep in mind that everything you do has long term consequences and the potential to further or hinder your career.

Several years ago I created a list of holiday party "do's and taboos", and have run it each year as a friendly reminder. I offer the following suggestions to keep in mind for the parties you attend this year:

Attend the party - failure to attend could be viewed negatively.

Think "business hours" not "party time".

Limit your alcohol consumption. Drink if you want, and only if it is served, but don't get drunk. Alcohol is the biggest contributor to inappropriate and regrettable behavior.

Dress for the occasion (which is business), and avoid wearing anything too skimpy, sexy or suggestive.

Be the first to arrive, but not the last to leave.

Be generous with praise for others, but stingy with praise for yourself. Don't brown-nose or brag about your accomplishments.

Take an interest in others, but don't assume they aren't too interested in you. In other words, be a good listener, not a compulsive talker.

Be friendly, but don't be a flirt.

Keep your hands to yourself. In business, the only acceptable physical contact is through a handshake. If someone hugs you and you want to hug back, fine, but don’t go around hugging everyone – there are people who will feel awkward if you hug them.

Greet and speak to people outside of your core group of coworkers and friends.

Keep the conversation light; avoid talking about work problems, other people, politics or office gossip.

Think twice before bringing a casual date; unless you know someone well, you won’t know how he/she may fare at the party.

Make appropriate introductions; when you introduce your guest or spouse, include some information to provide the basis of a conversation..

Be an appreciative guest; greet your boss when you arrive and say thank you when you

Use good taste if you are involved in a gift exchange. Forgo the gag gift, but do consider a gift certificate to a restaurant, book store or coffee shop or a useful office item.

Smile often, be positive and have a good time.

Finally, if you encounter something unusual or interesting at your party this year, let me hear from you and I will share your story with others in a future column. Happy Holidays!

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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