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

Surviving the Office Party

If your idea of a festive holiday party is one in which you drink heavily, cozy up to your boss and carry on intimate conversation, you might need to change your ideas. If youíre looking forward to a little dirty dancing or the chance of winning the title of best karaoke singer at the company party this year, you probably wonít. Go ahead and have a good time, but you might want to tone down your behavior a bit.

Whether youíre at the company picnic, the holiday party, a convention, or celebrating someoneís retirement or promotion during happy hour, you have the opportunity to either strengthen or weaken your relationship with others. Act as if your behavior is being observed every minute, because it is.

If you wonder if your attendance matters, it does. You might not be required to attend, but your absence will be noted. When you are a ďno show,Ē you show you are ďnot interested.Ē This does not help you look like a committed team player or caring coworker.

If you canít decide what to wear, decide to play it safe. If it isnít a company picnic, donít even consider wearing jeans, tank tops, or shorts. If it isnít a costume party, donít wear anything so shocking or unusual that your clothing is the topic of conversation. If it isnít a black tie formal affair, donít wear full-length, slinky, or sequined dresses or a tuxedo. And if it isnít a swimming party (which most business events are not), donít bare your midriff, your buttocks, or breasts.

If youíre planning on arriving ďfashionablyĒ late, make another plan. Late is late. There is nothing fashionable about it.

If alcohol is served, think before you drink. If you get ďwasted,Ē youíve wasted a valuable opportunity to demonstrate your self-control. You donít have to apologize for not drinking, but you will have to apologize if you get drunk and do something foolish.

If you want to stand out and be noticed, get up and move around. You are at a social event; socialize. Donít huddle in a bunch with your work buddies; get up and move around. People canít see you, let alone notice you, when youíre sitting in the corner.

If you see people you do not know, get to know them. This is an ideal time for you to introduce yourself to those you donít ordinarily see or get to talk to, including company executives.

If youíve got a lot to gripe about, keep it to yourself. Celebrations are meant to be celebrated. Try to keep your conversations light and upbeat.

If youíre not sure if you should bring a guest, donít. Just because youíre invited to bring a guest doesnít mean you have to. You might feel more at ease if you donít have someone else to look after or worry about.

If you think you are ready for love, think again. No matter how hot that guy or gal from accounting is, this isnít the time or place for you to do something about it.

If you think you can slip away and no one will know you are gone, you are wrong. Itís just as easy to keep track of those who stay as it is to remember who left early or didnít say good bye.

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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