Holiday party tips for dummies

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Honestly. We’re grown-ups here. Aren’t we? So how come every year around this time, I get a barrage of tips from experts about how to conduct ourselves at the annual holiday party? The answer is that despite exterior appearances, we all still act like tweens when given the opportunity. So the following nine tips come from Barbara Pachter, whom I quoted in an article on how (not) to dress at work. I didn’t agree with her on the issue of wearing pantyhose to the office, and I think a lot of younger workers will find these tips pretty fuddy-duddy, too. But she has a point: many of us—particularly in our youth—make some dumb choices, and the holidays seem to bring out our worst. Better to err on the side of fuddy-duddy caution.

Pachter does not address the high probability that, thanks to the tanking economy, the office party will likely consist of a plastic platter of cheese cubes handed around the meeting room. I’m guessing the econo-setting will dramatically decrease the likelihood of gaffes, but who knows? Maybe someone will spike the Dr. Pepper.

When it comes to the holiday party, Barbara Pachter advises:

1. MAKE SURE YOU ATTEND. Attendance at the company holiday party isn’t optional. Your absence will be noticed, and most likely, noted by your boss and other higher ups.

2. PREPARE CONVERSATION AHEAD OF TIME. Don’t just talk business. Be up-to-date on current events, happenings in your community. Read the newspaper, newsmagazines, company publications, and your professional journals.

3. STAY SOBER. Set a limit for yourself before you go to the party. It is much easier to limit your intake that way. Or, order a drink you don’t like and sip it slowly all night. A bank manager swears that he got promoted because his boss got drunk and she made such outrageous comments at the party that she was fired.

4. MINGLE. Talk to people you know and don’t know. This is an opportunity to meet new people. Don’t just stay with your group. Go up to people, say hello, introduce yourself, shake hands.

5. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY LANGUAGE. Even if the party is dull, it’s bad manners to let others see how bored you are. Don’t frown, slouch, cross arms or yawn.

6. DRESS APPROPRIATELY. It may be a party, but it’s still business. Nothing too short, too low, too tight or too anything.

7. PREPARE YOUR SPOUSE. If you’re attending the party with your spouse or significant other, prepare him or her in advance on appropriate dress and topics of conversation. Remember, his or her behavior will reflect on you. And if your spouse is supposed to attend, make sure he or she does. A CEO told his vice president that he was not advancing any further in the company unless his wife started attending company functions.

8. DON’T FORGET THAT YOUR BEHAVIOR ALWAYS MATTERS. Have a good time but…don’t make major personal revelations nor gossip. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because this is a party, you can address the company president by his or her first name.

9. SAY “THANK-YOU.” Be sure to send a thank-you note to the party’s organizer.

Got your own tips? Add on…

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