Office Party Etiquette

Office Party Etiquette

Office Party Etiquette
by Jacquie Wise

Office parties can be a terrific opportunity to get to know the people in your firm, expand your network, and to make yourself known to key decision makers.

They can also be a very public way to make a complete idiot of yourself that can ruin your reputation as a professional.

You want to be talked about, but not for the wrong reasons! An office party is not to be confused with a social event. It is a business function, requiring much more formal behaviours from when you’re just hanging out with your cronies.

The dress code is likely to be the same or only a little more formal than your work clothes. This is NOT the time to wear your revealing, glitzy little number.

DO be punctual, or no more than 15 minutes late. That also means leaving at the appointed time. If you’re at management level, you need to be present through as much of the function as you can.

DO introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Find out as much as possible about them and their department.

DO keep circulating. The correct period to stay with any one group is about 15 minutes.

DO keep your right hand free of greasy foods, ready to shake hands.

DO be kind to anyone who looks lost or shy.

DO limit your alcoholic drinks to a maximum of two or, if you lose control easily, stick to non-alcoholic drinks.

DO talk to your boss and to other senior managers. Prepare a short introduction about what you do and how long you’ve been with the firm and in what you’re especially interested. Be prepared to ask them how long they’ve been with the firm and what they enjoy about their position.

DO prepare topics of general conversation about the arts, leisure activities or current affairs so that you’re not limited to the same old shoptalk.

DO stay behind to help clear up.

DO remember to thank the organisers in writing. DO follow up in writing with some of the people you met; remind them of you you are; say something about meeting them or about a conversation you had that you enjoyed discussing with them. This is just the beginning of cementing your link to this person. Ask them to join your network on LinkedIn.

DON’T stick to the same group of your colleagues without mingling at regular intervals to meet as many new people as possible.

DON’T leave anyone on their own. Take them with you if it’s time to circulate.

DON’T use this function as an opportunity to whine and complain. Be careful of making stray comments that may be overheard and embellished as they’re repeated.

DON’T stuff into the nibbles in large quantities, giving the impression you’re a glutton or the kind of person who’ll grab anything that’s free. Avoid any foods that are difficult to eat in one mouthful, that dribble messy sauces, or that leave grease on your fingers.

DON’T expect to have in-depth discussions about business. Prefer to limit your conversations to short ones so that you can circulate, and suggest meeting on another occasion, when you can continue the discussion in a more appropriate setting.

Be remembered for being someone charming, courteous and appropriate, and enjoy yourself without having anything to be embarrassed about the following day.

What extra do’s and don’ts do you have for office party etiquette? Share them with me. I’d love to hear from you.

You may also like to listen to Jacquie Wise talking on ABC Radio about Christmas Party Etiquette.


I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here.

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If you or someone you know would like a personal consultation, please call +61 3 9690 8159.

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