Company parties are fun, but you should never forget where you are. Go right ahead and enjoy the celebration with your coworkers while you maintain your professionalism while you remember that you'll have to face these people on Monday. Your professional reputation is at stake, so guard it with a clear mind. If your office is having a holiday celebration, you should attend unless you are sick.
What to Wear
Dressing for success isn’t limited to the workday. Of course, you probably won’t wear something you’d wear to the office, but you do need to put considerable thought into your attire. When you attend the company party, avoid wearing anything that is too revealing or shows too much skin. You don’t want your managers to think you lack discretion.
Consider where the party is being held before choosing your outfit. If you are celebrating at a restaurant, follow the establishment's dress code. If the party is at a private home, and you are still unsure, ask someone you trust for advice.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Otherwise, you might say or do something you will later regret. This can get you into trouble or alter someone’s favorable opinion of you.
Enjoy the food at the party, but avoid looking like a glutton. The size of the hors d’oeuvre plates will give you an indication of what you are expected to eat. Don’t overfill it, and never double-dip anything after taking a bite. Know which utensils to use and when to use your fingers. Regardless of how delicious the food is, don’t ask for a doggy bag. A more appropriate thing to do is request the recipe later.
What to Say
Speak to everyone at the party in a positive, friendly tone, but don’t forget that this is not the place to say something negative that may get you into trouble later. If you find this difficult, make the rounds, greet everyone, and find an excuse to leave early. You should never say anything you wouldn’t say at the office.
This is a good time to speak to executives you may not otherwise have a chance to talk to. Approach them with a smile, introduce yourself if they don’t already know your name, and keep the conversation short. You want to be friendly, but you don’t want to keep them from talking to others. Don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about your job, your coworkers, or the company.
Mingle with people outside your department. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know someone you only communicate with via email. Always be a good listener. No one likes partying with someone who hogs the conversation.
Before bringing a guest to the office party, find out if it’s okay with the planners. Sometimes spouses and dates are included, but many companies have budgetary restrictions. Bringing a guest to a party that is for employees only will make everyone uncomfortable. Follow RSVP requests for guests.
Host or Hostess Gift
You may or may not choose to bring a host or hostess gift, but if in doubt, it is always good form to bring something. If you know the host or hostess well, you can be creative and bring something you know he or she will enjoy. However, if you aren’t sure what to bring, you can’t go wrong with a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, or a homemade treat that can be enjoyed later.
Gifts for Other Attendees
Some parties involve a gift exchange. Stay in the price range recommended. Avoid purchasing anything risqué or personal. Remember that this is an office party and not a bunch of your college buddies getting together.
When to Arrive and Leave
Don’t be the first one to arrive, but don’t wait until the party is almost over either. Most of the time, showing up about fifteen minutes after the party starts is ideal, unless it’s a sit-down dinner with a designated time to be served.
You also don’t want to be the last to leave the party. As soon as you see the event starting to wind down, it is time to make an exit. Look for signs that it’s time to go, such as the host picking up glasses or retrieving the guests’ coats.
When It's Time to Leave
On the way out the door, don’t forget to thank the host or hostess. Parties require quite a bit of planning and effort, and the organizer will appreciate your kind gesture. If the host is a supervisor, you’ll stand out as someone who is gracious and has good manners.