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Career Connexion

 Leaving a good impression at holiday parties


Christmas is a time when family and friends get together to celebrate the holiday season. December is also the month when stores and shopping malls are filled with festive decorations and people searching for that perfect gift. This is also the season for holiday get-togethers with employees whether it is a big corporate party or a simple get-together at their boss’ place. Although employees may not realize it, their company party is actually one of the most important functions that they will attend all year.

Holiday parties are indeed a time to socialize and have fun, but they are still business functions. Your career requires you to behave professionally in order to make it a memorable and successful experience. Amy Affolter of The Creative Group in Minneapolis says that, a corporate holiday party provides an opportunity to bond with co-workers. It’s a time to interact with management and show enthusiasm for the company, all of which can be career boosters.

What NOT to wear

If you aren’t sure what to wear, check directly with your co-workers whose taste and judgment you trust. Make sure that what you wear reflects well on you professionally. This is not the time to show up in your most revealing outfit. Ladies, no matter how good you look in that sexy black dress with a plunging neckline or a high slit that rides up close to your derriere, this is not the right occasion to wear it!

Remember that you’re going to a company party, not a club. Therefore, deciding how to dress is very important. If the event is immediately after work, simple business attire is appropriate. If the party is later in the evening or on the weekend your choices will vary depending on the type of event. A simple cocktail dress would probably be more appropriate.

Drinking responsibly

As you know, some of the common things associated with holiday parties are mingling and sharing laughs with colleagues. In unfortunate cases, holiday parties are associated with witnessing misbehaviour caused by over indulgence in alcohol. Based on a study conducted by Leger Marketing, approximately 49% of workers who enjoy going to holiday parties think that people drink too much alcohol. People who said that they didn’t like office parties were more likely to think alcohol consumption is excessive – about 65%.

Yes, it’s okay to drink alcohol at a company party, but it’s not okay to have a shot-drinking contest with your boss or challenge a colleague to drink straight from the beer barrel. A good rule of thumb is no more than one drink per hour, and no more than three drinks in total. If alcohol tends to have more of an effect on you than some people, remember that too much of anything can’t be good for you.


What should I talk about?” This is the hurdle that gets a lot of people into trouble at their company parties. Keep the conversation light and casual. Gossiping about co-workers or people that you know is definitely inappropriate. People you talk about could end up working closely with you, or who knows, maybe even become your future boss. Plus, talking about other people gives the impression that confidentiality isn’t important to you.

The trick is allowing other people to talk. It’s not what you have to say; it’s about what other people have to say. If you plan ahead with some good open-ended questions, you won’t have any trouble with conversations. The best conversation starter begins with, “Tell me about…” You can then continue with “That’s interesting. Tell me more.” These opening conversation lines would also show the other person that you have genuine interest in them and in what they have to say.

How long should I stay?

It would be proper to stay long enough to speak to everyone there. With a large crowd, interact with as many people as possible, especially the key people like your boss. It’s polite to remain at the event for at least an hour; any less may give the impression that your appearance was merely obligatory. On the other hand, if you are having a really good time, check your watch and leave before the party time has elapsed.

Company holiday parties are business functions, even though they are wrapped in a social context. I’m not suggesting that bosses are watching every move of every employee, but even though they use company parties to enjoy and relax, employees can be sure that their behaviour will be observed by someone whose opinion can have an impact on their jobs.


Michele Majul is an HR Professional with Canada Post Corporation in Prairie Region. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management.

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