People First HR Services

Moderation the key to party presence

Colleen Coates

‘Tis the season of the annual work holiday party. And while this tradition is about sharing in a joyful year-end celebration, it’s important to remember that company-sponsored events filled with fun, music, food and drink are still business functions.

To make it a successful social occasion, you need to keep everything in moderation. According to at least one industry survey, 15 per cent of companies that have hosted holiday parties say that inappropriate employee behaviour at the event has affected that individual’s career growth.

To ensure your name does not end up on the naughty list, take heed of some of the following behaviours you don’t want to get caught overindulging in:

Overeating: The cocktail hour is meant to be for mingling, but add in a tray of appetizers and it suddenly gets awkward to juggle a food, drink, small talk and handshaking. Partake in the treats offered to you, but be ready to greet and be greeted when approached by keeping one hand free and avoiding large mouthfuls. Also when it comes to pre-dinner snacks, do not walk around with multiple hors d’oeuvres, properly discard napkins and toothpicks and please, no double dipping.

Over-drinking: It has been reported that as many as 70 per cent of work functions include alcohol. While some organizations still offer an open bar, others put a cap on how much alcohol is consumed. When it’s left up to guests to decide when they’ve had enough tippling, set your drink limit ahead of time and stick to it and be sure to sip on non-alcoholic beverages like water, coffee and soft drinks throughout the evening.

Over-complaining: The holiday party should have a cheerful mood. It’s a time to celebrate, not a time to corner VIPs to voice your unheard concerns or gripe with colleagues. By keeping any complaints to yourself, you avoid stray comments being taken out of context or overheard by the wrong person. Keep things upbeat. If someone else begins whining about work, switch the topic of conversation to something more positive and pleasant.

Over-monopolizing conversations: No one wants to get trapped with a partygoer who goes on and on about a subject, especially if that subject is bragging about me, myself and I. When speaking to others, show interest in them and their guest (spouses often feel ignored or left out by work-centred conversation) and be a gracious listener. Keep your chats light and brief so you can visit as many people as possible. This is a great time to network.

Overdressing: While the holidays are an opportunity to step up your attire, you need to remember that you’re attending an event with your boss, company executives and fellow co-workers. Avoid overdressing by paying heed to the invitation’s attire: most gatherings are either business casual or semi-formal events. Watch out for wearing “too much” — too much sparkle, too much shine, too much cleavage, too much leg, too much perfume or too much cologne. You’re going to a work holiday party, not a nightclub.

Overstepping boundaries: Be aware of where your personal boundaries stop and your professional ones begin. This not only applies to indiscreet trysts under the mistletoe, but going too far with flirting, asking inappropriate questions or telling jokes that may be offensive to others. Don’t do or say anything that you’ll regret on Monday morning.

Overextending your welcome. If the party is being held in a private home, be sure to arrive on time and take your cue when it is the appropriate time to leave. Don’t be the laggard who must be shown to the door. And before saying good night, be sure to express your appreciation with a polite thank you to your hosts, the boss who financed the festivities and to the people responsible for co-ordinating all the work behind the scenes.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2011 H1