office christmas party

The following is a guest post by Sharon Schweitzer.  Her bio follows.

Most people can recall basic table manners, but when it comes to office events, decorum is key. After-hours events are often a wonderful way to connect with coworkers and interact with power-players, but they can also be monumentally disastrous without modern manners. Don’t become too comfortable because you can cross the boundaries of professionalism.

Here are a few etiquette tips to enjoy after-hours events and remain professional.

Pay attention to your office culture.

Sticking your nose to the grindstone can really pay off, but don’t forget to relax. Your office culture determines the attitudes and dynamics at play in your office. Peter Drucker’s said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” The culture can range from overly-professional to extremely casual. Geography, tenure, written and unwritten policies can determine what is deemed appropriate in your workplace. Factors such as alcohol can play a role in the social culture in the office too. Ask around to colleagues you trust to find out the real scoop on office dynamics.

Relax & be professional.

 Remember to relax, keep professionalism in mind, and be yourself. This is not your personal happy hour. Men and women alike, take note that a work party is an extension of the professional work day and is still a business setting. Dress sharply, and clean cut in an outfit that helps you feel confident in yourself.

Research shows that whether we want to or not, our brain makes split decisions about others based on their appearance. Dress in a way that does not send red flags to your colleagues.

Have authentic conversations.

There is always the go-to topic when surrounded by colleagues: work.  However, a work-related event is not the time to continue business or discuss office gossip. Keep dialogues balanced between professional and personal with classy, informative, and interesting conversations. Asking questions about sports, movies, books, vacation, travel and pets are good topics that focus the conversation on others.

This is a good time to reach out from your usual water cooler group and speak with people in other departments. By connecting with multiple colleagues from all areas of your organization, you create possible mentors, references, and contacts that can help your career down the line. Remember, avoid sensitive topics like money, politics, and religion.

Remember why you are there.

When attending a work event, have a goal in mind. If you are gaming to climb the ladder, visit with leadership and the head of the department for a few minutes. Sometimes you want to just talk to a specific superior, make new friends, or expand your network into other departments. This is a professional gathering and a chance to put your best foot forward.  Having a drink and eating some good food is a nice perk, but never forget why you are really there.

table dancing pixy

Avoid table dances.

It can feel great to let loose to your favorite jam, but belt it out in your car, not the office event. If you are Whipping and Nae Nae-ing, your boss might think twice about that promotion. Be aware of who is around. It isn’t bad to dance at work events, but just be mindful when cutting the rug.

Also, keep in mind cultural norms. There are some clients from other countries that would find such work behavior shocking. It all depends on the circumstances, so take note, and read the room.


Modern manners are necessary when navigating the waters of work events, but follow this advice and it will be a breeze. You spend a good chunk of your days and life at work, so why not enjoy it?  Don’t be afraid to have fun at your casual work events and have a drink or two. But know your limits, and maintain professionalism.

Sharon Schweitzer


Sharon Schweitzer is a modern-manners, business etiquette and cross-cultural expert.  She is author of Access to Asia and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide.  http://www.protocolww.com/ 


Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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