Career Center Blog

December 5, 2012

Keep the 'work' in workplace holiday party


'Tis the season: Shopping, decorating, cooking, parties. Maybe even a party hosted by your employer. That's the good news, because you and your co-workers deserve a little something for a year's worth of hard work.

The bad news? A workplace holiday party is not really a party.

Yeah, it's called a party. And it looks like a party, what with the food and drink and decorations and whatnot. But your boss will be there. Maybe your boss's boss. Not to mention the folks you deal with all day, every day. Which, sadly, makes it not a party but a "business function."

Sounds pretty gloomy and un-festive, doesn't it? Fret not -- you still get to have (some) fun. You still get to eat and drink (some) at the company's expense. Just remember to keep the "work" in workplace holiday party, and you'll be OK.

Before you go, check out these do's and don'ts for that party-that-isn't-really-a-party.

• Show up. Not going can come off as disrespectful or cause people to think you're not a team player. In fact, your absence may be more noticeable than your presence.
• Act as if you're being observed. You are.
• Ask about a dress code. The safest bet is a snazzier version of your usual professional look.
• Find out first if guests are invited. If so, choose a guest who will reflect well on you.
• Act pleased to be there. This shindig cost your company money; be grateful!
• Network. Take this chance to get to know people you don't normally work with.
• Choose topics that are neutral and cordial -- hobbies, travel, books, movies.
• Stay at least an hour.

• Talk shop. Well, a little is OK, but not exclusively.
• Get drunk. Not even tipsy. If photos are being taken, put down your drink first.
• Pull rank (i.e., ask a subordinate to get you a plate of food or a drink).
• Overeat. You can grab a sandwich later if you're still hungry.
• Talk about politics or religion, tell dirty jokes or use foul language.
• Be the last one to leave (unless you're helping to clean up).
• Forget to thank the party organizers.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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