Year-end office parties can be a great opportunity to unwind with colleges and celebrate successes achieved throughout the year.
They can also be an opportunity to meet and network with people who aren’t a part of your day-to-day circle.
But they’re still work-related events, and if you let the merriment overtake your better judgement, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Brien Convery, Director of Early Talent Acquisition, Early Talent Attraction and Engagement with RBC, says there are three key things employees need to keep in mind to have a successful holiday party season.
Remember your manners
Professionalism needs to remain top of mind during all work functions, even if the environment lends itself to more relaxed interactions.
“A holiday party is definitely a time to celebrate … and to think about the year ahead as well as the accomplishments we made together, however it’s also not a time to lose that professional edge,” said Convery.
“It’s not a family gathering.”
You should recognize you’ll likely be around people who could be your future manager, or someone you’ll work with at some point in your career.
“It’s about reading a room, (realizing) who’ s there, and looking to explore,” Convery added.
“You want to make sure you leave them with a really good first impression.”
It’s also important to check any assumptions you may have, and ensure you’re respectful of people’s boundaries.
“Engage in common ground but don’t ask pointed, direct questions that might be uncomfortable for someone, along the lines of, ‘why aren’t you drinking?’,” said Convery.
“Maybe it’s not necessarily something someone wants to get into.”
The same goes for people’s personal lives: it’s best not to guess at whether someone is married or has a family if you don’t know enough about their situation.
“I have had people say, ‘Are you and your wife going away for the holidays,’ and I say, ‘No, my husband and I are staying home,’” said Convery.
“I don’t mind answering that question but (it’s best to approach) it as if you’re meeting a new friend … and (think about) what you would normally talk about.”
“It’s boundaries, respect, understanding where that person is coming from – physical as well as verbal.”
Make the first move
If there’s someone at the party you’d like to connect with, you should feel free to approach them. The setting gives you an excuse to start a conversation with someone you may not otherwise have access to.
“I’ve been to many holiday parties where I’ve met people and we talked about connecting in the New Year around a specific sort of opportunity (like a conference or an event),” said Convery.
“Conversations lead to opportunities.”
It’s also completely appropriate to follow up with a networking lead made during a party, especially if you mentioned it at the end of your conversation, he added.
“The most important thing is to remain professional and to enjoy yourself, but be respectful of boundaries.”