Your Guide to the End of Year Office Party

It’s that time of year again. You’re expected to socialise with work colleagues who you normally only see over at the copy machine. So how on earth are you going to spend an entire evening with them? Relax. Our guide will have you chatting away with the person from human resources and maybe even having a meaningful conversation with your boss. We’ll give you guidelines about how to break the ice, avoid any awkward situations and leave a great impression.

To Go or Not to Go

You might be wondering if you should even bother with going to the function at all. While it is your choice and attendance isn’t compulsory, rest assured that your absence will be noticed. Non-attendance may count against you at a later stage. Your employer is arranging the yearly get together as an investment and a teambuilding exercise, so it’s best to be there if you possibly can. Try to see it as an opportunity to do some networking. It’s not necessary to be the life and soul of the party but it is good to show your face.

 

Gifts

You’re not always required to bring a gift, but some offices organise a “Secret Santa” system. It’s never easy buying something for someone that you know next to nothing about. Make sure you do bring something, though, because you’ll appear very cheap and disorganised if you don’t. Avoid the Crimbo rush by shopping online and be sure to do it well in advance.

 

Avoid personal gifts like perfume and home décor. A food hamper is always popular- something containing nuts, dried fruit and wine will be appreciated by almost anyone. Chocolate and cookies are also a good unisex item. For the guys, business card holders, pen sets or thermos flasks usually go down well. The girls are usually a little easier to buy for- think chocolate, fancy soap sets or journals.

 

Timing

It’s always uncomfortable being the first to arrive. Rule of thumb: never arrive at the office party on time. You’ll end up being one of the only ones there and it will make for a very long evening. If it’s an after-work party, or if you live nearby go home first, shower and change, then come back. You’ll not only look better than everyone there, but the party will be in full swing by the time you show up.

 

When to leave? You may be desperate to get home or move on to more exciting places but try not to rush off too early. Never be the first to leave and try to look as if you’re enjoying yourself, especially when you’re not! Be sure to thank the organizers before you go. Also, remember to say goodbye and thank you to your boss as well. If you don’t get a chance to show your appreciation at the party be sure to follow up with an email the day after. Little touches like this set you apart from the pack and ensure you leave a good impression.

 

Refreshments

Always eat before attending the office party. First, the food might not be to your taste, and second, you don’t want to be seen hovering around the food table all evening. If it’s an open bar and catering, a reasonable guideline to follow is to allow yourself one plate of food and three drinks. Anything more is considered impolite. Drinking alcohol is another good reason to eat before you arrive. Speaking of which, always set yourself a limit and stick to it. Many a career has been derailed and a professional reputation ruined as a result of too much liquid enthusiasm at the office party. Remember you must face everyone again on Monday morning. Having a glass of water between each drink helps.

 

Conversation

Making small talk is stressful for some, but it helps if you prepare beforehand. Find out if anyone has recently been given an award or been promoted. Now is a good time to congratulate them. Check out the company’s website to refresh your memory about names and positions. Try to leave the work subjects aside for the evening. This isn’t the time to ask about a promotion or to discuss a project. It is a chance to make connections within the company and get to know some of your co-workers. Good conversation topics are to ask what department they work in and how long they’ve been with the company. Enquiring about their holiday plans is also a good conversation starter.

 

What to Wear

If the invitation doesn’t have a dress code on it, speak to the person organising the function. Otherwise, you can take your clues from when and where the party is being held. If it’s at the office after work, you can wear normal work attire but dress it up a little. For instance, swop your flats for heels and put some red lipstick on. Be careful of going overboard with the glitzy, Christmassy accessories and Santa hats. You don’t want to be remembered for looking silly. You also don’t want your boss remembering you looking like a Christmas tree when he’s doing the performance reviews. You want the attention to be on what you ‘re saying, not on what you're wearing.

 

Bringing a Friend

Maybe the invitation has said that you can bring a friend or a date with you, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Check if any of your colleagues are bringing someone with them too. If you do decide to take a friend along, make sure it’s the right person. Remember that it is a work function and not a social event, even though it may be fairly casual. Don’t take anyone who is likely to cause you embarrassment by getting drunk or being loud. Plus, it helps if they’ve met at least a couple of your coworkers before to save them feeling awkward.

 

Don't Get Personal

No matter how much you fancy that special someone in accounts, the end of year office party isn’t the place to show it publicly. By all means, use it as an opportunity to connect and meet somewhere later but be careful to maintain a professional distance in front of coworkers and your boss to avoid starting embarrassing office gossip.

 

To sum up, do attend the party, have fun but be professional. If you hate your job or are looking for a promotion, this is not the place to discuss it. These functions are, however, a great chance to get to know your team and foster career building relationships.

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