Job Talk: Seven blunders to avoid at the annual office party
November 4, 2007
The holidays are nearly here and that means the inevitable return of office parties and the infamous legends they create. To safeguard the resiliency of your professional life, don’t make the career-ending mistakes gravely made by others before you.
Last year, TheLadders.Com conducted a holiday survey to determine the biggest blunders typically made at office parties. While the survey may be a year old, the findings are timeless and worth a sober review before the first bite of pumpkin pie is taken this holiday season. The top seven blunders the site reported are listed below, along with a little food for thought.
Blunder No. 1: Overindulging
Office parties are a great opportunity to put work aside for a few hours and relax with your co-workers. It is also a wonderful time to garner some quality face time with the higher-ups who have the authority to sprinkle fairy dust on your career. You don’t, however, want to become the infamous legend remembered long after you have left the organization for drinking too much and making a fool of yourself.
Maybe you really believe that your off-color jokes are funny or that you look dashing with the empty punchbowl on your head. (Yes, the plastic spoons stuck on either side your ears do resemble Elvis' sideburns to a certain degree.) Your illusions are not shared with the more sober majority, however.
Not only is overindulging physically unhealthy but it also shows a reckless lack of control on your part that others could easily assume extends to your career in general. Just do what the AFN commercial suggests. Don’t be that guy.
Blunder No. 2: Flirting
Of course you’re charming. Everyone knows it, especially your co-workers. So cut the cute ones (and the not-so-cute ones) some slack and don’t flirt with them. Paws off their spouses as well, lest you incur the untamable wrath of someone’s green-eyed monster or brutal rebuff and anger hurled directly from the insulted flirtee. If you boldly mix blunders No. 1 and No. 2, you must have a career death wish. Count on feeling embarrassed the next day and damaging your career beyond all imagination. Job loss is not completely out of that picture. Keep repeating it: Discretion is the better part of valor … discretion is the better part of valor … etc.
Blunder No. 3: Dirty dancing
You may truly be John Travolta or Patrick Swayze reincarnated in a sensual way, but showing off your sexy moves at the office party won’t necessarily score you any major points. You will definitely be at the center of some interesting conversations, but is that where you really want to be, assuming you want to respectfully show your face (or any other body part) at work the next day? Save your groove thing for the after-party.
Blunder No. 4: Inappropriate attire
You may have suffered countless crunches and untold pain to gain that body. Good for you. You deserve to show it off … just pick a better moment in another place. For one reason, your office party may include minor-aged family members making it of the G-rated variety. For another reason, you’re still considered as being on the job and should dress (and perish the thought, act) as such.
Blunder No. 5: Controversial subjects
Our world is full of them. Pro-war/anti-war. Vote Hillary/don’t vote Hillary. Get out of Afghanistan/stay there. Sauce/no sauce. The list of hot button topics could go on and on. It would be an utterly boring world if differing viewpoints didn’t exist to be sure. The office holiday party, however, is not a Rush Limbaugh- lookalike show. Conceal your extreme inner Coulterisms and just keep it as civil as possible. Talk about the weather if you must.
Blunder No. 6: Poorly behaved guests
You can mind your manners just fine, thank you. Just be sure that any tagalongs with you do the same. Guilt by association. Enough said.
Blunder No. 7: Being a no-show
It’s tempting, isn’t it? How can you screw things up if you just don’t show up in the first place? It’s like this. Whether you like it or not, you are an integral part of the whole office dynamic thing. Playing nice means making at least a gratuitous appearance when everyone else makes a point to do so. You don’t have to stay forever, just a respectable period of time. It’s really not that hard and you get free food, too. It’s the holidays, after all.
Even with carefully calculated forethought, the top seven blunders will no doubt continue to occur this holiday season. You, however, have been duly reminded and should instead focus on the positive that can come from the forced fun holiday frivolity noted on your calendar.
Network with others in the hopes of advancing your career and be grateful for the fact that you have a job at all. Try your co-workers pumpkin pie cheesecake and tell her you like it even if you don’t. ’Tis the season to be civil, after all.
Janet Farley is the author of “The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide” and “The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success.” Her column appears monthly in Stars and Stripes. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org