Making the Office Holiday Party Work for You

Sharing some laughs and getting to know your coworkers on a personal level is a great way to boost employee morale and form stronger teams. I once learned that a coworker of mine was a “semi-professional” wrestling in his spare time, which gave his personality a completely new dimension. Further, I gained a newfound respect for his ability to balance his work and personal interests.

The office holiday party can help boost or bust your career. You can still have fun – in fact, it’s recommended – but follow these simple rules on how to make the party work for you.

Before you head out the door: If you have questions about the appropriateness of your outfit, then it’s probably inappropriate. Save it for a night out with friends, and stick with the more conservative choice. It’s also best to avoid pre-party cocktails, even if “it’s just to take the edge off.”

A drink (or two) when you get there: The first and most obvious potential pitfall once you get to the party is consuming too much alcohol. Follow the one (or two) drink rule, and you should be okay, but always know your personal limit. If you want a prop in your hand, then switch to sparkling water, soft drinks, or non-alcoholic beer/mix drinks if they are available.

Rules Still Apply: Even though your holiday party may be after hours and outside the workplace, don’t mistake it for a rule-free zone. Company rules can still apply and one careless act or comment may constitute sexual harassment. Anti-harassment policies vary slightly from organization to organization, but laws regarding sexual harassment apply universally. I recommend giving your employer’s policies a quick read before the party just to make sure you are familiar with the boundaries and know not to cross them. Ignorance is never a good defense.

Jokes: If you find yourself lowering your voice when telling a joke or making a wisecrack, it’s a warning sign that it could be considered offensive. If you tell a vulgar joke, a racially insensitive joke, share a sexual anecdote, or make an inappropriate sexual gesture while at a company function, then you may subject yourself to claims of discrimination and possible termination. Avoid this danger zone by quickly changing the subject.

Gift Exchanges: A wacky item can get some laughs at the “Secret Santa” gift exchange. Even high-end stationary stores have special sections for cheeky gifts. But realize that your gift may be viewed by all of your coworkers and it needs to be in compliance with employee ethics and conduct standards. That fun set of folders marked “Stuff I’ll get to later” may be as far as you want to go.

Have fun, and then leave on a high note: You’ve shared some laughs and enjoyed some appetizers – now you can graciously thank the hosts and make an exit. When making an exit, make sure you have a transportation plan (designated driver, taxi/car service) to get you to your next destination. If you want to reward yourself for a job well done, then meet up with friends for a nightcap afterwards or treat yourself to something at home. You can catch up on what you missed around the water cooler in the morning. At least they won’t be talking about you.

For more information about Employment Law, contact Lajuana Ransaw or call 770-957-3937. Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the State of Georgia with expertise in this area of law. We have an uncompromising commitment to serving our clients and our community. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

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