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The dos and don'ts of the office summer party

Jun 22, 2018
With office summer parties now in full swing, Orla Brosnan of the Etiquette School of Ireland is here to help you to navigate this perilous social minefield.

Yes, a summer party is supposed to be fun. It’s a much deserved opportunity to kick back and relax with the people you work hard with every day. It’s a thank you from the bosses, and the very nature of a summer office party spells a good time for all. It boosts morale, and it helps your employees get to know one another, which is essential for teams to succeed.

Oftentimes, employees only get to interact with others within their department. Having an inclusive company summer party affords your colleagues the opportunity to mix and mingle with people they might not otherwise get to talk to on a regular basis. However, there are a few rules everyone should keep in mind before loosening the tie and slipping on the flip flops.

tick Go to the office party! You may not want to go, but it’s important to show your commitment to the company. Your absence will be noticed.

tickTalk to your boss early while you are still both sober. You are less likely to say something stupid and your boss is more likely to remember the conversation. The company you keep should get less and less senior as the night goes on, particularly if you are planning to have a few drinks!

tickStay sober-ish. Know your limitations. If you are confident after three drinks, hilarious after five, and a demon after seven, set your limit between three and six drinks for the duration of the evening. And try and have one glass of water after every drink. (Admitted, easier said than done!)

tickGet a meal. Realise the benefit of eating a substantial meal before an office party, as canapés are an impractical cushion and typically do not provide enough soakage.

tickMingle. To join a new conversation at the office party, catch someone’s eye, smile, and enter the clique on a break. If you see someone who wants to participate, pull her or him in when there is a lull.

tickSwitch groups. Instead of pulling the bathroom ploy, get used to saying, “It’s been lovely chatting with you. Please excuse me.” There is nothing wrong with moving on to speak with others. That’s the purpose of a party - to socialise. It is easy to fall into the trap of meeting someone that you would like to talk to and stay with them, but limit yourself to 10/15 minutes, as that person will also like to meet other people.

tickConnect people. Introduce two parties and explain what they have in common. Then say, “I am going to leave you two to chat, I’ll catch up with you later.”

xDress like you are going to a nightclub. It’s fine to take it up one notch – after all it is a party – but your attire needs to be suitable for a business event. Don’t wear anything that is too short, too tight, too low or too… anything, really.

xFail to prepare your guest or significant other. Let them know about appropriate dress and topics of conversation to stay away from. His/her behavior will reflect on you, for better or worse.

xDiscuss sex, politics or religion, and, more importantly, don’t gossip about colleagues. Have a talking plan. Be up to date on current affairs. It is not a time to discuss a pay rise or promotion with your boss, either. Keep the conversation upbeat and positive.

xPut negative comments on social media after the event. Keep everything you say publically about the shindig positive and don’t post photos of your colleagues engaging in inappropriate behavior.

xStrive to be a foot taller than everyone else. If you can be seen from across the room, you are probably doing something that you shouldn’t. While you may possess the dance moves of a young Travolta or know all the words of Gangnam Style in the original Korean, ask yourself, “Is the summer office party the correct platform to demonstrate this (obviously fantastic) ability?” Probably not.

xTake the words “free bar” as a personal challenge. Alcohol fuelled romance is often in the air at the summer office party. According to a recent poll, 20% of staff admits to having kissed a colleague, 14% said they flirted with the boss and 2% said they quit their job at the office party.

The Irish goodbye

If there are fewer than a dozen people in attendance, you should say goodbye to the host. If there is more than that, you can slip out quietly and send a thank you note, text or email thanking them for the invite without having endure people calling you a bore or buying you ‘just one more’ before you can slip out the door.

Above all have fun!

Orla Brosnan is the CEO of Etiquette School of Ireland.