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Holiday Party Etiquette to Keep Working Relationships Working

Harassment lawsuits aside, responsible, mature behavior prevents embarrassment and regrets

Posted by Jared Jacobson on December 19th, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Holiday parties are in full swing, people are stressed out between work, family and finances, and are looking for any opportunity to unwind and let loose. The office holiday party is the perfect opportunity to blow off steam and create some memories. Below are some general tips for navigating through your office holiday parties and keeping your job in the process.

Too Much Information

After several drinks, you begin a conversation with a senior executive or colleague who you never met or have met only briefly. Conversation topics to avoid would be personal stories that involve other colleagues or inappropriate details, e.g., people you hate or simply annoy you around the office, sexual escapades, etc.

Resist the urge to become overly chummy with him/her as a result of your newly found comfort level, confidence and faux friendship, created by your previous six holiday beverages. This executive may be slightly inebriated him/herself, but did not get to that position by forgetting conversations easily.

On the off chance that this senior exec enjoys the candid conversation, congratulations, you took a risk and it paid off, however, this is a very calculated risk and is not recommended.

Dance Star

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By all means, it is the holiday party – eat, drink and be merry. However, it may not be advisable to do the “running man” for your colleagues to demonstrate your dancing prowess. Perhaps it was “cool” back in high school to jump through hoops as if you were Kid ‘n Play, but the holiday party is neither the time nor the place to bring back the ‘80s.

There is a time and place to enjoy yourself in the appropriate setting. Dancing is certainly acceptable and even admirable by junior and senior colleagues alike, but know when to draw the line between likeable, fun colleague and creepy, weird and out-of-place.

Dress Appropriately

Read the invitation. Know in advance whether you should be wearing your casual or club gear versus business attire.

It is holiday time, of course, and this may call for a slight variance from your normal work attire, but try to resist the urge to “dress to the nines” to impress those colleagues who you see every day – and will continue to see every day in the future.

Holiday Romance

Does your company have a “No Fraternization Policy”? A No-Fraternization policy typically covers interoffice romantic relationships. If there is a policy in place, be sure to comply with it. If not, the holiday party and continuing festivities thereafter should not test the company’s tolerance for interoffice romance.

In many offices, there are plenty of security cameras which are frequently placed in areas that you commonly travel but do not realize, e.g., hallways, stairwells, offices, conference rooms and especially parking lots. According to one survey, 29 per cent of adults have, while at an office holiday party, experienced or observed sexual advances between people who work together.

From a legal perspective, if you make unwanted advances to a colleague, you may find yourself involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit. If you are a superior making an advance on a subordinate, please don’t forget to leave him/her this author’s business card on your way out.

Be Yourself

Have fun; enjoy the holiday season and the office party. Whatever you do, do not strive to be the “life of the party” by being someone other than yourself. If it is in your nature to do so, don’t be surprised if unwarranted write-ups, talks and removal from projects begin to befall you in the coming year, ultimately leading to your separation from the company.

You may be the subject of subsequent office holiday party stories, but it may be your last party at the company. Try to remember, it is still a business event at the end of the day.

Jared Jacoboson
Jared Jacoboson

Attorney and founder of The Law Firm of Jacobson & Rooks, LLC

Jared Jacobson is one of the founding members of The Law Firm of Jacobson & Rooks, LLC. Jared Jacobson represents individual employees and executives as well as counsels employers in conducting workplace investigations to mitigate risks of employment and whistleblower litigation. Jared regularly performs human resource audits to ensure compliance with state (PA, NJ and NY) and federal discrimination, misclassification and wage and hour laws, as well as the risks associated with whistleblowers. Jared helps his clients understand the importance of investing in pre-emptive annual policy audits and work-place training as well as performing a proper investigation when a complaint is filed or threatened which can be invaluable when compared with the alternative.

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