From office-wide, after-hours events, to anniversary parties and corporate retreats, work events are often characterized by a more relaxed, yet professional environment. Though these gatherings serve as a wonderful way to connect with coworkers and interact with power-players, they can also be monumentally disastrous if employees do not behave professionally.
Here are a few etiquette guidelines to follow when attending after-hours events:
- Pay attention to your office culture. Many companies and their employees go out for drinks on a regular basis–sometimes after work–and some may even partake during meetings or conferences. However, even casual company cultures may be vastly different and alcohol boundaries may vary, depending on geography, tenure, as well as written and unwritten policy. Therefore, take time to research, adjust and learn what is acceptable, expected, and comfortable for you and your colleagues.
- Show up! Go to these events. Perhaps you have just moved to a new city or country and wish you knew more people who could go with you. This is understandable, but this is your chance to make those connections. Research shows that by not attending events and after-work activities, employees can be perceived by their peers as disconnected and even uninterested.
- Eat protein before you go. Whether it’s grabbing a snack at the office before you go, or having a quick dinner before you leave the house, this is a must. Eating before an office-wide event will lessen the potential effects of alcoholic drinks you might have and help you remain more comfortable and professional.
- Bring conversation starters. All of you have one thing in common: work. However, a work-related event is not the time to continue business or discuss office gossip. Keep conversation between a professional and personal balance–classy, informative, and interesting. Questions about sports, movies, books, vacations, travel and pets are good topics that focus the conversation on others.
- Sincerely visit with many colleagues. We spend most of our week surrounded by colleagues; so, work events (with or without alcohol) can be professionally comfortable venues that can be used to get better acquainted. Remember to branch out to meet new people in other divisions, in addition to your immediate coworkers. By connecting with multiple colleagues from all areas of your organization, you create possible mentors, references, and contacts who can help advance your career down the line.
- Dress sharply and authentically. Remember that a work party is an extension of the professional work day and is still a business setting. Dress in an outfit that helps you feel confident in yourself.
- Be present with the phone off. Focus on the people and the event. Turn your phone off. If you are glued to your phone all night, you will miss out on key face-to-face interactions with your colleagues.
- Don’t loosen up too much. Although being comfortable at these events is key, don’t allow yourself to be overly comfortable. These events are ideal avenues for colleagues to get to know more than your work-oriented side. However, keep in mind that there is a thin line between sharing happy stories about your personal life and divulging inappropriate information. Remember that your superiors may be around, and people who can promote you are paying attention to how you are comporting yourself in these situations.
- Don’t do as the boss does. Perhaps your boss really lets loose at events, clearly violating these key etiquette guidelines. That doesn’t mean you should do the same. Whether it’s fair or not, you are still climbing the ladder and your view is not the same as the view from the top.
- Avoid table dances. If dancing is a possibility at some of these events, be aware of how your grooves may be perceived by those around you. Letting loose to Beyoncé after a stressful week is a sure-fire way to blow off steam, but may not be the best way to impress your superiors. Feel free to join in with co-workers, but remember the consequences your actions may have.
Sharon Schweitzer is an international modern manners and business etiquette expert and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide (http://www.protocolww.com/).