At this time of year it would be prudent to provide employees with a refresher course in office party etiquette. For many organizations the end of the year marks a time when spirits are high, the fiscal year is at a close, and celebrations are frequent. If the company has had a good year, congratulations, bonuses and office parties abound. The seemingly relaxed atmosphere can be deceiving to the unsuspecting employee. Contrary to the office merriment this is not a time to relax and let your “ party self” loose at work. Office parties are serious business and should be treated as subtle networking opportunities as well as an occasion for the employee to be seen in a social situation. How an employee acts socially can be as important to a CEO as his/her on the job performance.
Let’s pretend we are designing a training module for office party etiquette. Consider the following questions:
- What do we want the training to cover?
- What is the overall benefit to the organization if we do the training?
- What is the most effective way to present the material?
- What is the time limit?
- Who should be trained?
- What is the cost?
- Who should do the training?
- How do we measure the effectiveness of the training?
The most important question is the first question. “What do we want the training to cover?” Each organization has a culture that would dictate the answer to that question; however, there are generic topics that all office party etiquette training should include. The answers to the subsequent questions will fall in line after question one is addressed. Business etiquette guru Hilka Klinkenberg stands by the following essential topics:
- Appropriate dress for a business affair/party
- Check if invitation includes spouses, date or children
- Arrival/departure time to/from the event
- How to mingle effectively (do not spend the entire time with co-workers)
- Eat and drink in moderation
- How to give/receive a business toast
- Manners (greeting, please, thank you)
I would also add reminders about the following topics:
- Review of the organizational chart
- Diversity (people socialize differently, set a norm)
- Language (expletives, ethnic, sexual, age jokes inappropriate)
- Cell phones, electronic devices
- Improper liaisons on company time
This may have a Big Brother feel to some readers. It may even sound elementary or ridiculous for an organization to consider spending any time or training dollars on reminding employees how to act at a social function. However, aren’t actions at the office Christmas party a perennial joke? Almost any seasoned employee can tell a story about a bad episode in a business social situation that stymied a career in the workplace. How many young employees think that an office party is a time to get loose with free booze and free food? They have not had the exposure to realize that making a fool of yourself at an office party can have far reaching negative effects on your career at the company. Young people learn too late the ramifications of poor behavior at an office social situation by becoming the office joke at the water cooler, or by watching their contemporaries move into better positions.
Whether it is HR or sectional leadership that takes up the gauntlet, an office party/social situation refresher training for employees is an idea that is worth considering.