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How to Shine at the Holiday Office Party

The Top Dos and Don’ts for the Holiday Office Party



  • Dress appropriately. For social business functions with your business associates, it is always better to play it safe and wear a conservative outfit that is not too revealing.
  • Eat a small amount of food for energy before the event
  • Make an entrance. When you walk in, pause, and take a few seconds to look around before starting to circulate.
  • Wear a name tag if everyone else is wearing one.
  • Wait to approach others until they have gotten something to drink. This is time when people are the most relaxed and ready to socialize.
  • Keep your conversation positive and light. If you are at a social business event, you don’t want to gravitate to a small group of colleagues and talk shop, nor do you want to be entirely social treating people as potential friends. And, this is not the time to complain to your boss about your co-workers. The best topics to talk about are local changes or events, national trends, current culture, books, and movies, holiday vacations, or something you read in the daily newspaper. Steer clear of controversy, however
  • Carry your beverage in your left hand. This leaves your right hand free for handshakes and ensures that your hand isn’t damp and cold. Even if you are left-handed, tradition dictates we shake with the right hand.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation—if at all. It’s at these social events that managers tend to see our true colors and get to know us on a personal basis. Drinking too much can be counterproductive to your professional ambitions. Besides, you don’t want to be the girl or guy everyone is talking about the next day.
  • Eat or talk. Doing both at the same time is not suave.
  • Be mindful of the person or persons who accompanied you to the event. If they’re from your private life, they won’t be familiar with the business half of the room, and vice versa. Introduce them to people with whom they might have something in common.
  • Be discreet. If you are at a social business function, don’t discuss matters that belong at work. And, where at a purely social event, you might “let your hair down,” this is not the place for it. People from the office will notice any behavior that is too relaxed.




  • Don’t skip a social business function, or arrive when it is almost over. You may think your attendance is optional, but your absence will be noticed. The social business function is a great time to show off your polished social graces and mingle with upper management. Arriving at the end of the party shows your lack of respect for the event and will be noticed. It is also more difficult to break into groups that have already formed when you arrive late.
  • Don’t bring your time-is-money business mind-set with you, even though the event is both business and social. You could end up with a series of five-second conversations: “Hey,”or “How’s it going?” To avoid this pace, don’t give or ask for one-word answers. Elaborate. Tell an anecdote. Ask a question that needs more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Charm your conversational partner by focusing solely on them when they are talking, and not interrupting them.
  • Don’t melt from conversations. Always graciously excuse yourself by saying something like, “I really enjoyed hearing about..but if you will please excuse me, I would like to say hello to our host.” Or, “I would like to get something to eat/drink, etc.”
  • Don’t use business jargon at a social business event unless you are talking shop with those who are enjoying it as much as you. Otherwise, leave the buzz words at work. 
  • Don’t let your ego take over, particularly if you are a business executive, accustomed to commanding people’s attention and experiencing their deference. You might carry this attitude over into the social arena, where it is less appreciated.
  • Don’t talk solely with people you know well. Make a point of meeting three new people. Try to find three things in common with each of them. This three-three strategy is not only good practice for social skills, but it is an important stimulus to the goals of the event and might bring you unexpected personal and professional dividends
  • Don’t take pictures of your colleagues without asking for permission to do so; and do not post them on social media without their consent.
  • Don’t answer your cell phone or text at the party unless it is an emergency. If you must take a call, leave the room and go to a private place to talk.
  • Don’t forget to write a thank-you note the day after the party, or to follow-up with any contacts you have met at an event and promised to send additional information regarding your services or the company you represent.



By: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

Updated: December 2017




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