Christmas will soon be upon us and into this ‘season of goodwill’ looms The Office Party. As soon as this invite drops into your inbox, it should be treated with the same suspicion as abandoned baggage at an airport! Not only does it bring with it all the usual risks of Christmas parties, it involves people with whom we are familiar but not close, alcohol, and the problem of either leaving your spouse/other half at home, or perhaps worse, taking them with you! This one, the office party, consider it as a paparazzi event, because if it’s not you drunkenly posting photos and comments on Facebook, it’ll be someone else, and there’s always that moment, perhaps in the toilets, where you suddenly think it’s a great idea to Tweet. |This is a bird brained idea and one to be dismissed!
There are two sorts of office party. In a small business, with a ‘let’s all pull together’ mentality, ‘the boss’ will usually join in all celebrations with the rest of the team. Ideal! This perpetuates the work environment and will provide a natural brake to excessive behaviour! In a larger organisation, where directors don’t have day to day dealings with their staff, it can be quite inhibiting if the CEO comes to the party as people might feel they should be on their best behaviour. In that case the CEO and other board members should put in an appearance at the beginning of the evening but leave the after the meal (if there is one), preferably before the dancing and definitely before the lap dancing. In accordance with correct office procedure, they’ll choose a similar club nearby.
Spouse or no spouse? Oh, the invitation itself will cause much pot throwing and sulky silences. Whichever, this will be tough on couples. If the conversation is going to be about office politics and gossip, they’re going to feel left out. On the other hand, they may view their exclusion as adequate opportunity for you to get that bit closer to Miss Jones from accounts or Mr Smith, the account executive. If they are to be invited, then outrageous dress is to be discouraged, whatever statement they wish to make. A disenchanted girlfriend or boyfriend may feel the need to make their presence felt – this is not the way to promotion! It’s up to YOU to introduce them to bosses and other members of staff to make them feel comfortable. There’s an upside to this – for another 365 days, whilst you complain or praise your colleagues, they can sympathise or empathise knowledgeably. Make sure your partner has something to eat and drink and that they’re not left alone too long – after all, you have no idea what they’re saying. Look out for new members of staff too – many a career has been ended before it began, by a drunken indiscretion, and if you have any heart, leaving the new secretary at the mercy of the office ‘lounge lizard’ isn’t fair, however amusing.
If there is dancing, think long and hard about having stakes put through your feet, it might be preferable. If your partner is there, then you dance with them first, and this is the easy option. If you are alone – then consider very carefully what you are doing and how it might be construed (not to mention photographed and posted on the internet). (Mike Tindall take note!) NOTHING is private these days! If the paps don’t get you then CCTV will!
Now, this invite is looking less inviting by the minute – until, you realise with sinking heart, that you recognise that partners occasionally feel that they have to conquer nerves or shyness with a bit of Dutch courage. Good for them! They will not have to face your colleagues on Monday morning. It’s therefore worthwhile, not to say imperative, that you should adopt the metaphorical uniform of the drink police, for you both! Whether it’s you or your partner in a clinch with the boss, it’s all going to take some talking away in the office.
And what to wear? Etiquette says nothing too high, nothing too low – in other words it is best not to flash the flesh, and this goes for both sexes! Although if you nurture a deep need to display a navel length medallion and hirsute chest, maybe you’d like to reconsider your job – particularly if you’re a woman!
A formal dance for which Black Tie is not specified, means a suit with a tie for men and a smart, elegant outfit for ladies. This is a time to dress up and put on the glitz if you feel like it, but again, it is best not to go over the top. For dancing I would opt for a long dress, something that will make you look and feel glamorous but in which you are able to move around in with ease, so not too tight. Laced bodices promulgating fainting fits and worse, expulsion of air, should be avoided! Shoes are very important here. Without them, your socks or tights will get wet and worn. But however gorgeous your shoes look, if they require removal halfway through the evening to avoid becoming a double amputee, then they are best left at home. If they are new, wear them round the house with a pair of socks, as our feet usually swell a bit after a few hours of dancing in a hot room. Your au pair might look askance but it doesn’t bear translation. Men should make sure their suits and shirts are pressed with no frayed collars or cuffs and that shoes are well polished. Black shoes are worn for evening as are black socks and the tie should be of good quality (preferably silk, and without gravy stains or any other blemishes)!
If your Christmas outing means you are going for a meal or to a cocktail party, a short dress or long skirt is acceptable, as are evening trousers and a smart top – and again, a suit for men. But pelmet skirts either on the young or the old should be avoided. The one is tarty, the second is sad. It is easy to think of a corporate ‘jolly’ to be an opportunity to ‘be ourselves’, to make an impression, identify what sort of image we would usually wish to project – but this is still a ‘company event’ and should be viewed as such.
But what if the drink has been flowing, the music slows down and as the lights dim you find yourself dancing with your boss or personal assistant. How should you behave if he (or she) starts to get a bit amorous? You might think ‘So what – after all it is Christmas!’ Sorry, that’s not a thought but an excuse. In the cold light of day you know that clinches with the boss, or any other members of staff are best avoided! And worse, the most innocuous electronic device can now photograph and video. There is no privacy. But things can sometimes go further than they should, which means at the least an embarrassing time on Monday morning and possibly unwelcome tittle-tattle for weeks to come. However attractive the proposition or attention, realisation of someone’s attraction to you or personal bolster, the sober realisation of what happened WILL have implications on your future. Avoid at all costs.
So here is a quick list of Do’s & Don’ts:
1 Do remember that a Christmas Party is still a ‘work event’
2 Do look after partners and colleagues & make sure they are not excluded
3 Don’t drink too much
4 Don’t flash the flesh
5 Do mind what you say
6 And do enjoy yourself!
Additional text by Diana Mather.