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What's Up Magazine

A Company Party Handbook

Dec 09, 2011 10:59PM ● By Anonymous

As you don your best dress or new silk tie, consider the possibilities before you as you prepare for your company’s annual holiday party. Your evening could go several ways. If you abstain from alcohol, you’ll be less likely to say something you regret but you might very well be bored or, worse, nervous around your business associates. Decide ahead of time an appropriate amount. For most people, it is no more than two to three drinks. If you abide by this guideline, you are sure to have the rosy cheerful cheeks that send the message, “I’m having a grand old time,” and you will still be fully functional and able to hold lighthearted conversation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before you get to the party, you must decide what you are going to wear. If the invitation did not specify a dress code, ask someone who has worked with the company for awhile— long enough to have attended last year’s shindig. You could also find the answer by asking the office manager or the boss’ assistant. These are often the individuals in charge of generating the guest lists, as well as designing and mailing the invitations; plus, they have the inside scoop. For the ladies, steal the chance to ‘doll it up.’ On any given day you likely wear nice slacks, a skirt, or a conservative dress. The party is after work hours, and you have the ability to enjoy your dangly earrings. Add a little sparkle to your outfit— think sequins, chiffon, lace. But, please, do not wear all three at once! You would be committing a major fashion faux pas. Men, you will be expected to wear either a suit and tie or maybe khakis and a colorful button-down paired with a wool or velvet blazer (mere suggestions— use what you have and by all means, do not spend a fortune on a new wardrobe for just one evening). However, while our nautical community is famous for pastel colors, the Christmas season calls for a different palette. Wear bold festive colors such as forest green or burnt red and complement with a neutral pair of pants.

Now if the party has a humorous twist like the infamous “ugly sweater” theme, then toss all my advice to the wayside. Anything goes, and the tackier you are, the better. Wear Christmas lights, Candy Cane colored stockings, a Santa hat or reindeer antlers. You will look awful and smashing, and isn’t that just the sort of beautiful and fitting contradiction you were hoping to achieve?

Now it’s time to tackle party decorum. You’ve arrived with a gorgeous bouquet that’s suspiciously too good-looking for the winter season. Did you do the unthinkable and rush order hyacinths from Holland? Be careful not to try and over ingratiate yourself with the boss.

Maybe you brought wine instead, realizing that the gift of flowers puts undue pressure on a host to stop what they are doing (greeting guests and grabbing coats) and rush to find a vase, trim the stems, and place in water. There are several good rules to follow when purchasing wine as a gift. First, choose one you’ve sampled before. This is a reflection on your tastes, and you want to be able to truthfully comment on the drink when your host or hostess asks about its quality. Second, never go overboard. Sophisticated wine does not go hand-in-hand with a giant price tag. Aim for a bottle that costs between $15 and $25. Occasionally a dynamite bottle will cost less than $10 and no one has to know. If you’re lucky enough to have exclusive access to package stores through a military affiliate, the prices are generally lower than commercial locations. Otherwise, hunt for those neon sale signs in the liquor store. You’re bound to land a good deal, especially during the holidays.

Remember to shake hands and make eye contact all the while showing off your pearly whites. This is the time to enjoy yourself and be pleasant with coworkers. Might as well, since this is the group of people you spend more time with than your family. Compliment people’s attire— if you mean it. Thank the host and hostess for inviting you. Be sure to mingle. Do not speak to the same person all night long. It’s rude to the other partygoers, and sends the message that you’re either cliquey or too uncomfortable to be social. Or maybe the person with whom you have been conversing for the last 45 minutes wants to get the heck away, and you’re not even aware that their attention expired 20 minutes prior. Furthermore, what could you possibly still have to say without delving into deep personal life stories? Company parties are all about fanfare and fun, so be wary of sharing intimate details about your recent surgery or explaining that you were not just tired but very hungover at the last staff meeting. Words travel, so you should not let the jolly atmosphere cloud your judgment and cause you to inadvertently tarnish your reputation. Also, be sure not to loiter by the buffet. We all make jokes about indulging, but it’s unbecoming to be the party glutton and eat all the potatoes before half a department has had a chance to try some.

As the evening winds down, survey the room. Does it look less full than when you arrived? Chances are that the other guests are beginning to head home. If you have another engagement, it’s acceptable to leave early but being the last to leave the party is never advisable. It took hours to plan the event and a great deal of cleaning and decorating to make the venue just so; therefore, it is most polite to leave after several hours, allowing the hosts time to wind down alone. Maybe they want to attempt all the dishes that night, or maybe they would rather kick off their shoes and settle in on their couch to watch an old classic flick. If you’re still there, they will feel inclined to continue entertaining even though their feet ache and your car is no longer blocked in the driveway. A word to the wise: If you plan on hosting a party, it can serve you wonders to designate an end time on your invitation. You must be prepared for that one person or two who might have trouble respecting the cut-off, but it can be worth it in the long run.

And with that, I wish you all the happiest of holidays.