By Bunmi Sofola
Economic crunch or not, quite a number of offices will definitely be throwing their door open for the traditional end-of-year party. Office parties sound innocent enough. It is, afterall, the end of a long year and companies want to thank their staff for the hard work they put in over the course of it. But don’t be fooled. Irrespective of whether the party is a massive, bash or a modest lunch, the temptation to truly let it all hang out and bring out your inner party animal can be overwhelming. It can even seem like a good opportunity to impress your boss and colleagues with your multi-dimensionality, social skills and ability to loosen up.

“But to do so is to forget one crucial thing – party or not, this event remains firmly in the realm of business,” says Joseph, the managing director of an advertising company, who, over the years, have arranged a few Christmas parties. “As such it demands business etiquette, not social etiquette. In case you need reminding, business etiquette, according to the Hilka Kinkenberg of Etiquette International in New York, has military origins and is based on hierarchy and power. This is what makes the office party so dangerous. It looks like a party, it sounds like a party – it even smells like a party – but where true parties are based on the law that all party goers are equal and most behaviour is admissible, this one isn’t.

“You might socialise with your boss, but he’s still your boss. You might rub shoulders with the managing director, but he didn’t leave his designation or his interest in the company at the door before he came in. You might even be slumming it with admiring underlings, but you will still need their respect and confidence come Monday morning. Then, as if this wasn’t complicated enough, there’s the booze factor. There’s often lots of it. And it’s free!Xmas-Party

“There’s no question that the office party can be very dangerous. It starts even before the party itself, with all the build-up and expectation. There’s a lot of excitement and it can lead people to go overboard. People are encouraged to let themselves go and, in some instances, to remain professional is actively discouraged. In these situations, your actions ultimately define you – not your intentions and not what you’re thinking. People remember the effect, so it’s extremely important to control your actions at the party, rather than trying to deal with the consequences afterwards.

Myburgh, an industrial psychologist agrees that, in general, four groups of actions pose the greatest threat to your professional credibility: drinking too much, indulging in gossip about others, blurting out personal information about yourself and seeing the party as an opportunity to score. “It’s a good idea to have a drink policy before arriving at the party,” says Myburgh. “Also, there’s nothing wrong with not drinking anything at all, especially if you have to drive yourself home. Don’t worry that you’ll be regarded as the office geek if you limit your alcohol consumption – this stigma has largely fallen away. If it stills worries you, nurse one drink all night. People won’t notice that you’re not actually drinking it”.

Gossip is not as easily dealt with, but it can cause as much damage to the way you’re perceived as drunkenly throwing up in the potted plant.  “No matter how juicy the topic,” says Myburgh. “move away and don’t be involved. It will alter your relationship with the person gossiping and, once you’ve crossed the threshold. there’s no going back. Every office has its share of known gossips and you don’t want to form alliances with these people – unless you’re prepared to be seen as similarly unproductive, unprofessional and petty. Being associated with gossip is harmful because your credibility is blown. If you’ re being considered for a managing role, for example, you may not have enough staff respect to fulfil the task if you’re a member of a gossip circle. Superiors may also believe you cannot maintain confidentiality.

“But it’s not only talking about others that can blow your chances of advancing. Saying too much about yourself can be equally damaging – especially when it comes to conservative religious or political views or your penchant for kinky sex! Don’t overestimate the closeness you might feel with your colleague after a few drinks at an office party.  Whatever you decide to disclose will definitely get around the office, so

you should only divulge what you’re prepared to have circulated.

The last minefield to negotiate is, of course, sex. The office party is not the place for sexual advances or flirtations, and it’s certainty no place for the act itself. Many long-term relationships begin in these situations. but a distinction has to be drawn between something that holds promise and something that’s clearly a one-night stand. Again, what’s at risk is your credibility and how you’re perceived. But more than that is the

real risk of turning a happy work life into a nightmare.

“The most important thing to remember”, says Myburgh, “whether you’ve passed out in the loos, blabbed about your sexual orientation or you’ve groped the MD in front of his wife – nothing you do on Monday will ever erase your actions. By then the damage is done. It’s probably not a good idea to remind anyone, but if you’ve been offensive it’s important to apologise and get on with doing your job.  So get a game plan. The last thing you want is to find yourself hunting for a new job”. He then proffers the following office – party commandments:

Don’t miss the party: Even if you’re dreading it, go. Your absence will

be noted.

Don’t head straight for the bar: Make a point of greeting your boss

long before there’s any chance of slurring.

Don’t tell the boss you would do a better job of running the company,

or ask for a pay raise – or a promotion. This is not going to impress: It

is tacky.

Don’t complain about the venue, the food or the band.

Don’t drink more than you can handle or more than everyone else.

Don’t bring a date unless one is expressly invited.

Don’t flirt or get touchy – feely.

Don’t put a lamp shade or any other item of decor on your head.

Don’t call in sick or be late for work the following day.

You Need Tack For The Job (Humour)

John was only 19 when he suffered terrible injuries that left him without any ears. He was determined to become successful despite the disability and by the time he was 40 he had built a prestigious international company and was a millionaire many times over. The time came when he needed a good ‘right hand’ man, so from all the applications received, he whittled it down to three. The first man was interviewed and showed great business acumen. John was impressed. However, at the end of the interview, he asked the final important question: “Do you notice anything different about me?” “You’ve got no ears,” came the reply. Poor John was so touchy about his appearance that he dismissed the man immediately.

The second candidate was interviewed and she was even more impressive than the first. Then he came to the final question. “And how would you describe me?” he asked. “You’ve got no ears,” she replied, so she didn’t get the job either. So it came to the third person. The man strode in confidently and did a perfect interview. John was extremely impress. He asked the fmal question. “And what about me, is there anything you noticed?” “Yes,” replied the man, ‘You wear contact lenses.” John was over-joyed. “That’s right, how did you know?” “Because it would be hard to wear glasses without any funking ears, “ answered the man.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.