Professionals today attend many different types of work-related social gatherings, be they an informal happy-hour to celebrate the end of a big project, a more formal office party perhaps around the end of the year, or a weekend cook-out hosted by a co-worker. Although each of these events take place outside of traditional business hours, your work persona (not your party persona) should be the guest to attend.
If it’s work-related, there is an expectation that a certain level of professionalism will be maintained. As our post on Making Office Friendships Work alluded to, your behavior at an event with co-workers should look much different than it would if you were surrounded by family and friends and more able to let loose. That’s not to say you should be someone other than yourself, it’s just always best to practice a little restrain at work-related events (despite how causal it may feel). Consider the following tips the next time you’re invited to an office get together:
Be wise with your RSVP. Your level of obligation to attend a given event varies depending on who is extending the invitation and who might be in attendance. If the invite comes from a supervisor, one should almost always consider it mandatory. It is also good to show face whenever folks in high positions will be there – even if they don’t notice your presence, you don’t want to take the risk that they notice your absence. Conversely, when the invite comes from a co-worker, it can generally be left to personal discretion whether or not to attend.
Don’t overindulge. By all means, take advantage of free food at events, however, if you find yourself packing plastic baggies or storage-ware for the extras, you may be going a little too far. Not having too much is especially important when it comes to alcohol. Your professionalism and judgment fly further away with each drink you consume, and if you reach the point where you are perceived by others as drunk, word is sure to get around and the comments are not likely to be flattering. Limiting yourself to one drink is generally preferable, and a solid policy to avoid coming away from the event with any regrets.
Mind your manners. Again, your aunt may not care how loudly you chew, what you wear, or how late you arrive, but your supervisor might. It’s also good practice to thank the organizers and/or host of any event, whether work-related or not. Those two little words can go a long way.
Make at least one new connection. Work-related events can sometimes seem like an obligation you’re not thrilled to fulfill, but breaking the monotony by meeting someone new can add some excitement for you. It’s also a great way to network and learn about different opportunities.
Use your social skills and be mindful of cues you receive from others, like tone and body language, etc. If you know you’re a big talker, try not to monopolize any one person’s time. A great tip for keeping yourself accountable is the WAIT acronym, which stands for “why am I talking.” By asking yourself this before you speak, you can really make sure that what you’re contributing is meaningful.
Distance yourself from gossip and negativity. It’s so tempting to bond over shared frustrations with your co-workers by venting all of your workplace issues, but it’s just not worth it. That temporary release may end up haunting you in a big way.
The next time you’re at a work-related event, relax, enjoy yourself, and make sure you don’t do anything you’d be ashamed of. Being “on” even when you’re technically “off” the clock can feel like more work than fun, but by making the best of it you’ll be sure to impress.