Holiday Cheers by Pexels

Are you up for a promotion? At the very least, excess celebration and etiquette mistakes can become fodder for next day stories and eventually legend for future parties. Avoid excess celebration and etiquette mistakes that become juicy gossip for the next day and eventually a legend for future parties.

Read the Invitation: Avoid a potentially uncomfortable evening by reading the invitation carefully. Know the company policy on guests, and whether the event is employees only or plus one. Discreetly check in advance whether spouses or dates are welcome. The planning decisions have already been calculated, including expenses and scheduling because this is an officially sponsored company event.

RSVP: Respond to an invitation within 24-48 hours, whether it arrives via Evite, Paperless Post, email, telephone or traditional methods. Even though you don’t want to attend, you must. Attendance is mandatory. Failing to show-up at the holiday bash sends a clear message: the job and your paycheck aren’t priorities. Executives and upper management will take note.

Timely Arrival & Departure: Arriving ‘fashionably late’ is inappropriate. Arriving early is disconcerting to the hosts. Arrive within the first 15-20 minutes. Avoid arriving 30 minutes before the end of the party just to make an appearance.

Greet Hosts, Colleagues & Planners: Upon arrival, greet, thank and shake hands with hosts and party planners. If it’s a company or partnership owned by more than one person, thank them all. Chat briefly and compliment a party aspect that you sincerely enjoyed such as the food, music, or décor. Limit this to 5 minutes and move on.

Mingle: Most people watch the entrance to a room. Upon arrival do you make a beeline straight for the bar? Instead enter, pause, step to the right, greet and shake hands with the party-goer standing there. Executives enjoy speaking with employees. Your company party may be one of the few times you have time to visit with them in person. Introduce yourself, tell them the department you work in and shake hands. This is a good time to become visible to your organization’s leadership. Greet your superiors, and chat with as many colleagues as you can, introducing yourself to those that you don’t know well. Greet co-workers warmly, and with a smile. Resist the urge to spend the entire evening with your cubby-buddy. Mingle with co-workers from other departments. At all costs, avoid disappearing into your smartphone or ready to dash home.

Avoid a Monologue: When socializing with business colleagues avoid shop talk. The party is an opportunity to get to know colleagues a little better on a personal level. Stay with topics such as upcoming travel, best-selling books, children, sports, pets and movies. With midterms – avoid politics, sex and religion. Keep discussions positive and 5-10 minutes. Avoid gossiping, complaining and bragging. The party is a time to celebrate the year’s successes!

Don’t Wear That! Pay attention to the attire listed on the invitation. The holiday party is a festive occasion and a “business event” attended by your coworkers. This especially applies to those who are sometimes tempted to use company parties to strut their stuff. Leave too-short, too-tight and too-revealing at home. Use good taste to select elegant clothing; leave the over-the-knee-boots and muscle shirts for a social event. Creating a professional image takes dedication; avoid undermining it in 3 hours.

Buffet: Eat a small amount of protein beforehand. You weren’t invited because the hosts thought you were hungry! Be considerate of others and remember your etiquette basics – keep hands clean and avoid a mouth full of hors d’oeuvres. Avoid a full food plate, double dipping, and eating over the chafing dish. Properly discard toothpicks, napkins, and plates.

Moderation: Alcohol and a loose tongue add up to a regretful Monday morning equation. Consider club soda or sparkling water. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly. Carry your refreshment in your left hand. Leave your right hand moisture-free for handshaking.

Toasting: The CEO may offer a toast. When the toast is for a colleague, raise your glass at the toast conclusion, when the host raises their glass. Don’t clink your glass with everyone else; it’s distracting. Pause and watch. The recipient will most likely reciprocate with a toast. If you have been a star performer, you may be honored with a toast. Accept it gracefully. Refrain from drinking to a toast offered in your honor; it’s like clapping for yourself. Be sure to reciprocate with a toast to the person who toasted you, thanking them for the recognition.


Sharon Schweitzer wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.