By Sharon Schweitzer

Many of us can use a refresher on attending office holiday gatherings. It may have been a minute since you attended holiday festivities. Keep in mind that excess celebration can become unfortunate fodder for stories the next day. You want to avoid being an infamous legend for future parties. Are you up for a promotion? Acing business holiday etiquette helps you leverage the season like a pro and gives you an edge on the competition!

DO timely RSVP: Be sure to respond to an invitation within 24-48 hours, regardless of whether it comes via Evite, GreenvelopePaperless Post, Punchbowl, email, telephone, text, or mail. Depending on your organizational culture, attendance may be optional or practically mandatory. If you are new and plan to skip the party, confer with a trusted colleague to avoid sending a negative message. Executives and upper management will notice those absent from the festivities.

Do Arrive & Depart on Time: Arriving ‘fashionably late’ is inappropriate. Avoid arriving early by appearing within the first 15-20 minutes. Even if you are attending under protest, avoid arriving 30 minutes before the party ends just to make an appearance.

Do Closely Read the Invitation: Avoid a potentially awkward event by knowing the company policy on guests. Is this soiree ‘Employees only’ or ‘Plus One’?  Discreetly inquire in advance to determine whether dates or partners are included. All the planning decisions were carefully weighed, including expenses and scheduling for this officially sponsored company event.

Do Greet Hosts, Event Planners, and Colleagues: Upon arrival, greet and thank your hosts and event planners. Visit for 5 minutes and compliment an aspect of the party that you observed such as the invitation, catering, music, or décor. Move on to allow the host to converse with other guests.

Do Mingle: Everyone watches the entrance to a room. When arriving resist the urge to head straight for the bar or buffet. Enter, pause, step to the right, and greet the person standing there. Executives enjoy speaking with employees and this may be a rare opportunity to introduce yourself and interact in person. Be visible to leadership. Warmly greet your superiors, chat with colleagues, and introduce yourself to coworkers you do not know. Avoid hanging with office friends and having that dazed look of waiting to dash for the door.

Avoid a Monologue: When socializing with colleagues, reduce business chat and optimize this opportunity to become better acquainted on a personal level. Consider convo starters like pets, travel, sports, best-selling books, and movies. Keep discussions positive and limited to 10-15 minutes. Avoid bragging, complaints, gossip since the party purpose is to celebrate the year’s successes. 

Avoid a Binging at the Buffet: Eat a small amount of protein before the event. You were not 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 making a heaping plate, double dipping, and noshing over the chafing dish. Discard toothpicks, napkins, and plates in the trash.

Avoid Overindulging in Alcohol: Sidestep the common mistake of drinking too much. Alcohol and a loose tongue may add up to a regretful next workday. Consider tea, club soda or water. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly. Hold your refreshment in your left hand so your right hand is free for potential handshaking.

Avoid Toasting or Clapping for Yourself: If the host offers a toast, raise your glass at the toast conclusion, when the host raises their glass. Avoid clinking glasses with everyone. Pause and observe. Hopefully, the toast recipient will reciprocate with a toast to the host. If you are a star performer, you may be honored with a toast. Accept it gracefully. Refrain from drinking to a toast offered in your honor; it is the equivalent of clapping for yourself. Stand and toast the person who toasted you, thanking them for the recognition.


Photo by cottonbro studio


Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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