Office Party Etiquette

By | March 6, 2016

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As we enter the Holiday Season and prepare ourselves for office parties, have you realized that “Your office mate is not necessarily your friend”? Specifically, those who are early in their work experience should be mindful of office politics.

As someone who is incredibly trusting and only see’s the good in others, I found myself on the receiving end of some surprising behaviors from work associates unable to explain, until years later. Outbursts or reformatted comments from the boss. We all know the type, never bold enough to take their own step to success so they want to sabotage yours’!!! Or the one who appears only when times are incredibly great or incredibly bad! These types often get exposed, the key is managing your inner circle and remember you have friends outside of work.

One of the biggest social blunders I saw was confusing colleagues for friends, expecting intimate disclosures or social invites. Colleagues have lots of common interests, but when someone leaves the organization, they often don’t anymore. That’s because they didn’t have friendship but collegiality–and that’s a good thing, that’s what co-workers are. Be clear on how to distinguish between false professional etiquette obligations, like after-work happy hour. Who invited you and why. It’s okay to skip it if you’d rather go home; professional politeness isn’t synonymous with sacrificing free time. The same is true of office distractions. Want to avoid doting parents with reams of baby photos? Provide a pleasant but non-committal “Oh, that’s nice,” then appear distracted. “While it is rude to seem bored, it is not rude to seem too busy.”

Another potential problem area is social media, where professional and personal info overlap. While updating your Facebook status with a rant about your manager is understood to be a bad idea, the culture of online oversharing is starting to bleed off the screen and into the cubicle. “Some of my consulting clients tell me that young professionals seem to divulge a lot of little things that they think are important but in fact are not,” says Linda Allan, a Toronto-based certified management consultant, who notes that the common practice of tweeting banal musings or taking Instagram photos of meals is a training ground for poor self-editing skills. Behavior such as detailing your commute or the had-to-be-there anecdote about your pet tends to be generational, she finds, more prevalent now than 10 years ago. “You don’t need to verbalize everything–it’s a time-waster,” she says.

I advocate spending 10 extra minutes to compile ideas into a single note instead of firing off an email for every thought. This takes time, but I often received countless Saturday morning emails referring to projects or ideas that should have ended the prior Monday. Cache in a work environment is not effective!

In the spirit of unintentional sharing, the open-concept workplace can offer a parade of irritations. Personal idiosyncrasies are on constant display. “You’re looking out at a sea of desks while trying to concentrate on a phone call and your vision is activated. Some co-workers are gathered for a YouTube clip; others are gesturing excessively at the communal meeting table. “Suddenly, silly thoughts enter your head, like ‘That sweater doesn’t look very good on him.’ ” You can’t change the office, but you can check yourself. Your full focus should really be on the conversation you’re having. Common sense dictates the golden rule–treat people as you’d like to be treated–is the most important etiquette standard, but however I would advocate for adding some common sense to your environmental thinking and who you are dealing with as well!

Have fun at work, enjoy your peers, but also proceed with caution!

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