Can you believe the so called “silly season” is over and many of us are pleased to be getting back to work and putting the festivities, celebrations and over indulging behind us. Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions based on the outcome of the silly season which could include joining the gym, a diet plan or even the commitment of ‘never drinking again’ due to an event or incident you wish never happened. If this incident occurred within your social circles you would have been forgiven already, but unfortunately if the incident occurred during a work year end event you have probably already become the lead role of the latest office gossip with the story being exaggerated at the water cooler. Unfortunately all too often, many of us have had to live with the consequences preceding the celebrations.

The reality is that work functions don’t only take place during the December period, recognition events are normally aligned to the company financial year end date and team build functions can take place any time during the year, so no doubt you can expect to be attending an office party sometime in the near future.

Social media is an integral part of our lives. It is also a very powerful medium for sharing indiscretions and destroying reputations. The down-side of social media is the fact that nothing whatsoever is sacred. Office party blunders have fuelled many urban legends. Many of these continue to circulate for years. Nowadays, with many people using their cell phones to take footage at the year-end function, many of these blunders are shared on online public platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Admittedly, some of these are hilarious, particularly if they do not involve you, it is however a very different matter when this is not the case.

It is advisable to have fun at your office parties and functions, but with the knowledge that you need to lead and engage with your team the next day. To do so, you must always be worthy of respect. You must conduct yourself in a sociable, but professional manner, abstain from any behaviour, word or deed that you may later live to regret, dress appropriately, drink moderately, leave work in the office, and compliment and thank those who organised the event.

Whether it’s a formal office party your boss hosts or a casual braai at a co-worker’s house, a work-related social gathering is never strictly social. The impression you make at the event will influence your career in the aftermath of the party. These events could help or hinder your career.

Follow our guidelines when attending an office party:

Arrive on time

Promptness is of the utmost importance at any work related function even the office party. It might be a social event but you are effectively still “at work”. It is seen as disrespect and disregard for others if you are late. If you are unaware of the location or don’t how the directions, get it ahead of time and leave earlier.

Dress Appropriately

If the party is after hours, confirm the appropriate dress code with the organiser or host. May it be formal or casual ensure you dress accordingly and remember there is a difference between causal and business casual.

Don’t Overdo the Refreshments

Overindulging will earn you a “less-than-complimentary nickname and a reputation for gluttony,” Don’t head straight for the food table as soon as you arrive, socialise first.

Drink in moderation, remember drinking soft drinks at an office party is an acceptable alternative in an era of recovery and importance of reputation. However, if you feel a need to drink do so in moderation and be aware of your behaviour.

If you don’t have anything positive to say, rather be quiet

There is no such thing as a perfect work or company. Everyone has a few work-related frustrations that they would like to vent about. This is not the place to do it. Handle your frustration with the right people in the right settings and not somewhere where it can be overheard and blown out of context.

Socialize with Everyone

This is an opportunity to meet and interact with people that you don’t get to spend time with every day. Only sticking to your usual “group” might seem a little immature and even unsocial to others. For an introvert this might seem very daunting, the easiest way to disguise this is to walk around the room, greeting as many people as you can and try to forge new networking relationships.

Don’t Suffocate the Big shots

This is a great opportunity to get to know the executives better, but still keep it professional. Overly familiar or aggressive interaction can push people away and leave a negative impression. By all means be friendly and social and always greet but don’t hunt the executives down trying to impress them.

Treat spouses respectfully.

We tend to focus on our clients and co-workers and almost in a way ignore the spouses. Remember to engage with the spouses by asking about their interests. It is extremely uncomfortable for a spouse and the co-worker if the spouse is feeling “left out”. Be sensitive to the fact that they may feel very exposed.

Thank Your Host

Voicing your appreciation and gratitude to the organisers and the host is not only a smart career move, but it will also make you stand out as one of the relatively few employees who just take it for granted.