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The dos and don'ts of office party etiquette: ‘You're not in a personal space, you're in a professional space’

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Holiday season is upon us and celebratory office parties are a great way for coworkers to get to know each other, especially after two years of virtual and hybrid work. However, professionals must practice good office party etiquette to ensure they don't jeopardize their relationships or jobs.

The lack of professional, social interaction during the pandemic has many employees ready to let loose, according to a recent poll from Price4Limo, an event transportation company. After surveying over 1,000 corporate Americans who've attended an office party in the past year, Price4Limo found that 55% of respondents are interested in parties being a part of their office culture.

"The office party is a key opportunity for employees to be seen and heard by people they might not usually have access to regularly," says Price4Limo creative strategist, Rachel Kirsch. "Whether it's co-workers, managers, or clients, the office party is a great time for networking."

Before you attend your next corporate gathering, be sure to know these dos and don'ts:

The Don'ts

Workplace parties aim for colleagues to have fun, not to get fired. Unfortunately, 14% of survey respondents say their jobs were terminated shortly after an office party, losing an average salary of $60,597.36.

Based on respondents' experiences, these are the top five behaviors most likely to get an employee fired:

  1. Dancing with a coworker
  2. Flashing someone
  3. Kissing a client
  4. Making inappropriate jokes
  5. Kissing a coworker

Though everyone's office culture is different, there are some behaviors that Kirsch recommends professionals steer clear of.

"Breaking company property and kissing your boss were the least acceptable behaviors at an office party," Kirsch says. "Additionally, 85% felt it was inappropriate to be drunk at a work function regardless of whether they had been drunk at a work function before or not."

Price4Limo's report found that these behaviors can have a lasting negative impact on one's career, with 35% of respondents saying they had a strained relationship with a coworker. Additionally, 26% of employees were reprimanded, 21% ended up switching workplace teams, and 17% lost a client due to their behavior.

To avoid this, Patrice Williams Lindo, CEO of Career Nomad, a career coaching firm, says professionals should remain intentional about their communication.

"Even if you have friends at work, you're not in a personal space, you're in a professional space," she explains. "It's an extension of your job. So if you wouldn't do it in your nine to five, don't do it in the five to nine space... at all."

The Do's

Many employees recommend having activities planned for an office party to keep colleagues engaged and lessen the opportunity for unfavorable behaviors. These are the best office party activities, according to the survey:

  1. Dancing - 55%
  2. Gift Exchange - 44%
  3. Movie Night - 42%
  4. Comedy Night - 41%
  5. Board Games - 39%
  6. Bowling - 37%
  7. Trivia - 32%
  8. Karaoke - 32%

Professionals should also use this time to make genuine connections with their office peers. According to Kirsch, after taking the time to get to know others, "many employees experienced positive results regarding the aftermath of office parties, with 60% experiencing an improved relationship with a coworker."

Lindo says this can be done by "working the room."

"[When I attended an office party], I knew there were a couple of leaders there from different parts of the company and team members who I had never met before," Lindo shares. "I made sure to have a mini elevator speech prepared and to go in with a plan, so I wouldn't be caught off guard."

"In my experience, social capital is a definitely a thing in the workplace, not just the merit of your work," Lindo says. "So set your intentions before you attend an office gathering."

One in 10 employees also say they were promoted after a successful office party, showing just how effective networking can be if done properly. 

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