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Office parties are a mixed bag. Some people really like the opportunity to mix and mingle with close co-workers and get to know other colleagues better. Others are not comfortable and view it as a form of forced socialization. There are organizations that tacitly or explicitly make attendance mandatory. Whether office parties are events you look forward to or dread here are some rules of engagement you should consider.

If you have a good relationship with your boss and colleagues the office party can be a good place to let your hair down, but not too far. You want to have fun with your coworkers, but you should never forget that it’s a workplace event. Your boss and others are watching. Don’t show a side of you that could be misinterpreted in a less than ideal way or could cause opinions about you to change for the worse. . For example, don’t tell off-color or offensive jokes. And avoid using foul language even if it appears okay to do so. Just because others seem to be getting away with it doesn’t mean you can.

Have a drink or two if it helps take the edge off but know your limit. I will remind you this is a work event. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and alters judgment. That attractive person over in the corner has captured your attention, but as the songbook says, yield not to temptation. Your actions could become the subject of gossip. Perception is everything. Chances are someone is filming you and posting clips of the party on social media.

If your relationship with your boss and co-workers is so-so, make the best of the situation. One of the reasons organizations host parties is to get personnel to socialize, so this is not the best time to read emails and text messages. Whether correct or not, it sends a message that you don’t want to be there. Instead of keeping company with your phone, I suggest you learn the art of small talk.

Small talk is a polite conversation about unimportant things like the weather, innocuous current events, holiday plans, sports, hobbies, art, music, movies, books, or television shows. To get to know others better it might be helpful to share personal information but not too much. If the other person appears to pry or ask questions you are not comfortable answering politely decline to answer or change the subject. Most importantly don’t gossip about other employees or the boss. If you bring a guests prep her or him on office party etiquette. Make the office party work for you. Have a happy holiday season.

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