it's starting to feel like christmas

There are plenty of excuses to get wild and celebrate during the working year – Easter, Australia Day, Tuesday afternoon – but none of these have the same magical charm as Christmas. There’s always a lovely, bubbling undercurrent of happiness during the last months of the year, with staff looking forward to time with their families and a well-earned break from the office. Over the next few weeks, Australian workplaces will take a moment to indulge in some festive revelry, and in most cases, the Christmas Party is a harmless get-together amongst colleagues. In other cases, however, they can turn into a horror story littered with alcohol-fuelled incidents that can leave some red-faced.

While no one likes a Grinch, the Christmas Party presents a potential HR headache for employers who want to celebrate with staff and reward their hard work. It’s a difficult task: how do you pull off a great event without enabling unruly staff behaviour that could potentially have long term consequences for the business, professional relationships, and individual careers?

To help you navigate the cocktail-infused waters of the corporate holiday party, Bestselling author of How to Work a Room, Susan RoAne, shared her top do’s and don’ts for celebrating with your colleagues, with some additional advice for those organising.

1. Have A Policy, And Remind Employees About Your Expectations

Duty of care to employees extends to work-related events, which includes the Christmas Party. At the very least there should be a policy that clearly outlines employees’ obligations and expected standards of conduct at work-related events. In the lead up to the party ensure staff are reminded of standards of acceptable behaviour and their obligations to comply with Company policies, particularly those relating to matters such as bullying and harassment, drugs and alcohol in the workplace, and health and safety.

2. Remember; It’s a chance to say thanks and motivate employees

For management, a Christmas party is a massive opportunity to show employees just how much their hard work is valued. As well as saying thanks, a Christmas party is also a chance to remind staff they’re part of a team. Seeing the entire office out having a good time is the best way to build team spirit, which can prove incredibly motivating when the New Year kicks in.

3. Do: Show Up

Whether you’ve been with the company for a decade, you just started, or you’re coming to the end of a short-term consulting gig, RoAne urges invitees to attend the party as a great way to network and get to know those colleagues you may have passed in the lobby but don’t know too much about. Use this chance to build relationships and goodwill with co-workers.

4. Don’t: Ignore the Dress Code

If you don’t want to be misinterpreted, don’t wear a see-through blouse, RoAne jokes. But the sentiment is serious—she recommends that you make sure you “know the event.” “Tuck away your tux unless the invitation says black tie, and if it does, don’t show up in slacks and a blazer,” she says. “Think carefully about what you’re going to wear. If you stand out like a sore thumb, you’re not going to be comfortable and you’re also going to look like you didn’t get the memo.”

For men, you can’t go wrong with a standard suit and tie, while women can dress up the ubiquitous black dress with pearls or a statement necklace. Whatever you choose, remember: This is a business event—not a second chance at prom night.

5. Do: Engage Everyone—Even People You Don’t Know

Company holiday parties usually aren’t only for employees—you’ll likely be meeting a few new faces, including your colleague’s spouses. Even if you may never see these people again (unlike your co-workers, who you’ll see the next day), it’s important to treat them with kindness and respect, RoAne says. Chances are, they may not know anyone else, and making them feel welcome and included is the polite thing to do.

Kindness and respect also extend to your colleagues. Take the time to potentially thank or simply show appreciation to those individuals you’ve ultimately spent 80% of your life with over the past year.

With newer employees and partners, she says, “Introduce everyone with enthusiasm and include them in the conversation with eye contact, comments, and questions,” If you find yourself talking with someone you may lack rapport with simply ask questions, make the extra effort and always think about making the person feel comfortable.

Don’t: Be Distracted by Technology

Try to detach from smartphones and refrain from too much texting, emailing, status updating, or tweeting especially while you’re talking to people, RoAne advises. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on opportunities to learn more about your colleagues.  She also reminds partygoers to avoid doing anything that they wouldn’t want to see uploaded on YouTube or Snapchat. Think of it this way: Would you want to wake up the following day to find yourself tagged in photos or videos in which you’re striking strange poses beside a chocolate fountain or doing some of your worst dance moves? Enough said.

So, celebrate and truly enjoy your Christmas Party this year… but perhaps consider the good ol’ 3 R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for your actions. Add a little kindness and perspective and you should be fine.

Executive Consultant – Group Solutions

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