The dos and don’ts of office party etiquette


Today I am here to talk about two of the most feared words in the life of a 20-something who holds a semi-respectable job: office party.

Come to think of it, there is something even scarier. Toss the word pool into the mix and we’re talking full on “I have to use a paper bag as ventilation” anxiety attack.

Since I have had some very recent (and not at all embarrassing) experience in this matter, I figured that I would share what I have learned.

Appropriate dress

In my experience, when you’re trying to find something to wear to a fancy event or to hit a red carpet, all common sense tends to fly out the window.

It’s easy to pass off the constant riding up and slipping down of the sausage wrapping that you somehow deemed “a dress” as a change room only happening. Not so easy to forget when it happens at the same time as you try to clamber out of a cab wearing four inch heels in front of flashing bulbs, co-workers and celebrities.

Insert any one of the number of horrific “not wearing the right kind of underwear” jokes here and make sure your outfit actually fits.

Know when to stop

Open bars can create quite a problem for those of us who haven’t left our days of getting Grade 9 drunk behind us. It’s no coincidence that the one person in your office who always gets publicly drunk never gets promoted.

My advice: stay away from having more than three drinks in the span of an evening. This leaves you to indulge in the open bar, but still be able to make coherent conversations with important people or prospective future employers.

This also means that you won’t end up in a three-way conversation with your boss’s spouse and the Olympic athlete that you just proclaimed to have a huge crush, while being too inebriated to check his proximity before rambling on about his mop of hair and hilarious choice to wear bright flannel in a sea of otherwise boring suits.

Plus ones

Oh boy. Literally. Ladies, all I have to say is that you’d probably have better luck at taking your brother to a Playboy mansion pool party then finding a man friend who can ride the fine line of looks like he’s having fun, but won’t embarrass you with his interpretive dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at the end of the night.

For social events that centre around work, my suggestion is to opt out of taking a plus one and instead go solo or with a work colleague of the same sex. I find that it’s times like these that you end up having the most fun, and as well are available to network and move around the crowd.

You also avoid starting any water cooler gossip about who’s going to make it to the semi-finals in the Office-Cest 2010 bracket.

The aftermath

Aside from the vicious hangovers, I wanted to touch on the aftermath that occurs once everyone gets back in the office. This could be in the form of gossip, or funny moments from the night before.

Remember that day, maybe for you, it was the first time you took the yellow school bus the whole way to school with your matching yellow dress tucked into your My Little Pony underwear. This was most likely the first time that you were truly embarrassed, like wanted to tunnel a hole in the dirt and hide for a million years until the people who mocked you became too old to remember the event actually happening embarrassed.

Now think about that before you share the story about the co-worker you saw passed out on a park bench, spooning with a homeless man on your walk home, or the ones you caught making out in the green room in the basement of your building.

All in all, office parties can be a great way to get you know your colleagues, network and, when you don’t over do it, to even have some fun.

Photo credit: Steve’s Gone! by Sam Ose / Olai Skjaervoy on Flickr
About the author

Kate Morawetz is a recent Media, Information and Technoculture graduate from the University of Western Ontario. She interned at various media gigs in Toronto and LA, before landing her current job at MTV Canada in the Series & Developments department and continues to write about life experiences, the ever present media and generally about things that interest her via her blog One Curly Fry in a Box Full of Regulars. A self proclaimed connoisseur of man-ponies slash creativity junkie, Kate has an eclectic musical taste and enjoys reading, long walks in wooded areas, photography, writing, dry white wines and a good spinach & strawberry salad.