Parties with coworkers and managers can be fun times when people get to know each other better outside of work. However, there is also the potential for problems. Whether you are considering hosting a party or are invited to one, plan ahead to ensure that your party memories–and memories about you–are good ones.
1. Attendance is optional. Some managers don’t attend any parties hosted by employees since they may not want to–or cannot–attend all of them. Some employees may simply not want to socialize with coworkers they don’t much care for the rest of the week. In most cases, in spite of the fears of a few employees, you can say you have other obligations. (If you are the host, don’t push people to attend once they’ve said no. They have their reasons.)
Having said that, let me add this: Attending parties hosted by coworkers, employees or managers is a good way to show willingness to be part of the group and to build better relationships. Don’t automatically say no. If you’ve had bad experiences in the past, use some of the following tips to have a better experience the next time.
2. Be clear about the type of party and what to expect. If children are invited you can be fairly sure the event will be less problematic (at least in some ways) than if the invitation has a beer keg and phrases like, “Party ‘Til You Drop!”
If you are hosting, remember that a party can be merely a time of relaxed conversation and some food and beverage (even non-alcoholic beverage). It doesn’t have to be a bacchanalia with conga lines, limbo dancing, wet t-shirts and embarrassing toasts.
3. Leave while things are still fun. The fact that the invitation says, 7:30-?????, doesn’t mean you have to stay until ?????. Many people find it more fun to make a brief appearance, mingle with purpose and leave when they see that things are either getting rowdy or losing sparkle. You can usually tell when it’s time. If you’re hosting, don’t plan a big activity for later in the party because some of your guests will probably be gone.
4. Remember that you’ll be working with everyone after the party. What happens at the party will not stay at the party. How do you want to be perceived back at work? It’s possible to have fun while still keeping in mind that once a business-like relationship is destroyed it can’t easily be regained.
5. Keep some basic warnings in mind:
- Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want photographed or taped surreptitiously and sent to others by email. (And don’t be the kind of snake who would do that!)
- Keep your conversation light and able to be quoted without coming back to haunt you. If you’re a manager you can bet that anything you say that is flirtatious or risque or that sounds like inside information about work will be quoted and misquoted, so censor yourself. (I certainly have been burned enough to know about that!)
- Don’t talk about work, except in the most general way. It takes the relaxation out of the party and is boring to most guests.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking that work hierarchy doesn’t apply at parties. Of course it does!
- Participate. Walk from group to group to say hello and introduce your guest. Don’t stand in the corner people watching–it looks rude. If you don’t want to be at the party, don’t go, but don’t attend then act miserable or aloof.
- Get outside your usual work clique and mingle with everyone.
- If you bring your spouse or partner, swear to each other that you will present the image of a happy couple. No bickering, arguing, flirting with others or showing your unloving feelings. If you can’t keep it together for a couple of hours, you should stay home.
- Demonstrate your social graces and social adeptness. The repercussions of bad behavior can be severe. The memories of you being a gracious guest or host and a pleasant person (even if you feel you are behaving a bit more bland than normal) will remain in the minds of others for a long time.