by Sharon Schweitzer, author of “Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect, and Creating Long-Lasting Business Relationships“
From office-wide after-hours events, to anniversary parties and corporate retreats, work events are often characterized by a more relaxed, yet professional environment. Many times, these casual work parties include chats with colleagues and clients, as well as alcoholic beverages. Though these events are often a wonderful way to connect with coworkers and interact with the power-players, they can also be monumentally disastrous without modern manners.
When you follow work event etiquette, it helps everyone feel at ease, and enjoy the evening by finding a comfortable balance between personal and professional behavior.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when attending your next after-hours work event:
1. Pay attention to your office culture.
Many companies and their employees go out for drinks on a regular basis. However, even casual company cultures may be vastly different and alcohol boundaries vary. Depending on geography, tenure, written and unwritten policy; take time to research, adjust and learn about what is acceptable, expected, and comfortable for you and your colleagues.
2. Show up!
Go to these events. Perhaps you have just moved to a new city or country and wish you knew more people who could go with you. This is understandable, but this is your chance to make those connections. Research shows that by not attending events, and after-work activities with colleagues, employees can be perceived by their peers as disconnected and even uninterested.
3. Eat protein before you go.
Whether it’s grabbing a snack at the office before you go, or having a quick dinner before you leave the house, this is a MUST do. Eating before an event will lessen the potential effects of alcoholic drinks and help you remain more comfortable and professional. Protein snacks, will help to mitigate alcohol’s possibly irresponsible consequences.
4. Relax & be professional.
We know, it’s professional common sense. Remember to relax, keep professionalism in the back of your mind, and just try to perceive yourself from your supervisor’s view. While you engage in conversation, have a drink, channel your sophisticated self, but ultimately relax and be yourself. We know you’ll be great.
5. Bring conversation starters.
Yes you all have one thing in common: work, work, work. However, a work-related event is not the time to continue business or discuss office gossip. Keep conversation between a professional and personal balance; classy, informative, and interesting. Asking questions about sports, movies, books, vacation, travel and pets are good topics that focus the conversation on others.
6. Sincerely visit with many people.
We spend most our week surrounded by colleagues and clients, so work events (with or without alcohol), can be a professionally comfortable venue to get better acquainted. Remember to branch out to meet as many new people as possible. You could create possible mentors, references, and contacts that can help your career down the line. These events can also help you to bond with people on a more personal level, and have been known to lead to long lasting friendships. Take advantage of the opportunity. Go make some friends and connections!
7. Dress sharply & authentically.
This is not a personal happy hour. Men and women alike, take note that a work party is an extension of the professional work day and is still a business setting. Dress sharply, and clean cut in an outfit that helps you feel confident in yourself. Research shows that whether we want to or not, our brain makes split decisions about others based on their appearance.
8. Be present with the phone off.
Focus on the people and the event. Turn the phone off. If you are glued to your phone all night, you will miss out on key face to face interactions. The snapchats and texts will be there afterward. Also, keep in mind that social media captures everything. Be aware of this when ordering another drink and possibly hitting the dance floor.
9. Mingle past the bar.
If you are glued to the bar all night, two outcomes are surely inevitable. First, you will miss out on the opportunity to connect with people, and secondly, the likelihood of drinking too much is certainly escalated. When drinking at events, remember to limit yourself (1-2 drinks maximum), and keep in mind that pacing yourself can keep you from seeming overindulgent. Consume plenty of water to stay hydrated.
10. Avoid table dances.
Some events may have dancing, some may not. If dancing is a possibility, be aware of how your grooves may be perceived by those around you. Letting loose to Beyoncé after a stressful week is a sure-fire way to blow off some steam, but may not be the best way to make a good impression. Feel free to join in, but remember what consequences your actions may have.
After-hours professional events are a great networking opportunity for the startup entrepreneur or the more established business owner with a large staff of employees. In any event, attend these events and have a great time, but always remember your manners and professional etiquette.
Sharon Schweitzer is a modern manners and business protocol & etiquette expert. She is founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, and author of “Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect, and Creating Long-Lasting Business Relationships“.