Office Party Etiquette: Cinderella Situation

So given the title you may be thinking there will be a magical prince popping out of the woodwork to take you dancing through the night.

My apologies, no.

This little tale is about how to arrive at the Office Holiday Party.

The concept of Fashionably Late . . .

So the party starts at 7p and ends at 10p. In some circles this means you show up at 9p.


More specifically he** no. Your company has either rented the space or your boss, boss’s boss or boss’s boss’s boss’s cousin’s best friend is hosting the party at his home, so when they say the party ends at 10p, they mean 10p.

When you arrive at 9p, you may unintentionally cause the party to kick right back up a notch. You are after all a bad ass. The revelers will be delighted to see you, but the host and hostess will not.

Remember your teacher threatening the boy who was always shouting out in class and not turning in his homework, “This will go on your permanent record,” as though that meant something serious? Yeah, showing up unfashionably late works the same way.

So for the love of your boss, please arrive 15-30 minutes after start time. Anything later gets into rude territory.

What about the other extreme . . . being very, very precisely on time?

Oh how boring!

If the party is at a home, they may not be ready for you. You really don’t want to be the one who arrives first.

So play it safe 15-30 minutes after start time is perfect. No one is uber sloshed yet so you can have a polite conversation about totally mundane topics. AND, you can scoot out of there after 60-90 minutes – after all – you, Miss Hotty Totty, have places to go and parties to kick start.

Is Miss Mentor’s advice consistent? Check out our Office Party Etiquette series from 2 years ago.

Office Party Etiquette: Drinking Like a Fish

Today we continue advising you poor souls still walking the corporate halls on how to nail office party etiquette. Sad, but true, you must get along with your co-workers and you must wear more than a bathrobe to work. I feel for you, I really do….

So . . . you’re known to enjoy a beverage or two from time-to-time. Okay….

You’re known to enjoy a beverage or ten . . .


What you do at your holiday office party is strangely treated as “typical” behavior. And unfortunately for many careers, much of this behavior is somehow caught on film. It used to be that people used cameras. Now everyone and their monkey thinks it’s clever to video . . . everything.

You can’t stop the YouTube monkeys.

The consequence of all that footage is a surprising glut of material. The unintended consequence is that a future employer can google you, which he/she WILL DO, and he/she will find the ONE time you were a total jack-a** at your company’s holiday party. You will be forever labeled as a drunk/idiot/out-of-control wreck, etc.

Don’t believe me? Read the Financial Times Career column, this question comes up all the time from potential employers. It goes something like this:

I googled our best candidate for the new position and found a picture of her in a leather outfit. Everyone in the office saw her photo and they now call her the S&M girl. Now everyone is talking about her. I’m afraid if I do hire her that she won’t be taken seriously. What do you recommend….

No kidding, that was a real one from 2008, maybe 2007. The responses form other employers made it so memorable to me that I share it here. The reality is, that candidate just got the smack down because of a Halloween photo. THAT IS TOTALLY UNFAIR, but that’s the way it goes. Everyone recommended that she not be hired. Even though she was the top candidate prior to the photo discovery.

We are human beings, not logical creatures. If we were based on logic, we wouldn’t watch sports and we wouldn’t buy 99% of the junk that gets sold to us. Men and Women alike.

So, acknowledge that you share this planet with other human beings and all of our glorious frailties. When you are tempted to have another drink at your holiday party . . .


Stop at 2 for the ladies, 3 for the gentlemen. You’re being watched by your bosses and your bosses spouses. Remember, the losers have nothing better to do than to talk about your transgressions later and if one of them is feeling left behind (usually a corporate wifey), watch your back.

See the ridiculous tattoos that your mother warned you against….

Office Party Etiquette Gem from the Past

Put on those party shoes, but leave the drinking liver at home. Remember you’ll be judged not just by your behavior at the party, but by your behavior leaving the party. If you are wobbly, call a friend or CALL A CAB. Seriously. Please. To save your precious tush and your career.

-Miss Mentor

Office Party Etiquette: Holidays

Is your company one of the few holding a Holiday Party this year? Seems like many have cut back drastically, but based on a few questions from readers, I’ll throw this into the mix for those of you celebrating with co-workers this holiday season.

There are two main flavors of the Office Party – during work hours, and after work hours.

During Work Hours:
These Office Parties are meant to be tame. Appropriate attire seems to include cute santa hats on the cute secretaries, ugly sweaters on the not cute secretaries. The accountants will show up with the reindeer parade – don’t make eye contact.

A Director may try to spice things up with sexy red sweaterdress . . . she is single . . . even if she’s married. She probably hasn’t enjoyed her emasculated husband in a decade. Speculation about the intern from last summer…. How is it she manages to find super hot male interns trying to break into the biz each summer? Exactly. Go Cougars.

For you as a climber, stick to the basics. Sure you can do cute tights or put a holiday hat on for the day, but fashioning mistletoe to that hat is verboten.

No – No – No.

Besides, it’s that funky dude in payroll who’d try to kiss you. Do you really want that?

Drinking at daytime holiday party?
Oh . . . tempting, but no. Face it ladies, you are being watched like a hawk. It ain’t fair, but thems the breaks. You want to be taken seriously, work seriously. You won’t win popularity points for this and you won’t be invited to the after hours lush fest . . . but then again, you won’t end up shacked-up with your co-worker. That’s good.

If you want to write your own ticket, stay out of the booze during the day.

After Hours:
Office Party etiquette still applies. No joke. Your party may call for cocktail attire and it may call for “casual.” You get to figure out what that one means.

If it is at your office, be careful. Follow proper booze + copier etiquette. No pushing, no shoving, wait your turn.

Office Party Etiquette . . . What you CAN do with a copy machine.

If it is at an off-site location, even better. When you arrive you can scout exits so you can disappear quickly if necessary. Just a recommendation.

When you arrive be aware of the total space, are there nooks in which you could get trapped with that freaky payroll dude? Avoid.

Do grab a drink, but do stop at 2. Go meet your friends to get your drink on later if you must, but at the holiday party, no-go. Now you’re being watched like a hawk by twice as many eyes.

Think of it this way. When you have a single parent, she can only do so much disciplining. She gets tired, has her own distractions and is generally juggling things. When you have Mom + Step Dad, now they have reserve firepower. And they talk to each other about you and they make decisions for each other about you.


No joke. If your boss thinks you’re mostly okay, but his wife decides that you’re rude, you’re getting stunted the next promotion go-around. She’ll keep reminding him how rude you are and he’ll start to see what he hadn’t seen before . . . even if it does not exist. The context has changed and now you’re labeled rude.

It is your duty to be unfailingly diplomatic at the office party . . . even with that vendor, despite wanting to stuff him in a trash can for the way he wrecked the project time line….

Another gem from the past:

Office Party Advice

PokeyOs instead of Alcohol??

Can PokeyOs ice cream sandwiches save the day?

So sometimes it makes more sense to NOT have alcohol at your company function . . . Particularly if someone on your team is a recovering alcoholic or the party is mid-day and you actually want to get work done after the party. No one ever called me cool.

So what’s a company function without a treat that can knock you on your arse? Well, pretty dull. So try Ice Cream sandwiches instead. Take 2 super fresh cookies and a scoop of ice cream and voila! you have a decadent treat. Even the lactose intolerant can have the cookies so it ends up being a crowd pleaser and if you’re the boss, less likely to get you sued should someone veer off-road on the way home….

I got the idea to host our party with PokeyOs from a friend: Kate suggests PokeyOs. Since you probably don’t have one near you, check out the site and copy the concept. It’s super simple. For best results, find a local baker or order from PokeyOs online to get the cookies, ice cream in the feezer case at your grocer and you are all set. You’ll also save a bundle on the party expense versus the booze bash. Two fresh cookies, one scoop of ice cream, could it get any easier?

No alcohol-induced hanky-panky
NO DWI incidents
Super simple
Crowd Pleaser
Keeps folks productive

If consummed too quickly can cause ice cream headache . . .

Office Party Etiquette – Who you bring

Office Etiquette – the office party . . . who you bring.

This may sound a bit prudish and perhaps even anal-retentive, but you really need to know this. Follow the office party invitation instructions precisely. That means, unless it states that guests are welcome . . . Guests are NOT welcome, even your spouse who knows everybody and is looking forward to seeing them.

There are many reasons the guest list may be limited and it really isn’t for you to figure out. Just play along nicely and no one gets hurt. Sure your spouse may get his feelings hurt, but you guys can always host your own party. This is an official company function and planning decisions have been made. Respect those decisions. The consequences for disrespecting the decision may not be immediately apparent, but you will no doubt leave an impression on the internal planner of the event – who may have more sway with upper management than you imagine.

It’s kind of like a wedding. Would you show up with a guest if you weren’t “and guest”ed on the invitation? (say no, please say no!!)

Exactly (you did say no, right??)

Office Party Etiquette – Be on Time

Few employees seem to grasp the importance of the Office Holiday Party. Of course you do . . . but those other employees…..

If the invitation states 7PM, get there before 7:30PM – even if you have to put your lipstick and mascara on once you arrive. Office parties really are an extension of your work environment. Punctuality is very important.

Let’s face it, if you’re not getting there on time during the week, well, you don’t have the fire in your belly to make much out of your career and I’m not really writing this column for you. For those of you who do get there on time during the week, keep up the good work and get to the office party on time.

FASHIONABLY LATE: In this context, fashionably late = 5-10 minutes late.

If you can not make it on time, and you have a very good reason, plan to stay late, particularly if you are a manager. It is up to you to socialize with your employees and your bosses. This is the one time of the year (for most firms) that you can genuinely dramatically expand your network within the company. This has obvious benefits for promotions within the firm and less obvious benefits for finding a better job down the road.

Office Party Etiquette – Beware the Cookie Monster

Office Party Etiquette – Eating

What you push into that lovely face of yours says more about you than you may appreciate. Now, don’t get all paranoid, but do consider the following:

For a cocktail hour/hors d’oeuvres:
1. Stick to the truly finger food items – occasionally a lousy caterer (or your bosses spouse in some cases) will serve psuedo finger food because he/she doesn’t know better – this includes items that take more than one bite to consume AND lose their structure (i.e. squish) as you take the first bite . . .  as well as fried items that may drip grease on you. Anything that can ooze on you WILL.
stick to things that can be POLITELY consumed in one bite.

2. Beware the spicy/saucy/dairy items. If you have any tendency toward tummy rumbles, you should be old enough to be aware of what sets your tummy rumbling. For the sake of all concerned, please avoid those foods. 7 layer bean dip . . . jalapeno poppers . . . spicy wings . . .
3. Just shut up and eat it. If you have a real allergy – like peanuts cause death – then you know how to ask for food information tactfully and you may discard items that could kill you if you have picked them up in error. If on the other hand you simply do not like certain things, well you probably whine about it, stop. The Office Party is not the time, nor is it the place to whine . . . about anything. At a public event where you are being watched by the gatekeepers to your career, for heaven’s sake, just shut up and eat it. You picked up a spinach quesadilla with onions in it and you hate onions . . . well, never mind that that violates guideline #1 (single bite foods), just eat the damn thing. Onions aren’t going to kill you.

4. Feed yourself before you arrive – this is not a food trough. Every host/hostess appreciates guests enjoying their food, it is part of the joy of hosting. However, no one I know (except your Italian grandmother) appreciates you standing over the food table scarfing every morsel in sight. If you are really hungry, grab a bite to eat before you arrive so you won’t be tempted to position yourself at the food table.

5. When you pick up a food item, eat it quickly. No, I’m not advocating inhaling the item, but do be done with it. You never know when your Senior VP, Boss, Company President will walk up to have a conversation with you. With a drink in one hand and a meatball in the other, it is very difficult to shake hands. Women can get away with the pinky finger handshake, but men . . . if you ever give a pinky finger handshake – no matter what your *orientation* may be – you will be written off as weak. That and you just look stupid standing there with two hands full.

6. Keep your hands and mouth clean. After that meatball, make sure your hands are not sticky. Carry wet wipes with you if necessary. Again avoid the foods that will cause the most trouble – why anyone serves wings at a function is beyond me – they’re a mess!

7. Keep your drink in your left hand. In the US, we shake hands with our right hands. It is really best if that hand be dry and clean when you are greeting others. Drink napkins rarely provide enough absorption. Do you really want your boss to feel a sloppy wet, cold hand when you greet him? Drink your drink of choice, but understand that wine stems provide the best means for keeping your hands dry.

Office Party Etiquette – actually, no, please do not have another

A very popular and loaded question is, “How much can I drink at the Office Party?

Well, if you have to ask, you are probably accustomed to drinking too much – certainly too much for an office party.

Before I get flooded with e-mail retorts, YES, even if your work environment has a culture of excessive drinking – my past work environments certainly did – you still need to limit your alcohol consumption. Again, WOMEN, please take particular note, this is doubly important for you. Yes, it stinks, I agree.

Here’s the scoop: when you are out drinking with your office colleagues and you get *loaded* well, that’s bad, but workable within certain limits. When you get *loaded* at the office party, well, your boss’ sober husband is watching you – remembering every detail of that rant you gave under the influence, and as it turns out . . . he totally disagrees with your opinion on Jar, Jar/Britney/Fed Fund rate change/String Theory/whatever.

When you’re with your office buddies (presumably) you are all equally *loaded*. When you are at the office party, there may be some non-drinkers. So for the sake of your job and career, drinking responsibly takes on a whole new meaning. Indeed, though the booze may be “free” it’s effect on your career based on behavior at the office party can be quite costly.

Holiday Party Drinking Tips:

  • Limit drinks with alcohol to a maximum of two.
  • Avoid mixing drinks.
  • Drink coffee, tea, soft drinks and water.

Ladies, again, this is doubly important for you. Sorry. Don’t fall prey to peer pressure to throw back a few extra to “prove” yourself to the team at the Office Party (or ever if you can avoid it). Type A personalities, LISTEN UP!

If you must, encourage your team to do something “manly” that will at least let you show strength. Take them to the gun range and fire off a few rounds (after you’ve practiced once or twice). Women metabolize alcohol a wee bit differently and generally weigh less than the men goading them into a drink-a-thon. Getting drunk only ever shows weakness – no matter how invincible you feel at the time. This being said by someone who puts down her fair share….

Party like a *sober* Rockstar. Onwards and upwards!

Office Party Etiquette – what you CAN do with a copy machine

Office Party Etiquette for Holidays and Other Occasions.

Thankfully, not too many companies still host office parties within the office after hours, but plenty are shutting down early on a Friday to booze up before sending employees home . . . besides the obvious potential for lawsuits stemming from drunk employees mismanaging their vehicles, the Friday office party happy hour isn’t such a bad idea.

At least significant others are spared from trying to create polite conversation with your co-workers.

But now you have a comedy sketch waiting to happen. Eggnog in the kitchen, copier is warm – who wouldn’t be tempted? Right?

So what can you do with (name available alcohol here ….) a bottle of Tequila and a Copy Machine AND still have your job come Monday?

1. BEFORE the bottle is open, you can copy a picture of your smiling FACE next to the bottle. When the original comes out decide if you will use it as the interoffice invite (deliver by hand for extra style points), your holiday card (shrink to postcard size and copy onto card stock), or simply as fine art for your cubicle (please remove after 2 weeks).

2.  AFTER the bottle is open, don’t even think about going near the copier. Don’t do it. You’ll look like a Scottish fella in a field full of sheep. You’ll be busted by the office prude so fast your head will spin . . . more.
Remember, YouTube is everywhere. It’s worse than Big Brother.

Next up: If SOs are included, how to tag team an office party for maximum career advancement.

It’s office party time – Office Party Etiquette

Office Party Etiquette – because you really do need your job.

Tempting though it is to tell your boss what a #*#B*ing bleep he is, that’s not the spirit of the season, and you probably want to have your job tomorrow . . . and the next day, particularly if you are planning to pay your holiday bills. You DO plan to pay your holiday bills don’t you??

Fine, fine.

So this week and next we will share so tips to navigate the tricky waters of Holiday Office Parties. Because Office Etiquette doesn’t stop at 5PM.

Tip #1: Do NOT, under any circumstances bring the guy/girl you shacked up with for the first time this past weekend, or worse, last night. This will seem blindingly obvious to most of my readers, but enough of you . . .

Here’s the scoop. That random hook-up and your office do not mix.

1. He/She is probably not nearly as cute as you remember (or don’t remember as the case may be).

2. He/She may not be the best behaved in public situations – remember his/her job is not at stake at YOUR office party.

3. He/She may not have that much interest in you – this one can sting the most – imagine, your office frenemy hooks up with your date. Really bad form and dare I say, bad office etiquette on behalf of your frenemy, but you brought in the fresh meat…. Your own fault.

4. He/She won’t agree to tell everyone that you’ve been seeing each other for a month and instead tells everyone about your sloppy kissing technique – you will be forever renamed “Soupy,” even by your boss. Promotion chance – for the guys, probably up; for the girls, decidedly down.

Tomorrow: what you CAN do with a copy machine and a pint of Tequila.