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Kamis, 12 Agustus 2010

Business etiquette: attending office parties

Office parties have been the ruination of many a relationship, a reputation, and even a career. Why? Because the planners and the participants fail to recognize that the operative word in "office party" is, still, "office."

The following guidelines will show you how to have a good time and, more importantly, still have a job the day after. Also included are recommendations that office party organizers can apply to minimize the damage and inappropriate behaviors that a poorly orchestrated event can trigger.

AFFORDABLE AND APPROPRIATE

If you're in charge of the party planning, make sure that you pick a venue that is not only within a budget that everyone can afford but that it's also tasteful and in a setting that everyone can enjoy. You wouldn't, for example:

• Tell your employees (half of whom make minimum wage) that this year's holiday dinner at the country club will cost them $60 a head.

• Hold the Secretary's Day lunch at a strip club.

• Make the party location so remote that participants will go broke buying gas to get there.

• Require attendance as a condition of continued employment, a rule that can be a hardship on single parents or those who work a second job.

Unless someone else is picking up the tab for this frivolity, hold your party at a restaurant, club or meeting hall that is moderately priced and within reasonable driving distance for all participants. You may even consider having the party at your office during lunchtime or after work and either making it a company potluck or having the event catered. If you choose to make it a potluck, be sensitive to the fact that not everyone likes--or knows how--to cook. Have the option available for them to bring plates, forks, etc. or contribute a nominal amount of cash for the store-bought purchase of items not covered on the sign-up sheet.

Both employers and employees need to be sensitive to the reality that environment and ambiance are key ingredients in keeping everyone within the lines of proper business protocol. Whenever invitees feel intimidated, inconvenienced, embarrassed or presented with too much temptation, the consequences will be remembered long after the actual deeds. Don’t unwittingly provide your guests with an excuse to engage in bad behavior!

ATTIRE

If a party is held during office hours, you really don't have to worry about what people will be wearing. If the party is after hours and "off campus," however, it helps to have a clue regarding the dress code. As an employee, don't be shy about asking what other people plan to wear. You don't want to be over-dressed, under-dressed or, heaven forbid, wear something so provocative or daring that it becomes the only thing anyone remembers from the entire party. The same goes with attending an office gathering as one’s guest. I remember the especially embarrassing circumstance of a young woman showing up in a thong bikini to an office pool party; her accountant fiancé’s reputation in the firm provided fodder for ribbing every time thereafter the subject of that party came up.

EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

Just because someone else is picking up the tab is no excuse to go hog wild at the buffet table or the bar. The latter is particularly dangerous because of the release of inhibitions brought on by excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. Many an employee has awakened to regret an incident of telling off the boss, making sexual advances on members of the clerical pool, or doing a table-top striptease for the new vice president. And even if you think the people with whom you engaged in unruly or salacious acts were probably too sloshed themselves to remember it, you can always count on one of your co-workers to “helpfully” step forth with a full accounting and video documentation.

TABOO IS STILL TABOO

Everyone knows better than to talk politics, religion or sex in the workplace. This rule carries over to office parties as well. Just because everyone has let their hair down and is in a convivial atmosphere that encourages casual mixing is no excuse to get on a soap box or to make risqué jokes. Your supervisor may not be watching a clock during office festivities but he or she never stops watching how subordinates conduct themselves. There is also no post-party “erase” button that will delete hostile comments or racy innuendos. Try as you might to defend your remark as a harmless joke that “Anyone who votes for Candidate So-and-So is a total moron,” it can and will be remembered during annual evaluations if your supervisor was/is a staunch supporter of that candidate’s policies. Revelers need to remember as well that discriminatory comments against co-workers carry just as much weight outside the office as within it on a daily basis. Let’s say, for instance, that a man makes the observation that a certain race can’t be trusted to handle responsibility. Fast forward to a situation where he is considering two candidates for a promotional slot, one of whom belongs to the race he lambasted at the office party. In light of the open comments he made, the rejected candidate would have a good case for discrimination in setting forth the argument that the supervisor was biased and had awarded the promotion for reasons other than merit.

SPILLING CORPORATE SECRETS

Be cautious about sharing confidential company information at a party. Even if you feel that you are among friends who in all likelihood know the same secrets, how does your boss know that you’re not just as chatty when you’re at other social gatherings? Zip that lip!

THE PROTOCOL OF OFFICE LUNCHEON PARTIES

Office birthdays, retirements and transfers are often celebrated during lunchtime at area restaurants. Even though these are literally sandwiched between working hours, many an employee has gone overboard in carousing. Alcohol, of course, is the prime reason. While it’s always wise to take an observant cue from the boss on whether to order a glass of wine or an iced tea, you need to be cognizant of your own limits. Keep in mind that the client you deal with at 2:00 wasn’t privy to the information that you’ve just been out having fun with the gang and downing Margaritas. He or she will be expecting the same level of professional and courteous service as if you had been at your desk since 8:00 and only stepped out for an egg salad sandwich and some coffee. They’ll also expect you to have pleasant breath; if you absolutely have to order something at lunch that’s heavy on garlic, keep a travel size bottle of mouthwash in your desk for when you get back.



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