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A Life Well Lived - Having Style 

Holiday office parties: business or pleasure?

By Aleigh Acerni

With the holiday season approaching fast, many Charleston employees will
soon begin annual musings on a tried and true oxymoron: "office party." How
does one party in the office, exactly? The answers may surprise you.

According to Cindy Grosso of the Charleston School of Etiquette and
Protocol, in light of recent concerns that holiday office parties foster an
over-consumption of alcohol and ideal conditions for drunken driving, many
businesses have abandoned the entire concept of a traditional holiday office

"Holiday office parties have undergone changes in past years," Grosso says.
Instead of the traditional holiday office party, various businesses are
holding holiday breakfasts or lunches at unusual venues. Some even give
employees an added half-day off to finish last-minute holiday shopping
instead of having a gathering at all.

For employees whose companies choose to hold evening festivities, Grosso has
some tips and advice. Here are her top five blunders to avoid at a holiday
office gathering.

1. Limit alcohol. First, and most importantly, do not consume alcohol
excessively. Grosso advises limiting alcohol consumption at office holiday
parties to two drinks, the same amount she suggests for any business
function. A holiday gathering is "still social interaction on a business
level," says Grosso. "You still abide by the rules of business." This limit
can help employees avoid inappropriate behavior or problematic

2. Don't make a brief cameo and leave. Grosso advises making an appearance
that lasts at least longer than 10 minutes. This advice applies to all
employees, including company heads. "Don't just show up to make an
appearance and then leave," Grosso says. "It speaks a lot about an
organization if the heads don't show up for their own gathering."

3. Don't show up rudely late. According to Grosso, 15 to 20 minutes is
acceptable, but anything beyond is not. Such tardiness is only tolerable if
it is known beforehand. "There comes a point where you just have to make a
choice among parties," says Grosso.

4. Don't bring inappropriate guests. Children are never suitable at a
holiday office party, Grosso says. At some holiday gatherings, employees,
clients and business partners are all invited. These are usually evening
events, and according to Grosso, any evening or weekend event should be
appropriate for your spouse, significant other or chosen escort. If an
invitation is sent, use it to judge what guest is suitable-if the invitation
is addressed to you and guest, you may choose your escort. If the invitation
is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, they are the only two invited. If Mrs.
Jones decides she does not want to attend, it is unacceptable for Mr. Jones
to bring someone in his wife's place.

5. Don't blow it off. Your supervisors and/or co-workers have worked hard to
make the holiday gathering a fun, social gathering. Don't invite personal
scrutiny by blowing off the employee party and expecting no one to notice.
Also, if there is gift giving involved, non-participation can seem like a
bigger snub to co-workers than a workday confrontation. "Participate in gift
giving, even if you don't want to," says Grosso. "A withdrawal will probably
end up costing you more than the gift."

Aside from these main points, Grosso recommends partygoers stick to small
talk. Conversations on controversial topics, generally considered taboo at
most business functions, should not be discussed at holiday parties.
Conversation related to religion, politics, extremely personal or
controversial topics of any nature should be avoided. "This is not a time
for deep conversations," says Grosso. "Instead, it is a time to make

Keeping these tips in mind could be the key to honestly enjoying yourself
and making the most of your holiday business engagements. Best wishes for a
great holiday season!

Source: Article published in the Charleston Business Regional Journal

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