‘Tis the season for companies
to celebrate the holidays with an end-of-year office party. DePaul University School of Hospitality Leadership Instructor Juan Mendez is an expert
on event management and teaches a business etiquette course that is required for all DePaul hospitality majors. We sat down with Mendez to discuss proper etiquette for
holiday office parties.
Do you have any overall tips
for holiday office party etiquette?
The No. 1 tip is that you have to prepare for the situation that you
are going into. This means having an understanding of what type of event it
will be. Pay attention to what the invitation says, what time of day the event
is being held, who will be there, whether clients or spouses are invited, and
where it is being held. You can then make your personal decisions such as what
you plan on wearing and how long you will stay. For someone who is new to a
company, find a coworker who has been to a company party before and ask them
what type of event it will be. It is always better to ask questions and be
prepared than to show up in jeans and a cowboy hat when everyone else is in
Speaking of cowboy hats,
what is appropriate attire for a holiday office party?
From my personal experience,
most holiday office parties are business casual. I would definitely recommend dressing
more conservatively than something too flashy. Take the medium road and don’t
go overboard, but feel comfortable in what you are wearing. If your company is
hosting a party at a venue such as a professional club or a nightclub, check
the website. If it is right after work or during work, whatever attire you wear
during the day is typically appropriate, otherwise there should be more
specific instructions in the invite.
Is it appropriate to drink
alcohol at a holiday office party?
My rule of thumb is that you do
not want to be the drunk at the party. Be strategic and decide how much you
will drink before the party. Take your time and mix in water, especially if it
is an open bar and the party is set to last a few hours. Always eat while you
are drinking. Have a good time, but remember that you do not want to do
anything in a social environment where you are going to hurt yourself
Just because this is free, you do not have to "get your money's
worth." If you do not drink or you do not feel comfortable drinking, that
is fine. If alcohol is being offered, it is definitely appropriate to drink,
but limit yourself, know how long the party is, pace yourself and have
Am I required to go to the
holiday office party?
It is always important to
attend at least a portion of the party. I think managers notice the people who
do not attend a party more than those who did. Most companies provide holiday
parties as an extra perk to employees. In addition, you should always RSVP to
the party and stick it. If you are going to be out of town, make sure you reply
no. If you say yes, make it a priority. RSVP’ing is important because it makes
it easier for the hosts of the party in terms of food, beverage, location and
What are appropriate
conversation topics to talk about at a holiday office party?
My rule is that you are at a
work function and you can talk about work. If clients are at the party, it is
more of a business function. If it is just an internal staff party, while work
is always a safe topic, it may not be the best to make the entire conversation
about work. This could be an opportunity for coworkers to interact and learn
about each other in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone has interests and hobbies
outside of work, so having a conversation where you can ask questions to people is
always good. You don't necessarily need to talk about yourself, but meet
someone new, use work as an initiator and build off the conversation with likes
and dislikes about safe topics like travelling, movies, restaurants, cooking and the holidays.
Can I bring a spouse or a guest
to the holiday office party?
Make sure that the invitations
specifically mentions a guest and RSVP accordingly. Prior to the party, let
your guest know what type of event it will be and who will be there. Make sure
your guest is comfortable and introduce them to everyone you speak with. If you
and your coworkers are only talking about work, change the conversation to
something light and airy so you can include your guest in the conversation.
Any last tips?
Don't do anything that you will
regret the next day. You want to use this as an opportunity to highlight
yourself and not make people question your judgement or abilities. Plan ahead
and have fun.
Learn more about DePaul's hospitality leadership major, master's degree in hospitality leadership, and MBA in hospitality leadership.