Office parties: great opportunity to socialize with coworkers, or dangerous minefield full of obstacles that will do irreparable harm to your reputation, career, and your ability to get IT Dave to come fix your personal computer every time a virus takes over? The answer is, “Yes.” While work and leisure constantly comingle – and most of us spend social time with our coworkers anyway – office parties and company events can create an interesting, and difficult, dynamic for many of us. Not so much me, because I am a social savant. I’ll even share some of my tips so you can conquer your upcoming holiday events.
- Be yourself. Unless, like IT Dave, you can’t take a joke or muster up a smile for people in your office, your coworkers probably like you. In whatever way they enjoy engaging with you in the workplace, they’ll enjoy in a social setting. If you like to use humour, go for it. If you like to listen to others and let them be the centres of attention, fine. Be yourself.
- Be yourself consistently. We all have a personal brand: the way we present ourselves to the world. Figure out who you are (see above) and then be consistent. Everyone’s seen that person who dresses out of character to try to draw some attention, to try to be someone or something else, right?
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I worked with a guy who did this, and all I remember thinking was, “I like him when he’s himself.” There’s no need to dress, or act, in a way that is not aligned with who you really are. If you want to think about it strategically, it dilutes your brand when you say one thing and do another or behave in a markedly different way depending on your surroundings.
- Be the catalyst. If you want to make a positive impact at a company function, make an effort to go outside your usual circle. Include others who may not be as comfortable as you are with social events and engage them in conversation. Draw them into your circle, and introduce them to people they may not work with regularly.
Rather than focusing on having a great time, think about how you can help your coworkers (and even the spouses or partners who were dragged with varying levels of kicking and screaming to this event) enjoy themselves more. Their evening will go much more smoothly, and you know what? Yours is probably going to be a lot more interesting if you expand your circle beyond people with whom you are already comfortable. Plus, there may be jokes you haven’t heard a dozen times already.
- Be strategic. The goal is to have a good time, but who says we can’t multitask? When we include others, act as a catalyst for fun, people notice. That’s the person who is remembered, not the one who monopolized the conversation all night or who insisted on taking center stage with his or her antics.
Handling office functions strategically allows you to create opportunity. You meet new people, show leadership, and demonstrate that you value camaraderie and teamwork. Here’s the caveat, though: it has to be genuine! You can’t go in saying, “I’m going to this party as a junior executive, and I’m leaving as heir apparent to the CEO.” No, it’s one of those deals that only work when you mean it.
Office parties are an excellent way to relax, unwind, and enjoy your colleagues – but, remember, you are still at “work,” not on an episode of Employees Gone Wild. Be yourself, behave yourself, be genuinely interested in others, and have fun.