The Do's And Don'ts Of Office Holiday Parties

December 9, 2013

The holidays don’t just present gift-giving dilemmas. Between the family get-togethers and office parties, there can be some uncomfortable encounters to navigate.

Jodi Smith, president of etiquette consulting company Mannersmith and the author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners, joined Greater Boston to talk about some holiday party do's and don'ts from the politics of gift giving and the rules of re-gifting, to holiday tipping, and the nuance of the holiday card.

The Office Holiday Party:

How to attend your office holiday parties, or "how to come and go gracefully with your dignity in tact".

What to talk about: books you've read, plays you've seen, exciting vacation, fun things you're doing over holidays. Have general topics at the ready so you can strike up a conversation ready
What to avoid: confidential work cases

Wear professional dress. Men: suits. Stay await from the ties you wear to family holiday parties. Women: be festive but professional. Wear what's appropriate to office but add sparkle to fabric, jewelry, or accessories.

Don't arrive fashionably late. You want to be right on time because most of the VIPs will go early and leave early. The whole point is to make sure you're seen by the appropriate people. Mimic them and leave early before things get out of control. Don't stand under the mistletoe, or be wild on the dance floor, or do anything that would make people talk about you on Monday. It'll be online before you get home.

Personal Holiday Parties: Who should you spend the holidays with?
If different sets of relatives live close, divide your time with families in morning and night. If they live a long drive or a flight away, must have conversations in advance

Gift giving:
People expect gifts that reflect your budget- if you live lavishly, you have to give lavishly, but if your budget is tighter, you shouldn't feel bad about it. If you're single, it's okay if you shop for for just your nieces and nephews. When you're in a significant relationship and your partner has kids in his/her family, it can get challenging. You can't buy dozens of gifts- it's too expensive. In advance, have conversations with the families involved and make blanket decisions (i.e.: put names of people under 21 in a hat and pick one, get a group gift for parents, do a Yankee swap with a gift-giving limit of $10).

Holiday cards and letters:
Keep the letter real and genuine. Don't take creative license on you or your children's activities. Don't write from point of view of your dog or unborn child. That's creepy. Don't boast- but if you must, limit yourself to one line. Instead of saying your kid is the best soccer player in the world, give an example.

The Four Rules of Re-gifting:
1. It needs to be brand new and never used.
2. It needs to be something you would have bought for this person anyway.
3. Completely unwrap and re-wrap it so there's nothing to distinguish that it's been re-gifted
4. Worlds cannot collide. If your mother gave you something, don't give it to your sister.

Tip all the people who make your life easier year round, even if you tip them along the way. This includes: child care providers, cleaning staff, teachers, manicurist/hairstylist, postal employees (by law, postal employees may accept gifts or gift cards valued up to $20. They are not allowed to accept cash or alcohol.)

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