Dress carefully and drink less than the boss

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The first question is what to wear. Formal events with a standard dress code are rare these days. But Natasha Avasia, women's wear product director at Austin Reed says people should still make an effort and change before they go to Christmas parties. Nightclub wear is not a good idea, instead she advises, go for the dressy side of smart casual.

If what you wear is too similar to your office outfit, there could be negative repercussions. &quotDon't be too conservative. If you turn up in your suit it suggests that you are boring and that you have nothing but work in your life,&quot advises Jill Hicks, image consultant at Meridian Consulting. Equally, memories of suited raucousness may undermine your professionalism when that same suit is worn next time.

&quotDress according to the game that you want to play. Think how you want to be seen. It does matter how people see you - you need to add a bit of humour to how you normally are in the office&quot, advises Lucia Thompson, a coach to the investment banking community.

The game that you want to play itself warrants careful consideration. As one of the only occasions during the year when everyone is expected to let their hair down, the result can make a lasting impression. &quotTo relax completely at any social event would be inappropriate. If someone has too much to drink, and behaves inappropriately then that will always be remembered&quot, advises Hicks.

Aspirations to befriend attractive yet little known colleagues, are best put aside. The best role to play at the Christmas party is that of everybody's friend, who shares several interests with the boss.

&quotIt is important to appear to be a fully rounded person and to have a full range of topics of conversation to discuss. You don't want to find that you can only talk about work. If your boss is into scuba diving then you want to be able to hold a sensible conversation. It may even be good to research that first. Body mirroring (copying someone's body language) is also a good way of appearing to be like minded&quot, suggests Hicks.

The most carefully conducted research into your boss's social mores may go awry when alcohol is involved. &quotThe office party is not the right place to get wildly drunk. It is not a safe environment. People have professional relationships, not deep friendships or caring relationships. However well you get on with people at work it is mostly a professional relationship. Office parties are about celebrating success, celebrating working together, enjoying each other, but not losing control,&quot advises Lucia Thompson.

Another coach advises that staff mirror the boss' behaviour, but go one step milder. &quotAlways stay one drink behind. And if the next morning, you think that you did a bad thing at the party, then you should apologise. Most people won't remember, but at least you're saying that you know how you should behave.&quot

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