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Sharon Schweitzer, JD

By: Sharon Schweitzer, JD (Guest Blogger)

Here’s the deal, it’s holiday time! [insert planet full of happy paralegals here.] This means several things: (1) There will be grocery and retail shopping; (2) feasts; (3) friendly family and business chatter occurring all across the nation; and (4) gatherings and parties galore! Sharon is visiting us today to offer up some great etiquette tips on how to navigate any party like a pro! After all, she should know – she is one!

Your crash course on party etiquette begins…right now!

Every winter, business owners host formal and sometimes elaborate holiday parties. At the very least, excess celebration and etiquette mistakes can become fodder for next day stories and eventually legend for future parties. Are you up for a promotion? Knowing the rules of business holiday etiquette will help you navigate the upcoming season like a pro, not to mention give you an edge on the competition!

1. RSVP: Be sure to respond to an invitation with 48 hours, regardless of whether it comes via Evite, Pingg, email, telephone or traditional methods. As much as you may not wish to attend, you must. Attendance is practically mandatory – failing to go to the annual holiday party sends a negative message. Executives and upper management will take note.

2. Arrival & Departure: Pay attention to the time that you arrive and when you leave. Arriving ‘fashionably late’ is inappropriate. Do not arrive early, but do plan to arrive within the first 15-20 minutes. Even if you truly do not want to attend, avoid arriving 30 minutes before the end just to make an appearance.

3. Guest Policy: Avoid a potentially uncomfortable evening! Be sure to read the invitation carefully. Know the company policy on guests, or whether the event is ‘Employees Only’. Discreetly check ahead of time to determine whether spouses or dates are welcome. All of the planning decisions have already been carefully weighed, including expenses and scheduling. Remember this is an officially sponsored company event.

4. Greetings: When you arrive at the party, be sure to greet, thank and shake hands with your hosts and the party planners. If it is a company or partnership owned by more than one individual, be sure to thank all of them! Chat briefly and compliment an aspect of the party that you sincerely enjoyed such as the catering, music, or décor. Limit this to 5 minutes and move on.

5. Mingling: Everyone watches the entrance to a room. When you arrive, do not head straight for the bar or buffet. Enter, pause, step to the right, greet and shake hands with the person standing there. Executives enjoy speaking with employees. Your company party may be one of the few times you see them in person. Introduce yourself, state the department you work in and shake hands. This is a good time to become visible to your organization’s leadership. Greet your superiors, and chat with as many colleagues as you can, introducing yourself to those that you do not know well. Greet co-workers warmly, and with a smile on your face. Resist the urge to spend the entire evening with your office buddies – get in the spirit and mingle with people from other departments. At all costs, avoid appearing bored and ready to dash for the door.

6. Appropriate Topics: Strive to keep business talk to a minimum! When socializing with business colleagues it can be difficult not to talk shop. Instead, view the office party as an opportunity to get to know colleagues a little better on a personal level. Stay with topics such as travel, children, sports, pets and movies. Remember to avoid politics, sex and religion. Keep discussions positive and no more than 5-10 minutes. Avoid gossiping, complaining and bragging. The party is intended to be a time to celebrate the successes of the year. A cheerful mood is in order!

7. Dress Appropriately: Pay attention to the attire listed on the invitation. The holiday party may be a festive occasion; however it is still attended by your coworkers. This especially applies to women who are sometimes tempted to use company parties to strut their stuff. Leave short, tight or revealing clothing in the closet. Use good taste to select a low-key and elegant ensemble. Creating a professional image is hard work; do not undermine it in one evening.

8. Eat in Moderation: Eat a small amount of protein beforehand. You were not invited because the hosts thought you were hungry! Be considerate of others and remember your etiquette basics – keep hands clean and avoid a mouth full of hors d’oeuvres. Avoid walking around with a full plate, do not double dip or eat over the chafing dish, and properly discard toothpicks, napkins, and plates.

9. Do not overindulge: This is probably the most common mistake that executives make during the holiday party. Alcohol and a loose tongue may add up to a regretful Monday morning equation. Consider tea, club soda or water. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly. Remember to carry your refreshment in your left hand. Leave your right hand free for handshaking.

10. Toasts: The CEO may offer a toast during the evening. When the toast is for a colleague, raise your glass at the conclusion of the toast, when the host raises their glass. Do not touch your glass with everyone else; it is unnecessary and distracting. Pause afterward and watch. The recipient will most likely reciprocate with a toast. If you have been a star performer, you may be honored with a toast. Stand and accept it gracefully. Refrain from drinking or clapping for yourself. Be sure to stand and make a toast to the person who toasted you, thanking them for the recognition.

As stated earlier, always thank the host before leaving the party. If the occasion calls for it, follow-up with a thank you note. It is possible to enjoy and even benefit from this annual event if you follow some common sense holiday party etiquette tips. If you start with the premise that the office holiday party is a business function and behave accordingly ~ you will succeed!


Sharon Schweitzer was a paralegal with Chamberlain Hrdlicka in Houston, Texas, before she earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law. Sharon Schweitzer J.D. is now a Business Etiquette Expert and an International Protocol Consultant, and the Founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, LLC in Austin, Texas, USA. Sharon may be contacted at 512.306.1845, www.protocolww.com, www.facebook.com/protocolww, www.linkedin.com/in/sharonschweitzer, www.twitter.com/austinprotocol

Photo By: Korey Howell Photography

Copyright © 2012 Sharon Schweitzer – All Rights Reserved


All of us at The Paralegal Society would like to take a brief moment to sincerely thank you for being one of the people in paralegal land who truly “gets it.” And you know we like to “run with those who get it!”

Wishing you a warm, festive, heartfelt, and memorable Thanksgiving – complete with lots of great food, family, and fun! We’ll see you on Friday with a heartfelt article from the Founder regarding her favorite area of law. Yep. It’s the real deal. Rumor has it she may have even taken the proverbial gloves off! You’ll have to visit us post-feast to check it out! See you soon.