Enjoy that festive holiday party — but remember you're still at work.Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, offers her response to the MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the author's personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.
I am the new development director at a large nonprofit that promotes education and job training for women. This is my first full year in the position and the first time I've been invited to a real, dress-up, fancy holiday party with co-workers. I'm a little bit of an introvert, but I'm also excited about letting loose with my co-workers since they've told me wild stories about what's happened at the holiday parties in the past. Is there anything that you can tell me that will help me blend in and have a great time?
Kathryn says ...
No matter what your religious affiliation, late December through early January is the season that nonprofits and charities throw staff and volunteer holiday parties. You sound excited at the opportunity to blow off some steam and socialize with your colleagues. But remember to be a little cautious, particularly with your first big social event at your new job. I've asked the MissionBox staff to offer suggestions based on their own past holiday party experiences. Here are some tips on avoiding disaster at your next nonprofit holiday fete.
#1. Don’t get wasted
First is the most obvious: Take it easy on the booze. Intoxicants lower social inhibitions, which can lead to embarrassing slips in what topics you raise (“that new guy is gorgeous” or “the boss is a jerk”.) These remarks will not be forgotten, and you’ll wake up the next day hungover and kicking yourself. Don’t be the fool who dances on the table or gets way too chummy with a random co-worker. Drunken, over-emotional and just plain rude behavior can make you the least welcome guest at your party.
If you plan on ignoring this advice, here’s a fashion model’s tip: drink an eight-ounce glass of whole milk right before you leave for your party and remember to eat if possible. Alcohol on an empty stomach can heighten the effects and speed up the inebriation. Also, ask a close work friend to let you know if they think a cab home for you is wise. Better to take a cab home and come back for your car the next day than getting busted for a DWI. Check around your area for sober ride services.
#2. Don’t overshare
Remember, even though you’re at a party, you’re still at work. It’s not a good idea to share too much personal information. Boundaries between work and personal lives can get very blurry after a few martinis. Ease up on publicizing the latest and juiciest gossip (who is having an affair with whom, who recently got a DWI, etc.), announcing your deepest personal secrets (I’m getting a divorce, I’m infertile, I’ve experimented with drugs) and political arguments that get out of control. My father once told me to never put in writing what I wouldn't want to see on the front page of a newspaper. The same basic rule of thumb applies for oversharing at work parties.
#3. Careful with cleavage: both men and women
For both men and women: avoid overly revealing attire. You can look fabulous without over-exposing private body parts, unbuttoning a few too many top buttons to display your gold medallions laid atop your glorious pecs or wearing the slinkiest dress you could find. Save those displays for personal parties. Take your style cues from the host or hostess. And when selecting your party outfits remember: you’re still at work.
#4. Don’t trash the place
Respect the space you are in. Breaking things, purloining things (yes, it does happen), barfing in the toilet and not cleaning up, passing out in the bathtub, spilling red wine on the white rug, pouring an unwanted drink into the nearest potted plant and, well you get the point. Treat whatever space you are in like it belongs to someone, because it does.
Now that you’ve been reminded of what not to do, remember that it is the season for joy and gratitude. Celebrate your holidays this year and give yourself permission to feel proud of what you’ve accomplished and what you will accomplish in the new year.
Happy Holidays from MissionBox