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07 Dec

How often have you gone to an end of year Christmas party and seen people embarrassing themselves?

You may have done this yourself.  I think some people believe it is an opportunity to let their hair down and do what they want and say what they want. 

This could not be further from the truth.
   
An end of the year party is generally the organisation’s way of saying thank you to the staff and a way of marking an end to the year.   
Such functions can be formal company-wide or local departmental affairs with smaller groups.  It is a way to join together and celebrate a year no matter what the circumstances.

It is not a place to rage and carry on.  Being drunk and disorderly will make you look weak and show a lack of discipline.
Indeed, many organisations are avoiding the night time function and substituting it for a day out, bowling or minigolf for example.  Many years ago, my old company had a Christmas function in the park that included families complete with the arrival of Santa Claus in the back of a ute.  These are much more wholesome affairs.

For those of you who are eagerly awaiting the end of the year bash here are some guidelines that will help you avoid career damaging behaviour.

Drink sparingly

While drinking is part of the Australian culture it can easily get out of control.  I have seen people drink excessively then they say and do things that they later regret.  Speaking frankly with your boss about his short comings can be career limiting.  Showing uninhibited affection (under the influence of alcohol) to a colleague can lead to serious issues for both parties even if it appears consensual.
Being sent home in a taxi by the HR Manager is never a good look.

Be polite

We all work with people who are less than pleasant or we don’t like very much.  I have seen colleagues confront people they did not like at the end of the year party and provide them with an unabashed opinion on their character.  They somehow feel that it was OK to do that at year end.  It is never OK to be impolite.  This can be especially damaging if done publicly.  Loosing face is not just an issue in Asia but equally so in Australia – we just choose not to admit it.
Being courteous and polite no matter what you think of the person you’re dealing with, will stand you in good stead with everyone and you will be considered someone who is sensible and measured.

Be nice
 
While I find nice to be an insipid word it does convey a sentiment of pleasantness to the people around you.  It costs very little to say or do things that are positive to the people you deal with.  I have found that no matter what type of person you’re dealing with everyone has some strong redeeming or positive feature that is interesting.  Focusing on these enhances the conversations and makes you a more interesting person as well.  This is one aspect of being nice but most importantly building relationships.  The opposite is more commonly seen - people who only talk about themselves and have very little interest others.  

Behave appropriately

Above all, good manners are essential at company functions.  We all survive socially by conforming to acceptable behavioural standards.  While these may change subtly with each generation it is worth bearing in mind the range of people in any company and their backgrounds.  
Australia is multicultural and one can more easily offend people from different backgrounds.  
I once attended a function where the eating behaviour of one of the staff was embarrassing to all around.   It is never a good look, and some behaviours can never be justified by individualism.

Dress appropriately
 
Staff functions are never the opportunity to make new fashion statements.  You may be tempted to show your unique style and display your independence, but this must be done with a degree of caution.  Today more people seem comfortable to dress down for even formal functions than in the past which is increasingly accepted, however, there are limits and understand where these exist.
 
Be on time and leave at a reasonable hour

Part of good manners and politeness at company functions is to turn up on time.  Often speeches are made, and people or groups are acknowledged for their contribution and you need to be there for these.  Equally staying too late or being the last man standing can stretch the patience of senior management who make them selves available to say goodbye and thank staff.  The caterers are usually working to a deadline to close as well.  There is a need to be professional about these events as they are just an extension of the work environment.

No matter what and where your functions are, your behaviour will be noticed and can affect your career.  It takes very little to remain on the positive side of the ledger with colleagues and management.  After all you need to confront them again the next official working day.  The last thing you want is to worry about what you may have said or did or who you offended.