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The Boston Globe

Business

Etiquette at work

Holiday parties should be a chance to unwind

I often talk of how much success in business depends on building strong, positive relationships. Relationships with clients and prospects is obvious, but equally important are the relationships with your co-workers and your bosses. At this time of the year, you have one of the best opportunities to enhance relationships at work: the office holiday party.

Building those relationships starts by responding to the company’s invitation right away. If you’re not sure you can attend, contact the organizers anyway to let them know when you will have a firm answer. If the invitation is vague about whether to bring a significant other or spouse, ask when you reply.

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If the answer is yes, once you arrive, be sure to introduce your S.O. or spouse to your boss and colleagues. How you treat your partner will reflect on you.

Circulate. It may be comfortable to make a bee line for colleagues whom you know well, but think of the party as an opportunity to get to know other people with whom you don’t regularly interact.

Don’t just talk shop. Use the holiday office party as an opportunity to get to know colleagues and bosses on a more personal basis. Engage them in conversation about their interests.

Each year I hear from organizers who are frustrated by employees who think it’s OK to ask for a “doggie bag” to take home. It’s not. Enjoy the food while at the event. But even asking if you can have a plate of food to take home is inappropriate.

Be careful not to over-imbibe. Office parties often come at the end of the workday. If you haven’t eaten in several hours, you may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than you expect. Those effects can be noticeable to others well before they are noticeable to you.

You don’t want to do or say things you will have to apologize for the next day. Think of the office holiday party as a business event rather than happy hour with your friends. Best advice: Follow the one-drink rule.

As the evening winds down, take notice of people starting to leave and plan your own exit so you aren’t the last person at the bar or food table. Then as you prepare to leave, be sure to thank your boss and anyone involved in organizing the event. You might even send a note the next day to thank them again.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.

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