Eight Rules of Thumb Not to Ruin Your Personal Brand at The Company Holiday Party


With the holidays approaching fast, it’s about that time when you’ll receive an invite to the office holiday party. Combine frazzled nerves with personality clashes and then add a dash (or two) of alcohol and you may well have the recipe for disaster.  One misstep can make you the talk of the office for months to come.

Living your personal brand means that you represent yourself – with personality and character – no matter where you are or what you’re doing. People know what to expect from you because you are consistent, confident and clear. Make a wrong move and you could be facing career suicide.

If you do decide to attend the office party (and you should—what a great opportunity to network and get to know your peers better!), follow these rules of thumb to keep your brand on course even during the Holiday Party:

  • Skipping out on the annual party displays disrespect for your company, your supervisors and your colleagues. Unless you have a justifiable conflict, showing up is compulsory. And when you attend, do spend at least an hour or so at the party for appearances.  Not attending could hurt your reputation. But don’t overstay your welcome by partying until the wee hours.
  • Don’t pull the nightclub attire from your closet for the event –  and do ask whether the attire for the party is formal or casual. Conservative party clothes are a good choice. Remember to skip anything too revealing or too flashy. Keep your reputation for good taste intact.
  • Enjoy yourself . Be positive and spread good cheer, but don’t be misled. You are being watched. Everyone is, including (especially) your managers and bosses. Everyone is laughing and smiling, but not with genuine hilarity. Remember that although office parties are intended as social events to reward employees and raise morale, they remain strictly business events.
  • Keep all conversations positive and upbeat. Don’t spend the event complaining, bragging, correcting whining, or ridiculing. And do avoid controversial subjects (such as religion, politics, etc.) and off-colour jokes. Keeping your voice pleasant and editing every remark before it comes out of your mouth, relax. Live a little.
  • Don’t gossip. This is a great place and time to get inside scoop on the company, who is who, and where the things are going.  Be careful though not to turn it into a gossiping match, because that’s not how you want to be perceived by your co-workers. Instead of talking too much, listen to what other people have to say instead.
  • Get to know your boss and your boss’s boss: Use the office party as an opportunity to rub elbows with executives at your company with whom you don’t usually interact. You can’t always get close to senior executives or partners at the office because they’re so busy, but in a social environment, they’re more open to small talk. Introduce yourself on a personal level and ask about hobbies or interests. This is a key opportunity. Take advantage of it.
  • You know we have to say it: Don’t drink too much at the office party. It’s probably, by far, the most damaging thing you can do to your brand. If you’re seen as a confident and in control leader – well, that’s blown out of the water after a third martini. If you’re seen as a thoughtful-behind-the-scenes doer, you may do or say something that may change someone’s opinion of you for good. Set a limit. Really, it’s up to you, but keep in mind: you can go out for a social beverage with friends afterward.
  • Thank co-workers and team members for all their help and hard work during the past year. Don’t forget to thank the person responsible for the planning and coordinating of the party. Sending a thank-you note to top management for hosting the party is sure to help you gain notice and be appreciated.

Remember, you have the power to control your personal brand so consider the perception you would like associated with it. Who knows, you might just get that promotion!

As a high stakes conference and keynote speaker, trainer, coach and organizational consultant, Karl Smith has worked with thousands of senior executives and entrepreneurs in South Africa, challenging their traditional notions about business relationships and excellence.

This article may be copied or republished with the following credit: “By Karl Smith: author, speaker and founder of Business Networking South Africa” Cape Town.

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