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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Skipping company party a faux pas

Bosses especially should attend – it shows they value their employees.

Friday, December 14, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, our company has a companywide Christmas party every year that is planned by the administrative assistants, but hosted by the bosses. We have several office sites, so many people don't know all of the employees other than those at their particular office. This seems to be a good time to get to know those from other offices. So, it is always a surprise when many people don't show for this event, including some of the bosses. How do you feel about this?

A. Corporate holiday parties can be stressful and unappealing for some people in an organization. However, you may be committing a huge faux pas and sabotaging your chances for advancement by not attending. Attending shows you are a team player. It is the opportunity to get to know those you don't know well or have time to chat with during your regular business hours. And it is a chance to meet some of the spouses and significant others in your co-workers' lives.

It is a bad idea for an employee not to participate, but an even larger mistake for a boss not to show up, without a very good reason. Not attending sends the message that bosses don't really care about their employees and that they set themselves above those who work for them — a huge insult in my book. And if that is the message that the employees take away from their absence it can damage the employees' perception of how much they feel they are valued and how hard they want to work for the company. Corporate cultures and attitudes start at the top.

So, here are some tips to get you through the party and make it more enjoyable for everyone.

•Be sure to respond to the invitation and let the planners know whether you are bringing your spouse or a guest, if they are included in the invitation.

•Dress for the event. This may be the time to jazz it up a bit with your attire, but be careful not to get too sexy.

•If you bring your spouse or a guest, be sure to introduce him or her to your coworkers.

■Mingle. This is a perfect time to meet others in the company you don't usually have the opportunity to see.

■If you are one of the bosses, circulate and don't just hang with the other bosses.

■Pace yourself when it comes to alcohol consumption. You don't want to be the topic of conversation on Monday morning.

•If you are ordering off a menu, go middle of the road with price. Ordering the most expensive thing on the menu can look as if you are taking advantage.

•Thank your hosts upon leaving and send a handwritten thank-you note the next day.

So when that invitation arrives for the company party, say yes to going. Happy holidays!

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we'll forward it to her.