After-hours etiquette

Maintain office decorum when you're outside

The after-work office gathering kicks off and you’re ready to cut loose. But be careful. Although the event is informal, your behavior is sure to be observed as closely as it would be at the 10 a.m. board meeting.

Improper behavior-drinking too much, anti-social conduct or inappropriate conversation, for example-will undoubtedly cause you embarrassment at the function. It will also leave a lasting impression on your bosses, who will remember your exhibition when it comes time to make decisions affecting your job during business hours.

"Social events outside of the office are an inevitable part of business," says Susan Morem, author of How to Gain the Professional Edge: Achieve the Personal and Professional Image You Want (Better Books, $14.95). "It isn’t, however, the time to let go of all formalities and let your hair down." Morem offers tips for maintaining a professional aura during these events:

  • Find out if dates are allowed. If the gathering is for employees only, it would be inappropriate to bring an uninvited guest, even if it’s your spouse.
  • Brush up on your introduction skills. If you can and do choose to bring someone, introduce them properly. For example, say, "Mr. Jones [your supervisor should be addressed first], this is Denise, my wife [reverse the name/relation order, and you make the person sound like they're your property, not a person who happens to be married to you]."
  • Extend yourself. Use the informal atmosphere as an opportunity to mingle with those in the company with whom you don’t often get a chance to interact.
  • Remain standing as much as possible. You’ll appear more approachable than if you sit in the same place for the entire evening.
  • Eat before you go. This prevents you from spending the majority of your time eating and drinking instead of mingling. Also, with your hands free, you can offer a firm handshake without hesitation.
  • Express your appreciation after the event. Send a handwritten thank you note to the person who invited you.

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