How Millennials Can Survive Holiday Office Parties and Gift-Giving

Posted By Terri Williams on November 29, 2016 at 4:42 pm
How Millennials Can Survive Holiday Office Parties and Gift-Giving

Parties offer an opportunity for millennials to kick off their shoes and let their hair down. However, there’s a difference between parties and office parties. At the latter, it’s best not to let down, let go, kick off, unbutton, or any other type of carefree behavior.

If a party is an occasion to have fun, millennials may be wondering why they should be so cautious. Kimberly Stiener-Murphy, regional vice president of Robert Half, explains it to GoodCall: “Regardless of whether it’s a holiday party or sitting at your desk, the reality is that it is still business and your reputation is one of those things that helps you succeed in your career field.”

Stiener-Murphy warns that one questionable action at office parties can cause coworkers and bosses to see you in a different light. “If you think you can let loose a little at the holiday party, you might be the talk of the town on Monday.”

Do’s and Don’ts for holiday office parties

If you’re unsure of how to act at holiday office parties, below are a few tips:

  • Do RSVP promptly. Sharon Schweitzer, etiquette expert and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, says millennials need to respond to the invitation within 48 hours regardless of whether it came via email, Evite, telephone, or another method. Whether you want to go to the party or not, consider your attendance mandatory. If you don’t attend, Schweitzer warns that it could send a negative signal to upper management. A recent survey reveals that the jury is still out on whether employers think millennials have the skills they need to succeed. This could be a make or break moment for your career.
  • Do arrive and leave in a timely manner. Schweitzer says arriving ‘fashionably late’ is inappropriate, and while the aim is not to be the first person there, she says you should arrive within 15-20 minutes after the party starts. Schweitzer strongly advises against showing up 30 minutes before the party is over just so you can say you attended.
  • Don’t assume that you can bring someone with you. If it isn’t clearly stated on the invitation, make the effort to get clarification. “Discreetly check ahead of time to determine whether spouses or dates are welcome, since all of the planning decisions have already been carefully weighed, including expenses and scheduling,” Schweitzer advises.
  • Don’t hide in the corner or head for the food as soon as your arrive. Schweitzer recommends greeting your superiors, speaking with as many colleagues as possible, and introducing yourself to people you don’t know. If guests are allowed, mingle with the spouses and other non-employees.
  • “Resist the urge to spend the entire evening with your office buddies – get in the spirit and mingle with people from other departments,” Schweitzer says. “At all costs, avoid appearing bored and ready to dash for the door.” Instead, use this time to demonstrate your verbal communication skills.
  • Don’t talk shop. Yes, these are your colleagues and you might be tempted to discuss company business, but resist the urge. “Stay with topics such as travel, children, sports, pets and movies, but avoid politics, sex and religion,” Schweitzer advises. She also warns against complaining, gossiping, or bragging. “The party is intended to be a time to celebrate the successes of the year and a cheerful mood is in order.”
  • Don’t be too casual. Stiener-Murphy advises millennials to make sure that their attire is appropriate for an office party – as opposed to a party-party. “For women, be conscious of what you are wearing to ensure it’s not too short or low cut; you can still dress up, but keep it professional.”

Gift-giving tips for millennial employees

Most companies allow employees to buy gifts for their supervisor. According to Stiener-Murphy, her company’s research reveals that employees spend an average of $20 on their supervisor, while they typically receive a gift valued at $24 from their manager.

If your company exchanges gifts, make sure you don’t choose unsuitable items. When managers in an Accountemps survey were asked to relay the most inappropriate gifts they’ve ever seen, their results included the following responses:

  • “An employee gave a re-gifted gift that the manager had given the year before”
  • “A big order of frozen pork”
  • “A mug with a satirical phrase on it, used to make fun of someone”
  • “A wig”
  • “A $700 gift card”
  • “Liquor”
  • “A dozen roses”

As manager, Stiener-Murphy says, “I don’t necessarily want someone who reports to me or makes less than me to spend money on me, but would I appreciate something small, meaningful and thoughtful? Absolutely. It can be as simple as a holiday card.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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