The social side of business

We were celebrating seven years of the place that I used to work at, at a popular pub in the city that was just down the road from the office. This was my first office party. I had never worked before, which meant I had never been to an office party. My office was anything but conventional. It was a ‘cool’ place and half of who I have become is from what I learnt in the four years I spent there. I was a little nervous to start off with — what to wear, what to talk, to drink or not. So many questions ran through my head. This social component has a direct impact on your chances for success.

From office parties to water cooler talk to meals with colleagues or clients, there are numerous opportunities to interact with people inside and outside of your workplace. Manoeuvring through an office party could be a breeze or simply a total disaster. In my case, it went really well. The thought of having to go back to work the next day and meet the same people could make you want to run in the opposite direction.

Purely social get-togethers at work include lunches (whether in the company lunchroom or the cafeteria down the road) and parties that range from holiday banquets to a send-off for a new retiree or a shower for a mom-to-be.

Office lunches

Having lunch together is a great time to get to know your co-workers. More importantly, lunch is a great time for them to get to know you. Avoid sensitive work topics, since people at neighbouring tables may overhear.

Also bypass topics that are too personal — your love life for example, health issues, or trouble you’re having with your child. Lunch is a time for relaxing and taking a break, not the place for conversation that would be better conducted after work, if at all.

Always eating at your desk may make you seem unsociable — even if you don’t mean to be. If a co-worker drops by and asks if you want to go get something to eat, appreciate the gesture and try to join him sometimes.

Office parties

This is a great time to become better acquainted and even lay the foundation for lasting friendship. Here are a few ways to get through an office party in style:

Give thought to how you dress: For an after-work party, it’s easiest to wear the clothes you’ve worn all day, although it would be best to change into something dressier. Remember that clothing too flashy or too revealing for the occasion might be in poor taste, so it is better to be conservative. If unsure, check with a colleague who’s attended similar events in the past or with the event coordinator.

Wear you name tag if the function calls for it: Name tags are usually worn on the right side because that’s where most people look when they first greet one another with a handshake. Okay, so you’re right-handed and you naturally reach over to your left side to pin your name tag. Now that you know the logic behind it, pinning it on the right is a good habit to get into. Get creative by attaching the tag to the waistband of your skirt or pants. Clipping it to the sleeve is also a funky option. If you’re a planner, necklace styles are extremely popular these days.

Behave professionally: The proverbial employee who dances on tables might be an exaggeration, but he does serve as a reminder of the potential to forget to keep things in check. Have a good time, but avoid drinking too much (the one-drink rule — coming up next week) or making too-personal comments or jokes.

Thank the hosts or event planners: Be sure to seek out the hosts, to extend your thanks before leaving. If the party is at someone’s home, a follow-up note is always appreciated.

(A weekly column in which Sulakshana Badani will answer your queries related to etiquette. Write to her at

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 12:29:56 AM |

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