All parties have their awkward moments, but navigating yourself in a room of co-workers with an open bar feels especially high-stakes. Here are some tips for how to talk to everyone from your boss to your intern so that you can return to work on Monday morning, head held high.
It’s possible you have a pretty good relationship with everybody, or even just one work friend you can huddle in the corner with. But it’s more likely you need to go and just put in an appearance without embarrassing yourself. It’s a party, which means the usual structure of how folks interact is a bit broken down.
In a post for Fast Company, writer Judith Humphrey offers a guide for what to say to who during this lawless celebration.
The CEO is like the most popular girl at the party. Everyone wants her attention, so why compete? According to Humphrey, ya gotta; don’t just skirt around. This is your opportunity to say hello and if nothing else, make sure they hear your name at least once. Don’t interrupt if they’re talking to someone else, but be aggressive enough to get in there:
Extend your hand, and introduce yourself. Don’t say, “I’m Aesha, I work in sales.” That introduction will go nowhere. As you shake hands, be sure to share your full name, and do so with confidence and eye contact. Tell your CEO not where you work but what you contribute.
So, if you’re in sales, you might say, “I’m Aesha Patel, and I’ve helped corporate banking have its best year ever.” Or you might state, “I oversee our expanding relationship with NBR Bank.”
Maybe that sounds like boasting, but Humphrey says to the CEO, it’s the special coded language of success. They’ll eat it up. If you want to hedge your bets, just stick with your department, and use the “best year ever” thing as a follow up if the CEO asks how everything’s going. Then thank them for the party, and get out of there. There’s probably a line behind you.
It’s the end of the year and it’s a party; whether you think your boss is awful or not, this is your opportunity to strike a chord of goodwill. They’ll be more relaxed, as will you, and this is the appropriate time to thank them for their work and example, whatever it is. But don’t wing it:
As you plan for this conversation, think about the one thing you admire, respect, or like about your boss. It could be his ability to inspire his team, or his dedication to the department’s success. You might appreciate that he mentors you and others. You might also respect him because he’s a great dad who manages to balance work and family.
Be ready to say thank you with a specific compliment. Try to be as confident and comfortable as possible, make eye contact, and wish them a Happy Holidays. It’s a bit formal, but probably much warmer than anything you’d say on a normal work day.
As long as you’re planning ahead, why not think about who else will be there? Who do you want to cultivate as a friend, a work partner, or a team member? Try to remember things you’ve enjoyed about your co-workers, and wait for the right moment to check in with them and share what they are—appropriate things, of course.
Here are some angles: If a colleague and you have been working on a project, tell them it’s been a great experience, and suggest what you might do in the next year. Or if you know your colleague is hunting for a job, say you may have someone she can talk to. If you two have young children, share the excitement of having little people during the holidays. Suggest getting the kids together in the New Year. The point is to build the relationship.
A friendly relationship or two makes the office a much better place to be, and this is again a place to cultivate deeper connections.
Humphrey doesn’t address this, but be sure to thank interns at your company. Their work is often boring, difficult, and unnoticed (except for when it doesn’t get done). It might be a nice gesture to be sure they get some sort of company gift or thank you, especially if it’s the end of their tenure.
They’ll remember their time there more affectionately if they feel appreciated, and today’s intern can become tomorrow’s boss.
If there’s a stranger at the party, they’re probably related to the company or a colleague in some way. Go up and introduce yourself, and find out who they are:
If it’s a client who’s been invited to the event, tell them, “We love working with your team.” If the person is a new employee, ask how they like their job. Offer to have a lunch with them in the near future to discuss any questions they might have. The important thing is (1) that you have made a point of reaching out and (2) you do a lot of listening. They’ll remember you for those gracious qualities.
And if they’re just crashing, you’ll at least be rewarded for your graciousness with an interesting story.