Here are a few comments overheard at a company holiday party. Can you tell which ones were better left unsaid? Christy in Sales refuses to back down from a challenge. She refuses to take no for an answer. Did you hear she and the CEO hate each other? Another overheard conversation. Kim in Accounting leaves no stone unturned. She leaves the office late when necessary. Did you hear she's leaving her husband?
Knowing what to say and what not to say is detrimental in maintaining a respected and professional reputation and a promising career.
In any professional position, your ability to carry a conversation is very important in building and maintaining good working relationships with fellow employees. It is also just as important to know the difference between personal and professional conversation topics and stay within professional boundaries. This is especially true during the many conversations youll share during the course of the company Christmas party.
The border separating professional and personal relationships isn't always easy to patrol, especially at informal company functions such as the office Christmas party. But conversational boundaries help to determine the reputation of an employee. Putting those boundaries into practice preserves employee integrity. So its best to understand the boundaries of professional behavior and demeanor and not to deviate from them no matter how well you know your co-workers.
Whether you're a principal, manager or rank-and-file employee, the ability to congenially converse within a professional but friendly mindset will help to ensure that conversations with co-workers never distract from a productive, positive workplace.
Did You Hear?
To determine professional conversational boundaries, a good rule of thumb is to avoid issues that might make someone uncomfortable. Some topics that are likely to fall into the uncomfortable category are romance, physical appearance, health, race, religion and personal finance.
Also, refrain from gossip! Gossip is a BIG no-no. Just one unsuitable remark can damage how others perceive you and those negative effects on reputation and future advancement can be long term.
Refraining from sharing or listening to gossip can be tough to stick to especially outside of the office setting. Gossip often occurs in places or situations that feel informal like elevators, bathrooms or off-site company events. There are many office Christmas party stories of co-workers whose behavior or conversations were less-that-professional to put it mildly. If you are at any event or location, if co-workers are present in the conversation, you must be mindful of appropriate and inappropriate topics. Keep your words productive and positive.
One strategy is to turn off-topic conversations back to work-related issues as quickly as possible. By redirecting the conversation with a smile and a sense of humor you can avoid seeming unfriendly. By saying something like Lets not go there you can stick to appropriate topics without seeming like a stick-in-the-mud.
Just as informal places can get co-workers into trouble, so can seemingly informal methods of communication like email or IM messages. Don't forget that its easier to pass around rumors, gossip, and tasteless jokes to multiple people that it is by word of mouth. Think before you speak and think before you hit the send button!
Pass the Dip, Hold the Criticism
When mingling at the Christmas party, you're likely to meet co-workers and people you don't know or don't know well. Being mindful of your professional voice is very important when talking to unknown employees or guests. The lady you just met in the banquet line to whom you're complaining about your lazy cube partner could be that lazy cube partners wife. Worse yet, it could be a decision-maker in a future promotion decision whose memory of you is your negative comment.
Its important that you do mingle among the Christmas party guests. You're inclination is to hang out with co-workers you know well of have become friends. Do remember that in addition to an enjoyable evening this is also an opportunity towards career goals and advancement. Look for opportunities to meet upper-ups that you don't interact with regularly. Meeting co-workers from other offices or departments can open new doors to connections, future advancement or work productivity. Have fun with your co-worker buddies but be sure to meet as many new people as possible.
These are the Yokes Folks
When you're mingling and having fun with your favorite co-worker gang keep it light and jovial but be careful with the jokes. Though you may be repeating a really funny story you heard or a quote from your favorite comedian, run it through the professional boundary detector to make sure its within those appropriate boundaries.
Companies and offices are a made-up of a diverse range of people and ages. A topic that is funny to you may be offensive to someone else. A laugh at the expense of someone else will not do you any favors in your career even if said in jest.
Though the Office Christmas party can be a potential minefield its also a chance to enjoy the companies hospitality and appreciation of your work. So celebrate but remember to keep your professional hat on. The next time you're up for a promotion or working with a team on a big project, youll reap the rewards of your professionalism.