Q: I have seen many snippets of advice cautioning young professionals against having too much fun during Christmas parties at their workplaces, and many experts seem to be against overt expressions of freedom. Does it mean that I should not dance, drink alcohol and have fun during company parties? What are the specific behaviours that could end one’s career?
Organisations do not borrow from the same leaf when it comes to how their employees should conduct themselves during social company events such as a Christmas party. The degree of formality expected of employees in such events is ordinarily driven by the culture of the organisation, and the example that the leadership sets for its people. Some organisations encourage their employees to let their hair down, while others frown upon all forms of deviation from the official code of behaviour.
Whether an organisation states it explicitly or not, an employee could cross the line when it comes to conduct at office parties. A general sense of discretion is required in many settings, including an office party, during which it is advisable to retain a degree of sobriety that would accommodate lucid and appropriate conversations, especially with bosses. One does not, for instance, need to wait for the Christmas party to settle grudges or address grievances with colleagues, as there is sufficient opportunity to do so in the office.
Having a Christmas party in a location external to the office does not mean that inappropriate conduct will be condoned or forgotten. There have been cases of unbecoming behaviour during such parties that have impaired the career prospects of those involved. One can, for example, expect an organisation to reprimand employee behaviour that damages its reputation or compromises the safety of others, whether the party was held in the office or not.
While it may not be part of an organisation’s induction curriculum, employees can almost instinctively detect the socially inappropriate kinesics and proxemics on a dance floor. Granted that there might be as many dancing styles as there are people, it is advisable to dance without disagreeably intruding into others’ personal spaces, as this could be interpreted as harassment, which might prove detrimental to one’s career prospects.
Concerning drinks, it is best not to experiment with your capacity for alcohol during office parties. However, the idea is not to be all starchy. Be authentic and have fun, bearing in mind that the impression others have of you, including stakeholders in your career, is often not limited to your performance and conduct in the office.
Fred Gituku, Human Resources Practitioner ([email protected])