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7 tips to stay classy at the practice holiday party

‘Tis the season to socialize with physicians and other medical professionals from your practice, as well as coworkers and staff.

Here’s how to have fun while keeping it professional.

1 Prepare for the party

It doesn’t matter whether your employer is holding this year’s holiday party at the office or offsite. Nor does it matter if it takes place at lunchtime or after hours. It’s still a work-related event.

What does this mean?

For women, the message is leave the low-cut party dress in the closet, no matter how stunning you look in it. Yes, if you wear it you may indeed wow everyone, and you might even be the center of attention—but this isn’t the kind of attention you want as a manager.

The same rule applies to dresses, skirts, and tops that are too short or too tight. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear something a little more festive; just remember it should be appropriate. When in doubt, err on the side of conservative.

For men, clothing should be event-appropriate. A dinner at an upscale restaurant, for example, may require a jacket and tie. When in doubt, ask what to wear. A simple inquiry can save you stress—and embarrassment.

If the event does require a suit or sport coat, make sure you’re dressed from head to toe. Unless you’re Sir Paul McCartney, this means you should leave the sneakers at home.

2 Watch your alcohol intake

You may think you can hold your liquor, but don’t risk going anywhere near your perceived limit at a work-related event.

For one thing, your true limit is probably less than you realize. And, more importantly, one too many drinks can turn you into a babbling fool or worse.

If you find yourself feeling the effects, switch to a non-alcoholic beverage. Better safe than sorry (there’s a reason it’s a cliché).

3 Avoid behavior that might be construed as flirtatious

You already know not to sidle up to an attractive coworker with a drink in your hand as you attempt a sleazy one-liner.

But other behavior, such as standing too close to the other person, also sends a message.

Likewise, certain types of jokes might be misinterpreted.

4 Resist the urge to gossip

In social situations, the conversation often veers away from work.

One of the topics people tend to talk about is other people. Some conversations are innocent enough, as in, “I met Mary’s fiancé at the supermarket last week. What a nice guy he is.”

Other conversations, however, clearly are not going down a good path. If a person says, “I met Mary’s fiancé at the supermarket. He’s not nearly as attractive in person as his photos on Facebook,” it’s time to change the subject or move on to a conversation with someone else.

5 Mind your manners

It sounds basic, but it can be easy to forget some of the simple things, especially if you’re a little nervous.

When one of the physicians comes up to you and asks if you’re enjoying the party, you don’t want to talk with food in your mouth.

Similarly, you don’t want to wolf down your meal, even if you are famished.

You also want to be polite and gracious to your host. Sure, it’s a work-related event, but you should still thank the person responsible for the party and wish him or her a happy holiday season.

If you sincerely had a great time and the event was spectacular, you might want to also seek out the party planner(s) and let them know you enjoyed yourself.

6 Remember your position

This point often gets overlooked and, as a result, can be a source of confusion.

In a social situation, people generally become more relaxed. But this doesn’t mean the workplace hierarchy has vanished.

Joe practice-owner-physician is still the boss; he’s not suddenly your buddy Joe. Similarly, people who report to your direct reports aren’t members of your new hang-out-and-party gang.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly to one and all. You can and should socialize. Here again, though, don’t lose sight of the big picture.

After the holiday party is over and you return to work, Joe won’t be hanging out at your desk. Likewise, you don’t want to give workers who report to your staff members the impression that you are their new best friend.

7 Party with confidence

Once you know how to turn your party animal into a cool cat, you can enjoy the festivities of the season and maintain—perhaps even enhance—your professional standing at work.

Happy holidays!

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