Yes, I’m referring to the “C” word, among other causes for celebration. With less than a month to go before the big celebrations on December 25th, Christmas decorations and music now envelope (or inundate) us as we enter shops, and many of the EAs and Assistants reading this blog likely hold responsibility for coordinating special celebrations in their offices. In fact, you probably pinned down the dates, locale and guest lists – if not yet the menus – some weeks ago.
One advantage of being the go-to person for planning and execution of special events such as Christmas parties – “holiday” celebrations in many workplaces – and other special events is that you can thoughtfully plan for those in your organisation who choose not to imbibe, and ensure a balance of decadent and healthier offerings at the table. One disadvantage is that you’ve likely done all this planning off the side of your desk, adding a few extra hours here or there to your workload … and it may be highly tempting, once the celebrations begin, to kick back and let your hair down.
Many assistants can think back to corporate gatherings past and grimace in memory of how we did exactly that, but lived to learn the wisdom of moderation. Each year, around this time, pundits from Forbes and other publications offer insights into what not to do, or how not to behave at office parties. Those who enjoy horror stories are given plenty of opportunity to hear about a staffer inadvertently depositing his or her lunch in a colleague’s purse, or over their shoes, and so on. The do and don’t lists aren’t constricted to imbibing; although there are the obvious recommendations to ensure you don’t arrive at the office party on an empty stomach, there’s also advice on how not to outshine your host. Mingle, don’t linger too long, and always leave people looking forward to more – rather than less – of you.
While some of the assistants reading this may be social animals who can’t wait for the next party to get underway, others prefer the background and would be just as happy taking advantage of the quiet time to get some work done.
For the truly cynical and advancement-oriented, there are recommendations galore on how to capitalise on office parties. Such a person’s party prep may read something like this.
Career Advancement through Office Parties
- Preparation: Remember that a successful party begins days or even weeks before the event. While others in the office are wasting time helping with the party plans, volunteering for good causes or (worse yet) working, invest your spare time in reading the bios of all the executives and other leaders – titled or not – within your organisation. You want to understand just who it is you’re planning to impress.
- What to discuss? Study, study and study some more so that you have everyone’s interests down pat. Remember: you don’t want to bore these people with talk about the organisation or its challenges or successes; they hear enough about that during the work day. You will focus on their favourite charity, cause or sports team with a fine blend of enthusiasm and subtlety.
- Know it all Scour the web – heck, go for broke and invest in a couple of magazines or newspapers – for editorials and news you wouldn’t normally read, so you can impress people with just how au courant you can be.
- Style Spend every cent you don’t have on the perfect outfit, ideally something that virtually screams power, because that’s what everyone will remember.
- Ingratiation Why wait till the party begins? The day of the event, find a reason beforehand to work your way over to the host’s office to thank her/him, before anyone else can, for planning yet another great event. Completely ignore the EA, PA, Admin. Assistant or Office Coordinator/Manager and their staff, even though these are likely the people who have done all the actual legwork.
- How to win friends, and influence people Promptness is a virtue. Show up at the event few minutes early and position yourself near the entrance so that you can pounce upon every important person the moment of his or her arrival. Never mind your colleagues who are the official greeters. Focus on the people you really want to impress, and dazzle them with your personality, if not with rapier-like wit, before they have a chance to dull their senses with drink.
- Who’s who? Freeze when you confuse the Director of Communications with the Director of IRP; their worlds are so similar, how could you be expected to distinguish them from one another? Curse your lack of an encyclopedic memory, and make a mental note to ask Santa for a new Smartphone. Next year, your contact list will include both bios and photos of all the very important people. If you’ve been really good, you might even ask for facial recognition software so that – next year! – you can spot a face and discreetly turn to your phone to brush up on your research before schmoozing such unsuspecting creatures.
- Underlings Ignore those people from your corner of the office who are having a great time, laughing and bonding over how the group made it through a particularly tough challenge. Why dwell on the past?
- Wise Counsel Now that you’ve sorted out which lookalike is the actual Director of Communications, corner that person and share your insights on how s/he might better have handled that delicate situation that cropped up last Spring. What are colleagues for, anyway?
- Venting 101 All right, so you may share a bit of your time with the gang from your own office after all. Why not? All the powerful people are busy talking with other powerful people right now, and you have a few things you’d like to get off your chest. In fact, this might be the perfect opportunity to let them know how you really feel…
Here’s to all Exceptional EA’s readers who contribute to – and likely master plan – the successful gatherings hosted by their employers. You know the protocols for office parties, and I’m sending good wishes that the month ahead finds you enjoying collegial gatherings as well as a wee bit of down time amidst all the bustle.