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The rules of holiday office-party etiquette

Fried RiceHeidi Rice

“You will abide by the rules, or you will find yourself living outside in the shed,” I informed husband-head firmly. “Do I make myself perfectly clear?””Yeah, yeah, yeah,” husband-head said with resignation. “No pinching anyone’s bum, no swearing and no shots of Jaegermeister.””Very good,” I said with approval. “Now go get ready … and remember to wear socks and undies.”We were preparing to attend my annual holiday office party.While I still maintain that the phrase “office party” is an oxymoron, these functions serve as a good chance to mingle with your co-workers and superiors during the holiday season in a light, informal setting.It also offers the opportunity to get your rear end royally canned.However, this can be easily avoided by adhering to the same set of rules that I have set out for husband-head.• Do not feel obligated to wear your disco clothes to this company function. Besides dating yourself, most people at this stage in their professional life no longer look good in Angel Flight pants, polyester or anything slit above the knee. And even if you do, now is not the time to show off your assets. … Save them for a game of “Saturday Night Fever” in the privacy of your own home.• Refrain from making catty remarks to co-workers you don’t happen to like – especially after a few cocktails. This is not a game of “Truth or Dare” and your remarks will be repeated in whispered tones long after the party is over. It is also not the time to corner the boss and go on and on and on, bragging about some new marketing plan or advertiser you’ve lined up or how you’re the perfect person for the newly opened management position. Your boss also has a life outside of work. Should he or she stick his or her fingers in his or her ears and scream “La-la-la-la-la!,” it means they really don’t want to hear it.• Watch your language. You are not in the men’s locker room or at the bar with your beer-drinking buddies. “Well, slap my ass and call me Sally!” is not an appropriate, enthusiastic greeting, nor is “How the hell are you?” We know you know the naughty words. We all know the naughty words. We are not impressed and it’s just not a good idea to use them at the holiday office party. You sound like a buffoon.• On the subject of greetings or an introduction to a co-worker’s spouse – a brief, firm handshake or pleasant “hello” will suffice. This is no time to wiggle your middle finger seductively in someone’s palm or flirtatiously pinch her spouse’s bum. We promise that you will regret it come Monday morning.• Cocktails are typically served at parties during the holiday season. Try to limit yours to about 13! Slurring your words is never impressive, nor is soul-baring information that only your therapist should know. “… And then when I was 5 …” The company drunk never gets a promotion.• Even if you don’t drink, illegal drugs are not acceptable, either. Sure, no one saw you slip outside to smoke a joint, but don’t think you don’t reek when you come back in. It was funny when Jeff Bridges was stoned in “The Big Lebowski,” but then, he probably doesn’t need to work another day in his life. You do.• Many companies will offer a buffet at the holiday party. The object of a buffet is to move quickly through the line and daintily serve yourself on a plate that is probably smaller than your cat’s dish. Do not panic and pile your plate so high that stuff falls off of it, nor should you cram things into your pockets. The buffet is not going anywhere and you can always go back for more. Everyone will count how many times.• Table manners are also important at these shindigs. Please use the fork, not your fingers. The fork is a utensil used to put the food in your mouth. If you happen to drop the fork, do not pick it up, lick it, and begin eating again. Like the buffet dishes, there are more available. Also, stabbing the person next to you with the fork, even in jest, is not considered funny.• Some companies are nice enough to give out Christmas bonuses to their staff in the form of cash. And like table manners, there is a certain etiquette that goes along with graciously accepting a bonus. Ripping open the envelope at the table and yelling “Right on!” is not one of them. The preferred method is to hand the bonus check to your wife, who will then discreetly excuse herself to the bathroom and lock herself in a stall. The sound of the paper envelope tearing can always be explained as the use of sanitary protection. However, it is bad form for the wife to emerge from the rest room with a big grin and a “thumbs up,” indicating to her husband – and the rest of the company – that the amount of the bonus was satisfactory.”Do all these rules mean I can’t karaoke to ‘Disco Duck’ at your party?” husband-head asked.Yes.Heidi Rice is the Rifle correspondent for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Her column runs every Friday. Visit her Web site atwww.heidirice.com.


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