Work doesn’t always end when you leave the office, and not just because a smartphone or tablet can keep you connected to your e-mail from home. At some point, you’re likely to end up at a work-related social event, such as an office party at your boss’ house or even just a happy hour after your team finishes a long project. Regardless, any time that you’re with people from work, you need to keep in mind that whatever you say or do will be remembered at the office. You don’t need to be a stick in the mud, but you do need to maintain some professionalism.
Start with your RSVP. First off, be sure to send one whether you’re planning to attend the event or not. Second, think about who the invitation is coming from. If it’s from your supervisor or someone high up in your company, it’s well worth the effort to attend. The higher-ups may not notice your presence, but it can be damaging if they notice your absence. Invitations from co-workers, on the other hand, can be safely turned down if you’re busy.
Once you arrive at the event, keep an eye on your manners. Say thank you to whoever invited you, and pay attention to what you wear and the time you arrive. Avoid negative discussions, especially about work, and spread your time around equally. Don’t hover around people who could be helpful to your career, although you should certainly go say hello and socialize outside the group of co-workers with whom you feel the closest.
Make sure not to overdo things on refreshments, as well. Eat some food and have a drink or two, but shoot for moderation. Remember that while hopefully you’ll have fun, your goal should be to improve your standing at work. Even if others are drinking heavily at an event such as an after-work happy hour, you can stay sober and involved by ordering a soft drink and consuming it slowly.