WORKPLACE / DEC. 02, 2013
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Dos and Dont's: Impressing Your Boss At Your Office Xmas Party


Your office Christmas party isn't like your friends' Christmas parties. It is NOT just an excuse to have fun. No, your office Christmas party is a great chance to get ahead, score brownie points and maybe even get a shot at nabbing that promotion. What you wear, how you act and even how you gossip are crucial to your success at impressing your superiors.

DO gossip effectively

Gossip is an activity which creates or reinforces the social bonds between people. It's a powerful tool because it allows you to damage your competitors' or enemies' reputation. A study conducted by Francis McAndrew and his colleagues at Knox College found that the most interesting subjects for gossip are people of roughly the same age and gender as the person you're talking to. Gossiping can create a sense of intimacy because you're signaling to your gossip partner that you've chosen them from among all others to share information about your target. This means that gossiping is a great way to get your boss to feel closer to you. Gossip also reinforces the social norms of our groups by punishing deviance. Women are more likely than men to gossip about same-sex rivals. So when you're gossiping, select someone of the same gender and a similar age to the person you're gossiping with.

DON'T dress too sexy or too dull

Even if the party is themed and the dress code is Moulin Rouge, go demure instead of too crazy or too sexy. You'll have to see these people tomorrow and you want to be taken seriously. But that doesn't mean dull and boring. Take this opportunity to show aspects of yourself and your personal style that you usually can't show at work. Stand out from the crowd- red accessories are suitably festive and will get you noticed. Red also makes you subconsciously more attractive to men because it signifies love in many cultures, so if you have a male boss it's a good idea to wear red. Ramp up the sex appeal with your shoes instead of showing off a lot of cleavage; this will look more daring and more appropriate. Choose bold accessories to make a statement and get noticed.

DO keep your mind in the game

Remember you're not here to have fun, so stay aware of where your boss or the management are and who they're talking to. Who is making a good impression with your superiors? Who are they already in friendships with? It helps if you know who not to piss off. Keeping track of where your superiors are will make it easier for you to pop over and impress them in a natural, fluid way. You should also consider making a good impression on those who your boss likes, though avoid anything as degrading or crass as ass-kissing. You do not need to kiss ass if you're good at your job. Above all, remember this is an arena and you're competing with everyone in your office for your superiors' approval and attention.

DON'T get cliquey

If you hang with your friends through the whole party, you won't get to make any useful new contacts or impress the management that way. Circulate and get to know colleagues of a similar level to you. If you know more people, this can help if there's any workplace bullying or conflict in the future.

DO wear your favourite perfume or aftershave

Wearing a scent, which makes you feel confident, can actually improve your confidence and lower your stress levels. It makes you display fewer self-comforting gestures and you'll be perceived as more confident. These were the findings of a study conducted by Takahiro Higuchi of Tokyo Metropolitan University and his colleagues. A hint of perfume too small to be consciously noticed will also make people subconsciously like you without knowing why (because their subconscious links you to a pleasant smell).

DON'T forget your body language

Gesturing while talking will help people remember what you've said. Establish instant rapport by mirroring the gestures of the person you're talking to and imitating their speech rhythm. Some people instinctively know the value of this and learn to do this as young teens (like yours truly) but we all subconsciously mirror gestures after a few minutes even if we don't consciously try to. Women with firm handshakes are perceived as more confident and assertive- so avoid that cute feminine shake.

DO focus when you're talking

Use the classic tripartite list (beloved of many blog and magazine articles) when speaking to avoid the other person not being able to anticipate the end of your sentence, which can lead to awkward silences. The tripartite list is A, B and C. I've used it in this article. Avoid the word 'nice' when paying compliments and never, ever start a compliment with 'You are' – it just sounds fake. By all means make yourself look good by embellishing things, but avoid big lies or convoluted lies which you'll get confused over or forget about next week. Telling secrets is a great way to create a sense of intimacy. (Fake secrets, I mean. Not real secrets.) You should tell something true which doesn't bother you. You should act a little embarrassed while telling it.

DON'T get too tipsy

Getting drunk will not look good. This is an office party, not a real party. If you want to get pissed then hit the club after the party. Being clear-headed will also help you outmaneuver everyone else who's bucking for your boss's attention. Don't drink what's handed to you without knowing what it is; a friend of mine was once drinking vodka mixes at an office party and it turned out one of her colleagues had told the bartender to pour triples. She'd been downing triples all night without realising. Not only is this dangerous (and illegal) if you're driving home, it could hurt your chances of impressing the management.

DO make new friends

Exchange contact details or make informal invitations where appropriate (i.e. if you already know the person or have been having a great laugh with them for a long time). Appropriate things to invite colleagues to are unimportant social events which don't involve your boyfriend/girlfriend or family like drinks, coffee, a girl's night in, etc. Remember you're not here to have fun- but you are here to make friends.

DON'T neglect your friendships

Hanging out with them for the whole party is the worst possible idea, but alienating mates by ignoring them for the entire party won't help your career chances. And a good friend will never leave their friends feeling left out. It's fine to approach your bosses with a friend in tow- as long as you're the one who shines. It's also possible for groups of friends to move together from one Person-To-Be-Impressed to another. Working together to help each other impress bosses isn't just a great bonding activity – and a fun one!- it might actually improve everyone's chances of creating favourable impressions. We've all heard of wingmen and lots of us enlist friends to help us get a guy or girl in the sack by backing up our, er, untruths. Why not use similar strategies at your office do? What works for the bedroom works for the boardroom.

DON'T forget partners, friends and hangers-on

So your boss already hates you? Get chatty with her hubby, PA/secretary or friends instead and see if that'll change her mind about you.

So when you're getting ready for the Xmas do, remember these tips and you'll be climbing the corporate ladder in no time (or failing that, at least you'll have a few new friends). Polish your patter, work that outfit and above all HAVE FUN! Well actually don't- or you'll forget to keep your head in the game.

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