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Five etiquette tips for professional after-hours events

Enjoy after-hours events, but keep manners top of mind


We all know what a great state Colorado is to do business. After all, according to Choose Colorado, we rank in the top five for best state economies; we are the third ranked state for doing business in; and 69 percent of our executives feel happy and productive about Colorado as a business destination. 

While our collective professional lives are thriving, one of the most important aspects of conducting successful business is what happens outside of the office at those after-hours events.

Decorum is key.

Though these events are often a wonderful way to connect with coworkers and interact with power-players, they can also be monumentally disastrous without modern manners. Don’t become too comfortable because you cross the boundaries of professionalism.

Here are a few ways to enjoy after-hours professional events while keeping manners and proper etiquette top of mind:

  1. Remember why you are there

When attending a work event, have a goal in mind. If you are gunning to climb the ladder, visit with leadership and the heads of the department for a few minutes. Sometimes you want to just talk to a specific superior, make new friends or expand your network into other departments. This is a professional gathering and a chance to put your best foot forward. It is a nice perk to have a drink and some good food, but always remember your professional goals.

  1. Pay attention to your office culture

Keeping your nose to the grindstone can really pay off, but don’t forget to relax. Your company’s culture determines the attitudes and dynamics at play in your office. Peter Drucker’s said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”

The culture can range from overly-professional to extremely casual. Geography, tenure, written and unwritten policies can determine what is deemed appropriate in your workplace. Factors such as alcohol can play a role in the social culture in and out of the office, too. Ask around to colleagues you trust to find out the real scoop on office dynamics.

  1. Have authentic conversations

Work is always the go-to topic when surrounded by colleagues. However, a work-related event is not the time to continue business or discuss office gossip. Keep conversations balanced between professional and personal with classy, informative and interesting conversations. Asking questions about sports, movies, books, vacation, travel and pets are good topics that focus the conversation on others. Stay away from topics that are political, religious, financially focused or controversial in nature.

This is a good time to reach out from your usual water cooler group and speak with people in other departments. By connecting with multiple colleagues from all areas of your organization, you create possible mentors, references, and contacts that can help your career down the line.

  1. Relax + be professional

Remember to relax, keep professionalism in mind and be yourself. This is not your personal happy hour. Men and women alike, take note that a work party is an extension of the professional work day and is still a business setting. Dress sharply, and clean cut in an outfit that helps you feel confident in yourself.

Research shows that whether we want to or not, our brain makes split decisions about others based on their appearance. Dress in a way that does not send red flags to your colleagues. While you engage in conversation, have a drink, channel your sophisticated self, but ultimately take this opportunity to relax.

  1. NEVER drink and drive

Casual work parties are designed to be fun and enjoyable. Make sure to always uphold professionalism and your authentic self. Be aware of what you are drinking and know your limits. In some office cultures, you can really let your hair down and you may have a few more than anticipated. No matter how much fun you do or don’t have, there is one golden rule: NEVER drink and drive. A safe ride is always one click or call away.

Modern manners are necessary when navigating the waters of work events, but follow this advice and it will be a breeze. You spend a good chunk of your days and life at work, so make sure and enjoy it, too.  Don’t be afraid to have a little fun at your casual work events, but know your limits, and always maintain professionalism. 

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Sharon Schweitzer

Sharon Schweitzer, an international modern manners and business etiquette expert is founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide.

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