Holiday Office Etiquette: 3 Survival Tips

Can you blow off the dreaded office party? Avoid giving an irascible colleague a gift? Don't do anything until you read this.

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Problem #1: The Gift Trap

You're unsure what to give. How can you be "present perfect" every time, for your colleagues, boss and clients?

Consider buying something for your colleagues that improves office life - like mugs for the kitchen. Or, suggest that everyone chip in for an espresso machine. A personalized item - a frame in each person's favorite color or cookies with a note - makes a memorable impression. Thank the perpetually unrecognized (interns, building managers) with a $10 gift card, says Robyn Freedman Spizman, author of The Giftionary.

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Organize a group gift for your boss - it makes everyone look good. Or, keep your own gift personal: Fill a jar with her favorite candy or treats for her dog. "Something expensive will only make your boss uncomfortable," says gift expert Sherri Athay, founder of

Avoid sending clients anything with a logo - it smacks of self-promotion. Deliver your gift a month early, so it won't get lost in the pile of packages from other associates. If you're in a position to receive gifts, be cautious. Check your company's policy - you may be prohibited from accepting gifts of more than a certain value.Problem #2: The Office Party

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You feel awkward relaxing around colleagues. How to survive the bash?

Show up. Just being there is 80 percent of success, says Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work.

Eat, drink and mingle - it shows you're a team player. Hold your glass in your left hand and stick to neat foods so you're always ready to shake hands. Abstain from more than two drinks to ensure good behavior. Talk to as many people as you can, especially if you don't know them. But avoid work questions - you're at a party!

Dance. If the company spent money on a band or DJ, your boss is hoping people will get down. Try to wait for the host to begin dancing - and to set the appropriate style - just as you'd wait for her to begin a meal, says Cindy Grosso, founder of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette.

Stay at least 30 minutes to an hour and make sure people see you. "When you do leave, don't just slip out; say good-bye to the hosts and thank them graciously," Grosso says.Problem #3: The Bonus

Some coworkers received an envelope. Did you get one, too?

If you got one, be discreet. "Money is a very sensitive issue - if you talk about your bonus, you might jeopardize your chances of getting one in the future," Whitmore says. If a coworker won't stop drilling you, just say you're uncomfortable discussing money. Or, try humor: "I did get one, but it's certainly not enough to brag about."

If you were overlooked, avoid the subject with colleagues - it's both rude and futile to bring it up. "If you didn't get a bonus, discussing it with your coworkers won't help you. Discussing it with your boss might," says Whitmore. Approach your supervisor and say you're not sure whether others got bonuses, but you feel you deserve one. Be prepared to back up the assertion. "The answer is always 'no' if you don't ask," says Whitmore. But do it with grace and humor - it's not in the holiday spirit to put someone on the spot.

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