Etiquette to Make Your Workplace Holiday Parties Festive and Memorable 

a buffet with crystal dishes filled with bite-sized appetizers.

The holiday season is one of those unique times of the year that allows colleagues to meet in an informal setting. Even though the atmosphere is more relaxed than the everyday work setting, keeping some essential etiquette tips in mind is still important. 

I will share holiday etiquette tips that apply to everyone. I will also provide some specific tips for people who are blind or low vision. As an individual who is blind or low vision, we are held to the same etiquette standards as sighted employees.  

These simple tips will ensure that your workplace holiday party is one to remember for all the right reasons. 

  • Upon receiving an invitation, RSVP promptly. Sending a short e-mail to the organizer confirming your attendance or sending your regrets is polite. 
  • Punctuality is important. If your party starts at 7:00 PM, plan to arrive on time. It shows that you value punctuality, not just at work. 
  • Dress for the occasion. Using your employer’s culture and any instructions on the invitation, dress accordingly. You are being evaluated by management staff even though you are not in the official work setting. 
  • Drink responsibly if alcohol is served at the party. Drinking irresponsibly can lead to embarrassing moments that are memorable for all the wrong reasons! 
  • If there are games or other activities, participate and be a good sport. These activities are designed to have a bit of fun. They also often can be viewed as team-building exercises. 
  • Follow up after the party. If you meet new employees or superiors, contact them later to express your interest in connecting in the new year. You never know what professional opportunities could come from this chance meeting.   
  • Respect the end time of the party. If the party is an open house, stay for a short period, however long you feel is best and then politely take your leave.   

Additional thoughts on interactions 

  • Mingle and network. Spend time getting to know others who work for your company. You never know; that new connection you meet at the party could be just the ticket to a new opportunity in the new year. 
  • Avoid sensitive topics. Parties are not the time to discuss politics, religion, or any other topic that others may consider taboo. Keep the conversation light and positive. This is the opportunity to enjoy time off the clock and have fun. Keep the topics enjoyable to all. 
  • As you socialize with others, avoid engaging in cliquish behavior. Include everyone at the party so that no one feels left out. If you notice someone struggling to fit in, make a special effort to include that person in your conversation or group.   
  • Respect personal space and boundaries. Not everyone enjoys being touched or hugged. With the way society is now, touching others without their consent could cause more embarrassment and issues. A polite handshake is the best action as you first interact with someone. Extend your hand first so you don’t struggle to locate the other person’s hand. 
  • Keep your phone or other device usage to a minimum. This is the time to socialize with colleagues. Stay engaged during the party because you never know what career-related opportunities might await as you mingle with the guests.   

Now that we have covered some general etiquette tips, let’s shift the discussion to specifics of navigating a work holiday party as someone who is blind or low vision.  

Gather information ahead of time. 

  • After sending your RSVP, you may wish to inquire about specific information about the location such as a room, activities planned, and if there is a buffet. 
  • Consult with the party organizer beforehand to find out about the activities and whether they are accessible to you. You can work with the organizer to make suggestions on how to make games accessible to your needs as a person who is blind or low vision. 

Ask questions when you arrive. 

  • Ask about the location of the restrooms, coat check, bar, and buffet. Enlisting the assistance of a colleague or staff at the venue is a good idea. 

Come up with a transportation plan. 

  • If you’re catching a ride with a colleague, offer to pay for gas. 
  • When riding with others, think about when you want to leave. Be mindful of the needs of the person who gave you a ride. Maybe you go with one colleague but leave with another since they live near you. 

Consider how to increase accessibility. 

  • Plan for how you will go through a buffet line. Can you hold your plate and follow verbal directions in a loud environment? Can you hold your guide dog on your right side, keeping him away from the buffet and managing your plate? Another possibility is to walk through the line with a colleague you feel comfortable with and have the colleague carry your plate of food. You’re not there to prove to anyone anything. How you navigate is up to you. 
  • If there is a white elephant gift exchange, request verbal descriptions of gifts, allowing you to be part of the exchange. You also may want to sit near a colleague who can provide feedback on people’s reactions. 

Remember that work holiday parties are still work-related events. It is important to maintain your professionalism so that superiors see you as a professional, whether at the office or in a social setting.