Holiday Etiquette

I’ve been in my current job for only a couple of months. As the holidays approach, I find myself worrying about what’s appropriate when it comes to gift giving and office celebrations, especially since I’m new to the firm. Do you have any suggestions for navigating the pitfalls at this time of year?

Although the end-of-year holidays are supposed to be a festive period, the financial and social obligations that often accompany this time of year can add to stress at the office. This is especially true when you’re new to the professional scene.

Try to put your anxiety aside. These tips can help you sail through the holidays with your reputation and composure intact:

Do participate in gift giving.

If your office does a gift exchange, “Secret Santa” or contributes to an outside organization, try to participate. Otherwise, you might be viewed as the office Scrooge. Gifts are often limited to a small amount, so it shouldn’t be too much of a financial burden. These activities also build camaraderie with colleagues and send a message that you’re team oriented. But other than possibly participating in a gift exchange, don’t feel obligated to give colleagues or your boss a gift, or at least nothing of significant value. If you really want to do something festive, consider bringing in your favorite holiday dessert to share with coworkers.

DoAttend the Office Party

Attendance at office-sponsored social events isn’t usually mandatory, but it’s often expected. Showing up is not only a polite way of expressing appreciation to your employer for hosting a party, but it also sends a message that you value your professional relationships. Office parties also offer an opportunity to get to know colleagues on a more personal level, which can make your work life more pleasant and productive year round.

Don’t Overdo It

Even if it’s a smart move to attend the holiday party, recognize that these gatherings also present the potential for career-damaging pitfalls. Moderation is key when it comes to drink, dress and conversation. If alcohol is served, consume with caution. You don’t want to be remembered as the “life of the party” for all the wrong reasons.

Do Keep Conversation Neutral

Recognize that your new colleagues may not all celebrate the same holidays or in the same ways. It’s best to keep discussion of holiday plans general and language neutral — or, at least, let others describe their traditions, rather than making assumptions.

Don’tBecome an Elf on Company Time

Make sure you know and follow your employer’s rules for online shopping. Even if your company has a liberal policy, don’t use that as an excuse to spend the day surfing for deals. Do your browsing away from the office and limit any shopping activity to quick transactions, preferably during your lunchtime.

Don’t Ease up on Work

Just because you may have a longer “to-do” list this time of year and added social obligations, don’t use the season as an excuse to become a slacker. You don’t want to end the year on a sour note with your boss or colleagues, and in the legal world, deadlines rarely take a holiday.

Although it may sometimes seem that in the workplace the holiday season is less about having fun than it is about avoiding pitfalls, this doesn’t have to be the case. As long as you err on the side of common sense, courtesy and professionalism, the social aspects of the season shouldn’t cause you undue stress or worry.