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"With social media," Fox warns, "people will talk and document if you misbehave. If you're not careful, you may wind up having to tune up your resume."
With that in mind, here are Fox's do's and don'ts for surviving holiday parties—with your reputation intact.
DO keep the conversation light and bright. This isn't the time to solve people's problems or debate religion or politics. "Controversial subjects are best avoided at holiday time," says Fox, "if they are going to lead to arguments. Remember your sense of humour is your best asset when the going gets tough."
DON'T try to control others' actions.
"If a member of your family has a reputation for being annoying or obnoxious, don't jump in the swamp with the alligators," says Fox. "Perpetuating rudeness or bad behavior by being rude back solves nothing." Ditto for dealing with obnoxious coworkers.
DO treat bosses the same way you would at work. "Don't suddenly resort to first names if this is not the norm," says Fox.
DON'T engage in any gossip.
"Instead," says Fox, "use an office holiday party to network with people in your company and showcase your best attributes." The good impression you'll make is important at a time when many companies are downsizing.
DO dress conservatively.
"Think of an office party as an upscale job interview," suggests Fox. If in doubt about the dress code, ask the person who is organizing the party.
DON'T overdo it—at the buffet or the bar. "It's best to stick to two drinks at any business event," says Fox. "Attempting to do otherwise may impair your judgment in front of your boss and colleagues." No one wants to be that employee who overdid the cocktails and wound up telling off-colour jokes or kissing a coworker under the mistletoe.
DO start and end well.
If you're a guest at someone's home, bring a hostess gift—flowers, wine, or something that reflects your hostess's interests (gardening gloves for a gardener, for example) are all appropriate. Aim to leave about an hour after dinner, or if there's an end time given on an invitation, within 15 minutes of a gathering's end. For family or friends' parties, follow up with a hand-written thank-you note within a week. It's the kind of personal touch, says Fox, that will always make you welcome guest.
For more helpful tips, check out how you can be a great dinner party guest.