Women24 magazine interviewed Zinhle Matentji, MD and Founder of SearchSpecifics TRANSEARCH Africa for their November issue. These tips should help you not become the office party pooper.

It’s that time of the year, when your inbox starts overflowing with invites to office parties and Christmas lunches. For the prepared, these can be a rich opportunity to network, strengthen your relationships with colleagues and enjoy their company in an environment away from the daily grind- but there are some rules to be observed.

Stay away from the booze:

The first and most important is: stay away from the drinks table. Of course it’s tempting to grab a glass of wine, especially if you’re feeling in need of a boost before introducing yourself to unfamiliar workmates. But there is nothing more unbecoming than being visibly the worse for wear- and it will do your professionalism no favours.

Don’t stuff your face:

It’s also best to avoid overindulging when it comes to food. Unless it’s a sit down affair, you’ll be doing the standing/ talking/ eating juggle, which can be difficult to pull off with elegance. Solve the problem by filling up at home, so you won’t feel the need to hit the canapés.

Be friendly:

One of the problems with office parties is that you don’t always know everyone there, and it’s easy to feel at a loose end in front of so many strangers. Remember that everyone else is probably feeling the same way, so don’t hesitate to join a group. Before you do though, introduce yourself by explaining your role within the company. Saying something like “Hi, I’m S’bu and I joined the HR department in February” will give context and a frame of reference for the others to address you.

Think before you speak:

Nervousness makes some people shy, while it makes others feel like they have to keep the conversation running. If you fall into the second category, be conscious of how you feel. Take a breath and wait a second before speaking, so that you don’t babble or dominate a conversation. And remember that the best way to win over people is to show that you are interested in them, and asking questions.

Don’t gossip:

An important point: although you might think the easiest way to start a conversation is to talk about a colleague that you all know (and have strong opinions about), gossip should always be taboo.

Say thanks:

Before you go, be sure to thank the host. Remember that this is their special way of showing you, and the rest of the staff, that your hard work is appreciated.

 

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