By Julie Beach | Company sponsored holiday parties sometimes spark unique anxiety for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Follow these great tips to turn this nerve-wracking requirement into a great opportunity:
Company-sponsored parties are business activities, not personal social events. Whether or not you’re out at work, focus on the opportunity to make good impressions and deepen your professional relationships. Take the opportunity to network with people outside of your immediate work group. Introduce yourself to everyone in the room and make a good impression.
Remember, diversity is good for business.
Companies have an increasing appreciation for employee diversity and want to accommodate. A great example of this is the choice many companies have made to host holiday parties instead of Christmas parties in recognition of diverse employee end-of-the-year practices and beliefs.
Choose your guest well.
Whether to bring a guest is a personal decision that straight employees have to also consider wisely. Your guest of choice will influence your professional image, so take a guest who is at-ease in social situations and knows how to make light social conversation in a businesslike setting.
Prepare your introductions!
If you’re comfortably “out” at work and choose to bring your partner, put people at ease by being confident and warm as you introduce your partner. Introduce your guest openly, saying, “This is my partner Catherine” or “I’d like you to meet my guest Mark.” Don’t feel obliged to explain more – just continue with light conversation as you normally would. Expect your coworkers, regardless of rank in the company, to treat you with the same respect that you treat them.
What if you’re not out at work?
Some employees will attend the company party solo, even if they are married or partnered. If you prefer not to be “out,” attending solo is a viable option and it’s very unlikely you will be the only one there without a guest. Your other option is to take a friend with you, but be clear with other guests that the person accompanying you is just a friend.
Whatever you do, don’t skip the party!
Don’t even think about missing the party, even if you aren’t out at work. You can easily maintain your privacy by going solo. The most important thing is that you take full advantage of this important networking opportunity.
The decision to be “out” at the party is a very personal one, but with a bit of forethought, you can make the best choice for your career. Read about the benefits of being out of the closet at work here, or listen to the Out & Equal LGBT CareerLink seminar, Outsiders On the Inside: How to have a successful career as an Out GLBT employee.