By Brianna Nelson | For any employee, a little anxiety around the season of Office Holiday Parties is not unusual. However, for the LGBT community there are some unique concerns to which we continuously return.
Remember, this is business…
As the order implies, your office holiday party calls more for “office” conduct than “party” conduct. That also means it is not necessarily optional. Though your presence may not be mandatory, skipping the office party is equivalent to skipping the quarterly review. Missing either is bad for your career.
… and diversity is good for business.
Companies have an increasing appreciation for employee diversity and want to accommodate talent in all its forms. 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. However, before being out at the office or the holiday party, know your company and state policies regarding LGBT workplace equality, and don’t forget the business case for diversity in all forms.
Make positive introductory impressions.
Regardless of orientation, every employee should carefully consider who to bring to the office party as a guest. The impression that your guest leaves, with co-workers and supervisors, will ultimately reflect upon your own character. It is not a bad idea to go over this with your guest; let them know what to expect. While you’re at it, make the decision about how to introduce your guest with your guest’s input, and consider rehearsing that introduction if you are particularly nervous. When it comes time for your partner/spouse/significant other/friend to meet your boss, you’ll be glad to have selected your choice of words ahead of time. If you are comfortable and at ease with others, others are more likely to be comfortable and at ease with you.
The setting of the office holiday party encourages mingling. Do introduce yourself to everyone from the management to the interns, the IT department to the HR department; you never know who may have the drive, skills, or confidence to help you with a new project. Don’t let the semantics of introducing your guest prevent connections.
Allies, know that your reactions to and ease with introductions of LGBT partners or significant others also dramatically influence the office holiday party atmosphere. Your example shows others how to act with welcome and respect.
Make conversation your networking platform.
If you wouldn’t say it at the office, you shouldn’t say it at the party. That is not to say you should only discuss business concerns. Feel free to congratulate your co-worker on a promotion or express your company pride for a recent Outie! Award win, but let business decisions be made during working hours and avoid gossip. Instead, use the party to show that you are as collected and engaging with your people skills in a social setting as you are in the weekly department meeting.
Mixing work with a little leisure gives you a chance to connect with co-workers on different levels. You’re likely to have more in common with colleagues than the Outlook calendar would lead you to believe. Cory around the cubicle corner may know about some great volunteer opportunities. Nickie’s passion for knitting may rival your own. Who knows, you may end up with a top exec for a new tennis partner.
What happens at the office party will not stay at the office party.
Employers and employees like to see evidence of the people who make up the company being… people. Often photography and video are the best and easiest way to show the world outside the office walls that those the company employs are not mere professionals but well-rounded, happy, lively professionals. This means the camera is likely to catch you once or twice, and what the camera catches will inevitably end up on the internet.
Sometimes an individual is out in one facet of life but not in another. If you don’t want something on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or forbid, the company home page, think twice before you pose. And if it concerns you, don’t be afraid to decline from having your photo widely distributed.
All that said, what you do makes a difference.
Your decision to be Out & Equal at the office holiday party shows others that it is not only okay but also beneficial to bring your authentic self to work and work events. You may be pleasantly surprised to see more LGBT employees bringing a guest to the next office party. Enjoy being yourself!