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Party-time etiquette for the most common office celebrations

Robert Half | October 16, 2015

Party time etiquette

It's important to understand the rules of business etiquette for these gatherings. Here's what you need to know.

Some people love office celebrations: getting together with their colleagues, toasting the guest of honor, eating cake, getting a break from the daily grind. Others resent having to take time out of their day to engage in endless chitchat and eat too-sugary treats.

No matter where you stand on office celebrations, it's important to understand the rules of business etiquette for these gatherings. Here's what you need to know:

Do you have to attend?
Unless the party is mandatory for all employees, you don't have to go. However, for the sake of collegiality, don't skip all office celebrations. Pick and choose your absences wisely.

For example, is Marianne in legal celebrating her 20th work anniversary? That's a big deal, so put your paperwork aside and join your teammates in honoring her milestone. The same goes for events marking a successful project launch: Show up and applaud the accomplishment.

On the other hand, if you're slammed with a major project when the office is celebrating monthly birthdays, you have good reason to decline attending. However, even if you don't have time for cake and socializing, try to take a few moments to sing "Happy Birthday" along with the rest of your colleagues. (You would want them to do the same for you, no?)

Are there any benefits to attending office celebrations?
Absolutely. For starters, it demonstrates to employers and co-workers that you take pride in being a member of the team. Showing up to company office parties can also mean you're in the same room as upper management, so take advantage of these networking opportunities to introduce yourself and get to know them better.

If you work at a larger organization or are a remote employee, going to office celebrations puts you in contact with people you interact with regularly via email and phone but may not see often in person. This additional face time can do wonders for work relationships, collaboration, interpersonal communication and even career advancement.

Are there downsides to skipping office celebrations?
Yes. By bailing on every office fête, you're sending a message to colleagues and bosses that you're just going through the motions and are not a true team player. If you're an introvert and find office celebrations exhausting, gather up your resolve, tell yourself you're doing this for your career, and show up for major events, at the very least.

How should you time your departure?
Determining the best time to say au revoir can be a delicate balancing act. Consider the reason for the party. If it's a co-worker's birthday, the soonest you should leave is after the cake is cut. If you're attending a retirement party, however, it's proper celebration etiquette to stay longer — at least until after the toasts and speeches.

Do you need to join the planning crew for office celebrations?
Only if your office rotates planning duties. Otherwise, it's up to you. Keep in mind that there are always benefits to being part of the committee, though. For one, you get a say on the theme, timing and menu of the party. Additionally, it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills to colleagues and higher-ups. Orchestrating events calls for time management, communication, teamwork and leadership, after all.

Even if you don't partake in the planning stages of office celebrations, you can still offer to help set up or clean up after an event. If you simply don't have time to pitch in, make a point to send a thank-you email or card to everyone involved in coordinating the festivities.

That is work party etiquette, in a nutshell. So, get out there and have fun. And remember what office celebrations can offer in the big picture: great opportunities for networking, building and strengthening work relationships, and showing your team spirit.

Robert Half is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit For additional career advice, read our blog at or follow us on social media at