Holiday Career Advice from Mark Ford (Or 15 Rules of the Holiday Office Party)

There are three social environments when it comes to your career. At one end, is the formal atmosphere of your professional business life. Here, all eyes are on you … and to succeed, you must conduct yourself with the utmost energy, enthusiasm, and decorum. At the other end (if you are lucky), is a personal life that is free from business relationships. Here, you do exactly as you please. In the middle, are the social events that surround business functions — the dinners and dances and cocktail parities that often follow conferences, trade shows, and seminars.

It is this middle ground that is difficult for some people (like me). It’s easy to convince yourself that anything goes in such situations – but it doesn’t. Like it or not, you will be judged by your behavior at these events, and although your actions will be given much greater tolerance than they would in your daytime business life, you will not be excused from everything.

Here is a partial list of things I have done and/or observed that are probably inadvisable at such functions:

  1. Passing out from drink
  2. Telling your colleagues what you really think of them
  3. Commenting (positively or negatively) on your colleagues’ body parts
  4. Any form of “dirty” dancing
  5. Forcing people to play volleyball/water polo or do that YMCA thing
  6. Telling your boss’s wife what a prick he is
  7. Telling your boss’s husband how hot all the guys think she is
  8. Confessing your love to anyone except your spouse
  9. Dancing on, standing on, or toppling over furniture
  10. Yodeling, Tarzan calls, or hyena laughing
  11. Disrobing, even if it’s “so fucking hot”
  12. Leading a conga line
  13.  Showing your supervisor your tattoos
  14. Taking the “after-party” to a karaoke bar
  15. Doing anything that in any way resembles John Belushi’s behavior in Animal House

Jason Gay, at the Wall Street Journal, has compiled his own list of rules which you can read here.


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Getting A Perspective

Strategy for Taking a Sensible Approach to a Disturbing Situation:

You get upset about something. It is all-consuming. But you know, deep down, it’s not that important. Perhaps this will help. While you are counting to ten, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much is this bothering me?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important will this seem to me in five years?

Example: My issue with a certain client who is not listening to my advice.

  • How much does it bother me now? 8
  • How much will it bother me in 5 years? 0

Asking these two questions reminds me that this is a temporary problem, one I can easily fix by allowing the client to improve or by dismissing him. With that in mind, I can relax.

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