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Tis the Season…to Be Merry, Carefully

To gain or give respect is the role and goal of etiquette and manners for today’s world. Respect is honoring the position of another. Therefore, as fellow etiquette consultant Gloria Peterson of Global Protocol says, “if I say Merry Christmas and you respond with your preferred season’s greeting (e.g. Happy Hanukkah), we are good!” It is a wonderful way to share our holiday preference and at the same time honor the season.

As we enter the holiday season, here are a few additional tips on commonly asked questions and observed mistakes in the business social setting:

Kindly respond. Don’t miss responding to a requested RSVP. Your host is planning food, venue space and seating.

Dress for success. Yes, dress for success… even at an office holiday party that is held out of the office and after hours. You can easily dress up the mood of your look with a change of accessories: earrings, necklace, dressy clutch bag, or glitzy shoes for women and a festive tie, shirt or dinner jacket for men. Complete your look with well-groomed/styled hair and finished make-up.

Don’t fail. Arrive on time and dress appropriately for the venue.

Introductions. Limit awkward moments by remembering to introduce your significant other to the host and other guests when attending social events.

Gifts. Gift giving is not outdated and is an easy way to say “you/your business is important to me.” These gifts may run from standard holiday gifts that you’d send to customers to more individualized gifts. Know your office policies and use them as a guideline.

Business is business. The number one mistake is forgetting that you’re there for business! While it’s okay to relax and have fun, it’s easy to get too relaxed. Knowing the company culture and your own personal values and career goals will help you find the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate.

Cordial dining. The dining experience should allow you to connect and spend time with your colleagues and business associates. To do this you need to be able to focus on the people seated with you.

To drink or not to drink (alcohol, that is). If you’ve been in the work world for any length of time you’ve probably encountered the individual who chooses to drink to excess. Not recommended, even if your employer or boss is leading the way. Know your limits. No one is immune to the hazards of socializing while under the influence of too much alcohol.

Note of thanks. Send a hand-written thank you note within the first 48 hours but know that a tardy thank you note is better than no thank you note at all.

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas still dominates modern vernacular, despite a push over the past decade to move to a more universal “Happy Holidays.” Do your homework, know your audience and let it guide you to a respectful conclusion.


Kelly Duggan is an Image Consultant specializing in executive and personal image development, etiquette & communication skills. She is a certified member of the Association of Image Consultants International. Contact Kelly at: www.kellyduggan.com.

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