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Work Party Etiquette and Employee Reprimands in the Open Office

by Mary Isner / December 12, 2019

At this time of year, I find that people are either super polite or their manners go completely out the window. There is no in-between. Speaking of manners, it’s time for some more friendly reminders from Miss Open Office Manners. In this installment, I discuss work holiday party etiquette and managers who reprimand employees in the open office in front of others.

A Seasonally Appropriate Question

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: My question applies to all kinds of offices, not just open ones. I have my work holiday party coming up for a job that I started a few months ago. What are some general rules of etiquette that I should keep in mind? I don’t want to offend any of my new coworkers or be “that girl!”

-- Tis the Season

Dear Tis the Season: Great question! Here are some work party etiquette pointers that should help:

  • Consider being a teetotaler. Or, if you choose to drink, practice moderation. You do not want to have the “Did I really say that to my boss?!” feeling the next day.
  • Dress appropriately. While it is a more festive atmosphere, it is still a work function and you should dress professionally. You can add some fun holiday touches, but your outfit should still be appropriate for a work function.
  • Show up on time. Even if you prefer to show up “fashionably late” for social events, this is a work function and you should be punctual.
  • Don’t pig out! If a buffet is served, don’t overfill your plate, and for goodness sake, don’t eat all the shrimp cocktail!
  • Keep the conversation light. Be friendly and avoid shop talk. No one wants to be seated next to a wet blanket!
  • Don’t forget to say thank you. On your way out, thank the host or hostess as well as anyone who covered the bill.

I hope that helps. Have fun, but not too much fun!

An Uncomfortable Situation in the Open Office

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: There is one manager in my office who makes being in an open office so uncomfortable. He reprimands employees right out in the open area. Not only is this embarrassing to the employee that is being reprimanded, but it’s awkward and uncomfortable for anyone within earshot. I don’t know what he is thinking. What can I do to make him stop?

-- Trying to Save My Open Office from Another Cringe-Worthy Moment

Dear Trying: Wow! That sure does sound awkward. There are social norms and common courtesies that apply in any situation, and every employee deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I think the best approach is to be direct with him. I would say something like, “You may not realize this, but a lot of people overheard your conversation with Bob. It was a little uncomfortable due to the nature of the conversation. Next time, would you mind using one of the private meeting rooms for discussions like this?” If he does not abide by your request, I would speak to someone in the HR department and let them handle it. Openly discussing employee performance violates confidentiality and must be addressed. You are right to speak up, but take it one step at a time. Best of luck to you!

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and polite open office work environment! Never forget to mind your manners, and you better be good, for goodness sake!

Tags: Open Office Design

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Mary Isner

Mary Isner

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.