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Avoid holiday pitfalls


Pharmaceutical Representative

Seasonal parties and gift-giving made easy.

'Tis the season to be jolly ... and attend holiday parties and give gifts. But in the business world, a whole different set of rules applies to these seemingly innocuous traditions. The following are some tips to make sure you don't fall into any etiquette traps this holiday season.

The office holiday party

Sure, everyone loves a party. But it's critical to know the proper manners and etiquette during a work- or business-related event. Here are eight important tips to keep in mind:

•Â Even though it's a party, remember that your choice of clothing should be suitable for a normal work setting. Women should avoid tight-fitting clothing and short skirts. Men shouldn't wear jeans with holes in them or keep their shirts unbuttoned more than one or two buttons.

•Â The rules of proper grooming also apply when attending a holiday party at work. Sure, you can "let your hair down" a bit and relax. But now's not the time to experiment with a drastic new hairdo. And men shouldn't arrive with a five o'clock shadow.

• Watch what you drink. No one likes a drunk – and getting intoxicated with coworkers and, possibly, your boss around is not a good idea.

•Â Unless it absolutely can't wait until the next business day, don't talk about work issues during a holiday office party. Remember, this is a time to relax and have fun – not conduct business.

•Â If you are the boss or some type of upper management, the office holiday party is a good time to give holiday gifts to employees, because no work time is being wasted. Just remember: If you want to recognize a specific employee with a special gift, be discreet. The same applies for gifts exchanged between coworkers. This will prevent jealousy issues with workers who may feel short-changed.

•Â If there is dancing, be sure to mix. Don't spend all of your time with one person – it's the best way to avoid office gossip the next day.

• Just because you notice mistletoe hanging, that doesn't give you permission to grab people standing under it and kiss them.

• Have fun, but remember: It's still an office party.

A gift etiquette primer

It sounds like a great idea – giving your best clients or employees holiday gifts to show appreciation for their business or service. But sometimes this innocent gesture can turn into a major embarrassment. Knowing the proper etiquette behind business gift-giving is critical. Here are seven points to remember about business gifts – for clients and within an office:

•Â Ask the company what its policy is towards receiving gifts. Many corporations now have policies in place by which no gifts are accepted; others place restrictions on the gift's cost.

•Â Never give a client an inappropriate gift. Acceptable gifts include office-related products like desk accessories (such as paperweights, book ends, pens or calendars) or plants and gift baskets (such as fruit or cheese). Unacceptable gifts include anything that is too personal (such as clothing) and any very expensive items.

•Â Remember: Gifts can be returned. If you get a gift from a client or vendor that is too expensive or overly personal, send it back within 24 hours with a note explaining that your company has certain gift guidelines, or that the gift is too personal for you to accept.

•Â Stay away from gifts with religious connotations. Not everyone celebrates Christmas – or even Hanukkah.

•Â Just because you receive a gift doesn't mean you must reciprocate. Employees who receive gifts from their bosses are not obligated to return the gesture, unless they have built a special bond or friendship. And, even in these cases, there is no need to match the dollar amount of the original gift.

•Â Unless it's a party situation, avoid giving gifts during work hours. This is distracting and reduces productivity. It can also create jealousy if people receive different gifts that cost varying amounts. Whenever possible, do a "grab bag" or "pollyanna" type gift exchange in a work setting. Special gifts that are intended for select employees should not be given during work hours.

•Â Be gracious when you receive a gift. Even if you don't like the gift, remember to send a thank-you note. PR

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