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Tips for Holiday Parties Continued: Office Etiquette, Hot Tickets and What Not to Do

Santa's not done with you yet, Hill staffers. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Santa's not done with you yet, Hill staffers. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s a myth on Capitol Hill that there is no such thing as too many holiday parties. Hill Navigator is here to debunk it. There may be a time when holiday party fatigue sets in (says someone writing a third
column on the topic ). But we hope it hasn’t hit yet for the energetic staffer in you. We’re back with more holiday party guidance , including some off-limit actions at the office events and how to snag a coveted invite to a hot ticket party.  

Be Smart About Your Office Party Most offices have their own private events, ranging from the informal potluck and white elephant gift exchange in the back office, to formal affairs, such as dinners or drinks off campus.  

But conduct at office parties, even those off the Capitol Hill premises, is still governed by the Congressional Accountability Act (and congressional ethics regulations ). Our friends at the Office of Compliance recommend assigning a non-drinking supervisor to watch for intoxicated employees or employees exhibiting forceful behavior. In an email to CQ Roll Call, Scott Mulligan, deputy director at the Office of Compliance, outlined common problem areas.

“Employers should keep an eye out for these problem areas: Employees exchanging sexually suggestive or romantic gifts, pressuring staff to kiss under mistletoe, pressuring employees to play games that have a physical contact component like ‘Twister’, and excessive teasing or comments about attire or physical attributes.”

Who plays Twister at an office holiday party? That’s a terrible idea, on many, many levels. But left unchecked, such situations have the potential to create a hostile work environment for employees, especially when alcohol is involved. So be smart, staffers, don’t let your antics wind up in Heard on the Hill, or worse, in front of the Office of Compliance. 
Invite Only? How to Get on the List Every year, there are several hot-ticket events, invite only, with people checking names at the door (tough times for party crashers ). And every year, there are people begging to get in. So how do you go about scoring such a spot?  

Hot-ticket party planners who spoke to Hill Navigator on the condition of anonymity (lest offending potential guests) said people begin vying for invites weeks ahead of time, though many cited instances where wannabe guests were confrontational and ineffective. “I was leaving a restaurant when someone shouted my name, and the guy trapped me in the vestibule to ask about the party. It was so ‘in your face,’” said one party planner. Alas, the ambitious restaurant stalker did not get an invite.  

Another party planner of a hot-ticket event said that one year, a Senate staffer used a fancy printer and laminator to make copies of the invite then “tried to sell them to other folks until he was ratted out.” Needless to say, that staffer was not invited back.  

Another wannabe guest sent an email to the host, asking when the party would be, before any invitations had gone out. “I almost wrote back and said, ‘Seriously?’” the party planner said. “You can’t be presumptive like that or you won’t get an invite.”  

So what can staffers do? “Go through a mutual friend. If someone tells me, ‘I really like so-and-so, they’d be a great addition and a lot of fun,’ then I’m inclined to invite them.”  

Another host said asking politely helps. “If we have space we will do our best to accommodate. But also understand that if we can’t accommodate, don’t try to find other means to get in. Our staff communicates well — we will know you’re trying to finagle your way in.”  

And that concludes our holiday party coverage for 2014. Have a safe holiday season and new year.  


The Hill Staffer Guide to Holiday Party Invites

Know Before You Go: An Ethics Overview for Holiday Parties

Hill, K Street: Grab a Drink, Get Your Party On

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