It's 8:55 a.m., your bag is still on your shoulder and you enter the office lunchroom to get your first cup of coffee.
Boss walks in and says: "Mark your calendar: Tuesday, June 30, my house, 4 p.m., barbecue. We'll shut down the office at noon, so everyone can go home and change. And do not forget your swimsuit. My pool is open. I'll send an email with my address and details. Have a good day." Off he goes.
Questions abound in your head. Hmm, should I go or not? What about your spouse who's a vegetarian? The children, are they invited? Swimsuit? Not sure you want to. What about a host gift, what to bring?
Being the newest addition to the team, you haven't been to the boss's house yet, but you've heard about the traditional Canada Day kick off. Flags, barbecue, fireworks, fun and yes a few embarrassing moments. It's all there in this annual party.
Avoid the "back in the office" rumours with these five guidelines.
1. Respect the invitation
If the name of your spouse and those of your children are not on the invitation, they are not invited. If they are, the choice is yours to bring them, or not.
Once you've validated your availability and whom will accompany you, RSVP as soon as possible. Don't wait until the last minute or for a better invitation.
Unless there is an emergency or an important family event, your absence will not go unnoticed and could indicate a lack of loyalty.
It's only once a year, go.
If you have a scheduling conflict, inform your host before and if possible, make an appearance.
You or your spouse are vegetarian? For an invitation with relatives or close friends, mention your food preference and simultaneously offer to contribute one of your favourite dishes, when you accept the invitation.
For a professional invitation like this one, avoid embarrassing the host who may not have planned a meat-free option. Don't mention it. It is better to eat before, serve yourself "a little extra salad" and eat a bowl of cereal when you get back home.
Until you know if you are part of a small exclusive group of guests or if the whole office is invited, be discreet.
2. Bring all your stuff
As the boss said, swimming is an option. The swimsuit decision may be a difficult one. I know it always is for me. Respect yourself.
If you decide to swim, choose a conservative suit. Also stay conservative in your casual wear. What you wear cannot be deleted from people's memory when they get back to the office.
Don't forget to bring your towel, sunscreen, as well mosquito repellent and maybe a sweater for the evening. While your host probably has everything that you will need, it is best not to borrow anything.
If it's a BYOB party, also bring a mini-cooler and ice, so as not to fill up your host's refrigerator.
For alcohol consumption, respect your professional limit. I know that you know, but a little reminder doesn't hurt.
Before the start of the festivities, decide who will be the designated driver, make arrangements with Uber or your favourite taxi company. Your security, and ours, depends on it.
3. Arrive and leave at the agreed upon, or reasonable, times
Be on time. "Fashionably late" only exists in Hollywood, when you are the star.
Make sure to validate the directions and have a telephone number, just in case.
If the invitation does not indicate an end time to the party, leave about an hour after the dessert is served. In this case, leave after the fireworks.
4. Participate and put the tech aside
Don't stay in your bubble. This is an opportunity to better know your colleagues and meet their families, if they are present.
Don't take pictures without everyone's permission. Don't post anything on social media, without the consent of others.
If everyone wants a group photo, take it at the beginning. Ideally, no glasses are in hand, unless you work for a beer or wine company.
Make sure to introduce those that accompany you. Take the time to say hello to everyone. Need to refresh your memory of how to introduce yourself and others? Reread this post.
Ask your host if he or she needs help, but don't insist.
5. Thank gracefully
For an at home invitation, a host gift is required.
Avoid bringing the traditional bottle of wine. Here are some suggestions:
- barbecue accessories,
- a pot of annual flowers,
- a set of condiments,
- jars of homemade dried herbs or fruits from your garden, or
- a pitcher and glasses set for the matched patio.
If your boss has children, offer a family game, a puzzle or pool toys.
Offer your gift as soon as you arrive. Make sure to add a personalized note.
When leaving, thank your host and those who participated in organizing the barbecue. A thank you email the next day will also be very appreciated. Here is a template to write a thank you note in five steps.
Psst one last thing, remember, unlike what happens in Vegas, what happens at the boss's party, does not stay at the boss's party.
You have a sticky situation at work or at home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help gone will be awkwardness, embarrassment and faux-pas.
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