Social Life By Debrett’s

Work life doesn’t end at the office door. From business trips and away days to socialising with colleagues and the office party, it is important to remain professional both in and out of the workplace. Be smart and social, but know when to draw the line.


Attempts to mix business with pleasure are always rather strained. The pressure is on to be a social sensation and you must be on your guard to ensure professional success…

Make sure you participate in after-work drinks and socials. Keep a track of who’s bought what, and know when it’s you round.

It’s tactical to socialise. Although it can be more fun to mix with the underlings, your boss should neither be besieged nor ignored.

Be confident and friendly. Be armed with a few social icebreakers (extra-curricular activities, families, relationships).

Just because you’re off campus doesn’t mean that you’re out with friends: colleagues and bosses are still just that even in the pub at closing time.

Familiarity comes with time, so be aware of unspoken barriers. Avoid strong opinion or stark honesty; occasional frisson is interesting, but controversial views may offend.

Ask questions but don’t interview – there is a fine line between interest and intrusion.

Never talk about money, illness or death. Bluffers and serial liars always get their comeuppance; name-droppers and braggers bore everyone.

Alcohol might be a key ingredient but apply the usual rules of caution: eat well, spike drinks with water, know your limits.

Office Parties

Behind the gloss of festive celebrations and the camaraderie of leaving do’s is the reality that you are socialising with colleagues under the watchful eye of those higher up the food chain.

Be smart and social, but know when to draw the line. Circulate and socialise, but keep it upbeat and general. Ask about families, children and holidays. Don’t gossip, spread rumours or confess your sins. Steer clear of mistletoe and dirty dancing, and keep goodnight kisses innocent.

Remember the basics: avoid shots, eat well, alternate drinks with water. Have fun and a few glasses, but don’t be the casualty everyone is talking about (and sniggering at) the next day. If things start feeling rocky, go soft or call it a night.

The day after still counts too. Crawling in hungover and late (or worse, pulling a sickie) is unforgivably unprofessional.

Business Trips

Going on a business trip with colleagues can often seem to re-draw the automatic lines of office etiquette – you’re suddenly in a situation where you’re sleeping with your workmates (hopefully, just by snoozing next to them on the aeroplane), breakfasting with them, sometimes even sunbathing with them around the pool of the hotel.

But don’t be fooled by the enforced intimacy of the trip into believing that work hierarchies aren’t still in place – just because you’ve seen your boss in all their flabby glory around the pool, draped over an umbrella-ed cocktail, shouldn’t alter your behaviour or respect towards them.

The safest course is often to avoid any hint of a compromising situation, right from the beginning of the trip so travel to and from the trip separately from your colleagues if possible.

Once there, if you feel claustrophobic by the round-the-clock proximity to your workmates, playing the exercise card (especially swimming where it’s hard to be sociable while ploughing up and down the pool) is a blameless time-out option. Above all, be tolerant of whatever situation you find yourself in – whether in a strip club in Frankfurt or a karaoke bar in Tokyo.

If you are on a solo business trip, don’t be afraid to dine alone in the hotel restaurant – but always look purposeful, absorbed and unself-conscious about your solitude. A book is a crucial accessory. Don’t be tempted to hide away and get room service – do you really want to sleep in the same room as you ate your dinner in?


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