Playing it Cool: How to Survive the Office Holiday Party

Office holiday party_Dec2011_webIt could be your first job and the big end-of-the-year holiday party is quickly approaching.  Past employers never had holiday celebrations before and you may not know how to properly attend one. You could have a lot of questions about how to hold your drinking cup so you don’t greet people with a cold or wet hand, proper business party attire, or how much to eat or drink.

In order for you to celebrate a successful year and get pumped for the new year, here are some easy ways for you to have fun while following the manners and etiquette of business parties.

Make an Appearance

You may feel like passing on the notion of going to a company party. You see the same people for 40 or more hours every week. But not attending could hold back your potential, especially if you see a long future with your employer. This is your chance to talk to and get to know people you work with that you usually don’t see or hear from. Maybe they work on the floor below you, are from another branch, or are upper executives who don’t get out to your normal work area. Expanding your network within your company can help push your career forward when the opportunity for advancement becomes available.

You don’t have to stay the entire time, but try to find 30 minutes to have some fun and make an appearance. If you do decide to stay, don’t overstay your welcome unless you want to volunteer to help clean up if your employer is hosting the festivities.

Party Like it’s 9-5

Just because it’s a social function, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t conduct yourself professionally. It’s not your chance to tell racy jokes, flirt with coworkers, or blow off steam, so keep proper etiquette and modesty in mind when having fun. You don’t need to go back for thirds and fourths at the buffet line. Going too far will reflect poorly on your character and can hurt your image as an employee.

Staying professional is a matter of being polite and warmly greeting everybody – even those you don't like. Try tracking down the manager or executive who approved and planned the party to thank him or her for the party.

No All-Nighter Attire

Check whether the attire for the party is formal or casual or if it has a theme, like say, a cowboy country Christmas. It’s acceptable to dress in festive attire, but avoid the more revealing or skimpy. You don’t want colleagues and managers talking more about what you didn’t wear than what you had to say. If you’re in doubt, ask a co-worker, manager, or party planer what the appropriate attire is. The party is still a business function, so conservative party clothes are always a good choice.

It’s Not Business as Usual

The point of these get-togethers is to raise morale and have a good time outside of work, so try to avoid bringing work into the party during conversations. Work hours are over and nobody wants to discuss business for fun. While it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the executive heads and decision makers of your company, stay interested in what they have to say and don’t make it about yourself and what you’ve accomplished. You’re there to socialize, not advertise.

When it comes to proper social etiquette, it’s best to use common sense. No matter where the holiday party is held, it’s still a company event, and you should act accordingly, even if others aren’t. But if you follow our advice on how to survive the work holiday party, you’ll be able to have fun and keep your reputation intact.

Help Us Make a Difference Choose How Express Will Donate $10,000

3millionIf you haven’t heard the good news, Express Employment Professionals reached a major milestone this year when Express associates worked a combined total of 3 million hours in one week. That’s more than 80,000 people like you who’ve found jobs at great companies in just seven days.

On behalf of the more than 550 Express franchises in three countries, we’d like to say thank you to our associates for your hard work and dedication because we know that our success depends on you.

Help Us Give Back – Vote for Your Charity of Choice

Now you can help us make an even bigger difference! In celebration of this achievement and the support of our customers and associates, Express is donating $10,000 to a nonprofit organization. You can help by voting for your charity of choice.

It’s simple to do! Just visit and vote by selecting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, or Habitat for Humanity. You can vote once daily from now until Friday, Dec. 30, and the organization with the most votes will receive $10,000.

About the Organizations

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Learn more about this organization at

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has been working to help as many children as possible by raising funds for children’s hospitals in local communities throughout North America. Learn more about Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by visiting their website at

Habitat for Humanity
Founded on the conviction that every man, woman, and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live, Habitat for Humanity builds simple, decent, and affordable housing for families in need around the world. For more information, visit


To Give, or Not to Give Gifts at Work: That is the Question

Gifts at WorkIn our November poll, we asked how you felt about workplace gift giving during the holidays. Almost 40% of the voters give gifts but don’t expect any in return while a close 32% wanted to, but couldn’t give gifts to so many employees in large companies. While most of the votes went toward giving without expecting anything in return, you may not be comfortable with what is or isn’t acceptable business practice for gift giving during the holiday season.

Each employer has different ideas and expectations on how they should celebrate and it can be confusing or frightening to figure out what is appropriate when giving gifts at work. The holiday hullabaloo is not lost on us, and if you follow these guidelines when considering whether or not to hand out gifts to celebrate the season, you’ll have a better chance of giving your office a little holiday cheer.

Check Guidelines and Policies

When in doubt, always check with your employer’s protocols. There could be some strict guidelines concerning holiday celebrations. This is especially important if you’re in a business where you work closely with clients, vendors, or business associates outside of your company. Several companies have detailed restrictions on giving or receiving gifts from clients outside of your employer.

An increasing trend with American employers is celebrating the holidays as a whole group so it can deter employees from one-on-one gifting. There are more employers without policies than there are with them, so be mindful of your company culture and see what is expected during the holiday season. Some workplaces may have a Secret Santa type of celebrating where workers choose the name of a fellow employee randomly and buy that person a low-cost gift. Other companies have each department throw their own lunch party to celebrate, while others have no real celebration at all.

It’s All Voluntary

The workplace is more diverse than ever. Not only are there many diverse cultures, but there are also diverse age groups working with each other. When dealing with so many different views, opting out of gift giving should be free of consequences.  You have to be sensible and respectful of your co-workers holiday beliefs. If someone doesn’t want to be involved, you shouldn’t make them feel badly about it.

If you don’t desire or are incapable of participating in your company’s celebrations, you shouldn’t feel pressured into it either. The majority of respondents in our poll didn’t expect anything in return, so don’t feel like you have to return the act if you receive a gift. Take pride in knowing that a co-worker or boss is expressing their appreciation of you and what you do for them. Acknowledging the gift with a thank you is sufficient.

It’s All About Inclusion, Inclusion, Inclusion

The biggest concern when it comes to office gift giving is the issue of inclusion. Nobody wants to feel left out, un-favored compared to a peer, or appear to be schmoozing to get ahead with a boss. If you want to show extra appreciation to a co-worker you have a strong relationship with, consider giving it to them outside of work so it doesn’t alienate your colleagues.  You may also want to consider avoiding impersonalized, super cheap, or generic gifts to all employees. This will characterize you as un-thoughtful and missing out on the point of the holidays.

If you want to give your boss a gift, ask your co-workers if they would like to go in as a group. It can help make the holiday work environment feel less inclusive and can establish teamwork skills among your peers. If in a leadership role, consider donating money in your teammates name to charitable organizations that they are involved with or would appreciate.

Does your employer have any gift giving policies? How are the holidays celebrated where you work? I’d love to hear some ideas on how you give gifts at work.

To Share or Not to Share Your Salary History

Salaryhistory_Dec2011_webA key question for many job seekers is “How much does the job pay?” But, the flip side of that conversation for potential employers is “How much do you currently make?” It can be hard to decide how and when to share your salary history with a potential employer, or even to decide if you are willing to share it at all. All of this is compounded by the fact that talking about money is usually taboo, right up there with religion and politics in the workplace. However, when it comes to your career, learning how to professionally discuss your salary can pay off in a big way.

Why Does an Employer Want to Know?

It’s important to first understand why employers request salary information during the application process. Typically, employers have a set budget for positions based on the job duties and market value in that area. If an employer is asking for salary information to be included when you apply, they may be using this as a quick way to determine who to interview for the position. Employers may not want to interview candidates who have a higher salary than they are willing to pay, or they may seek to interview candidates with the closest pay rate, regardless of experience.

Check out this video on discussing your salary history in an interview from career coach Karen Chopra.

Karen Chopra, Career Counselor, Washington, D.C.

Please note, the video clips herein and their sponsors do not necessarily represent the views of Express and are used for educational purposes only.

What’s the Best Way to Share Salary Information?

Even if salary information is requested when you apply, you don’t necessarily have to submit it. Typically you want to be able to discuss salary history and compensation, it’s a conversation best not left to written correspondence. With this in mind, state on your résumé you are willing to submit salary information when requested. This puts you in control of who sees your salary history and how it is conveyed. Ideally you won’t share salary information until your interview, when you can have a conversation about your job duties and additional compensation.

How do You Evaluate Compensation?

 It’s important to keep in mind that your salary is more than just your pay, your compensation includes things your current job might provide, including health insurance, 401(k) matching, education reimbursements, and more. When you discuss pay with your potential employer, let them lead the discussion before you share your salary history. Ask what benefits you’ll receive besides pay that will make up your total compensation. Research the job market to learn what salary ranges are being offered for similar positions. Understand what the position requires in terms of education and experience and be prepared to discuss how your education and experience should impact your salary. Make sure your salary research is done in coordination with the city where the position is located, because pay is typically impacted by geography.

The last tip to keep in mind when discussing your salary with potential employers is to make sure you are consistent. If you’ve cited salary information within online job board databases, like your CareerBuilder or Monster profile, make sure the information on your résumé is documented the same. If you are including benefits and other compensation factors, let the employer know you are willing to negotiate within these pending factors. Your credibility is on the line during your job search, and misrepresenting your salary history can be detrimental to you career.


 By Rachel Rudisill

3 Behaviors to Beat the Monday Morning Blues

Monday morning_Nov2011_webWhen Monday morning rolls around, the last thing we want to hear is that buzzing alarm. We don’t want to get dressed, we don’t want to drive to work, and we definitely don’t want to face the big stack of unfinished business that hasn’t moved since Friday.

In the immortal words of the temp worker from the movie Office Space, “Uh-oh. Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.”

After spending two days away from work, colleagues, and business attire, it’s no wonder people moan at the thought of coming back to the job duties they left last week. A recent study in the British newspaper, the Telegraph, reports most people find Monday mornings so difficult, they won’t smile until 11:46 a.m. It’s time to stop fearing the new work week wake up call. Here are three things you can do to make Monday morning arrivals much easier.

Better Bed Times
Yes, it’s tempting to take advantage of your weekend by staying out late and sleeping in. There’s nothing wrong with going out and enjoying the company of others, but too much tampering with your sleep schedule can come with a price. Try to avoid staying up too late on Fridays and Saturdays and sleeping in too late during the weekend. You could be spending all week trying to get back on track for two nights of fun.

Waking up earlier may not be a popular option for your weekend, but who knows, you might actually like getting up earlier once you see how much you can get done. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule all week can help you feel energized and ready to face the work week. With all your energy, you could make sure your work week ends strongly to avoid dreading a large Monday workload.

Build Blueprints for Your Work Week
A winning way to avoid dreading the call of Monday is to re-strategize your work week. Try managing your time more efficiently while at work. This could be as simple as setting certain times each day to check your email or voicemail instead of stopping what you’re doing when you receive one, to as complex as establishing obtainable goals throughout the week to keep you on track. This way, you won’t have a pile of work to worry about while you are supposed to be taking time off. Also, on Fridays, it can be helpful to take a moment to set your schedule for the next week, giving you a clear plan to return to.

While Wednesday can be known as “hump day,” that doesn’t mean you can’t set aside some time in the middle of the week to do something fun. Take some friends to the local game playing on a Wednesday night, have a girls’ night at the movies, attend an art or music class, or have a romantic night out with your spouse. You can’t fit all of your fun into two days, so give yourself some time to recharge from work during the week.

Take a Breather
When we try to cram so much into an entire weekend, we often forget the purpose of the weekend. We get days off to enjoy our lives and recharge our batteries. But we can’t recharge them if we’re always using them. We don’t always have to postpone chores like laundry or lawn mowing to the weekend if you divide them up in smaller chunks throughout the week.

A weekend full of too many fun activities can be draining and can make you feel unrested. Working while feeling fatigued can hurt your productivity at work and leave you more open to distractions. Make an effort to plan your weekend activities with events that leave you feeling content and fulfilled, not frazzled and imposed upon.

The Monday morning blues has become a kind of cultural tradition in the workplace. Employees tend to gather together to talk about how hard it is when you have “the Mondays.” But if you change a few behaviors, you’ll feel ready and able to take on Monday and every day. What are some ideas you have to avoid dreading coming back to work after your weekend?

At a Loss With Your Boss? Starting Over at the Same Job

Startingover_nov2011_webMost of the time, workers have good relationships with their boss. A MSN-Zogby poll showed 58% of employees say they like their boss. But sometimes working relationships can strain and sour, which can make your job harder.

Whether it started with a disagreement, or built up over time because of frustrations with your manager’s constantly changing priorities, having a boss that you feel isn’t listening or respecting you can hinder your productivity and career. Here are some ways you can mend your working relationship with your supervisor and begin a fresh slate at work.

Be the Best You Can be
One of the best ways to repair work relationships is to step up your game. Your boss’ bonuses and performance reviews are based on how you and those you work with perform. If you make the extra effort to provide great results, go the extra mile, or volunteer to work on team projects, the benefits of your hard work will ease the tension and help restore communication and mutual respect.

By showing a willingness to work harder and produce better results, you will have proven success to lean on when you have difficult conversations. You can turn this challenge into an opportunity. Don’t let it stand between you, your boss, and your career. You may have to bite the bullet and be the one offering the hand of peace, but if you are producing good results at work, you are already prepping yourself to succeed.

While it’s important to be the one to instigate the willingness to repair tensions at work, it’s also important to follow up on your efforts. It could be beneficial to meet one-on-one with your manager if you feel like your boss isn’t treating you right. It will give you a chance to discuss what you are looking for and ways you can improve your work. It shows your willingness to learn, and after some good communication, circumstances should improve.

The key to making the dialogue work is to schedule follow-up meetings. After several weeks of working on the suggestions given to you, request a second meeting to see if your boss is satisfied with those changes. It shows managers that you value their opinion and are working hard to meet their requests.

Remember That Two Heads Are Better Than One
It can help to have an outsider’s opinion of the situation. Consider finding a mentor. If you feel like you’re not seeing eye to eye with your boss, talk to your trusted mentor. Hopefully they can give you some advice on how to deal with the conflict.  Having a reliable confidant to vent to will help you learn from their experiences when dealing with difficult managers and keep your thoughts in order before you accidentally say the wrong thing at work.

It’s never too late to start over with your boss. By following these tips, you can learn to understand where the conflict stems from and how to build a better working relationship from it. Who knows, you might even like your boss more after this. What are some ways you have made a fresh start in the workplace?