Ah, the holiday party, font of office gossip, graveyard of ruined career dreams. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you follow a few tips from business relationships expert Andrew Sobel, you can actually use the holiday party to boost your career, instead of tank it.
“At the office holiday party, new relationships can be formed but they can also be ruined before they even have a chance to blossom,” writes Sobel, coauthor with Jerold Panas of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. “Old relationships can be nourished and celebrated, or they can be compromised and endangered. You can leave feeling great — or feeling like a lonely loser.”
How to avoid the fate of the lonely loser? Easy, says Sobel:
1. Don’t drink too much.
2. Don’t worry about being hilarious — just ask interested questions.
Sobel advises party goers to concentrate on “power questions” — the questions that help you figure out what really interests people, uncover their passions, and forge real connections with them. He breaks these power questions down into four types:
1. Questions about work. Concentrate on your coworkers’ experience of work, not gossip. Ask them about their best and worst day of work, for example, or their favorite part of working there.
2. Questions about goals and challenges. Find out what engages them. Ask about their agenda for the coming year, or what they’d do if they suddenly had a few extra hours each week.
3. Questions about their passions. Ask them about their favorite movies or restaurants, or where they’ve always wanted to go on a trip.
4. Questions to learn more about them as people. Ask your coworkers how they spend their time when they’re not at the office, or what they’d do if they didn’t have their current job.
Equally important, of course, is what not to ask. Sobel advises us to go over our list of things we absolutely shouldn’t ask before we go to the party. On the forbidden list: anything to do with people’s personal appearance or the intimate details of their life.
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