The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

November 20, 2016

Behaving Well at Your Holiday Party

Not sure what to wear to the office holiday party? Want to avoid making a fool of yourself? Don’t want to go at all? Whether you’re the CEO or a new intern, etiquette expert Arden Clise, author of “Spinach In Your Boss’s Teeth,” advises you how to approach the event in a way that might actually enhance your career.

View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss. This is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Jim Hessler: And I am Jim Hessler and I am the Business Guy and I’m the author along with my co-host of the book Land on Your Feet, Not On Your Face, and this is a show for anyone who is or has a boss, and what else do I need to tell them, Steve?


Steve Motenko: And you’re the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development.


Jim Hessler: I am that, aren’t I? Now that you mention it, yes.


Steve Motenko: And I work with that organization.


Jim Hessler: Yes you do.


Steve Motenko: Pretty good organization.


Jim Hessler: You do some pretty darn good work for that organization.


Steve Motenko: As organizations go it does decent work in the world. I’m also a Harvard-educated leadership coach here in the Seattle area, and you are listening to the show for anyone who is or has a boss. We hope to offer you a little bit of workplace wisdom today with heart and humor.


Jim Hessler: In a few minutes we’ll be welcoming Arden Clise of Clise Etiquette to talk about kind of how we show up with each other in the workplace. Steve, as a student of human development-


Steve Motenko: Uh oh, put me on the spot.


Jim Hessler: Well no, I think you’ll like this question. One of the things we need to do as we progress and learn and become better people, is not to – when we embrace some new thinking or some new habits or some new behaviors, to be careful not to do it necessarily in rejection of our past, but to do it in inclusion. So I’m leading up to the etiquette thing, right, because I think this is an example of where a lot of people think etiquette is stuffy and it’s old school and we need to reject that and go to a more formal way of interacting with each other, but there’s certainly elements of this that we have to hold onto, and that just strikes me as similar to some other things that are going on in the workplace, where we’re so anxious to embrace to something new that we toss aside something old without really thinking about it.


Steve Motenko: See the problem is that as we develop, and there’s any number of developmental models that confirm this, as we develop we need to suffer in the old paradigm, the old stage of development. We need to have a pretty clear realization that it’s not working for us anymore and so we do need to reject it in order to be motivated to move to the later stage of development and so part of integrating a later stage of development, psychologically speaking, is that that rejection is natural and then, ultimately, in order to integrate in more healthy ways, we then include the previous stuff that we’ve rejected [crosstalk 00:02:35]


Jim Hessler: So it’s very circular, it’s kind of a circular motion.


Steve Motenko: More spiral, I think is-


Jim Hessler: Spiral is the term we use.


Steve Motenko: We’re always moving toward ever later stages of development.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, and I think a lot of us probably experience this with our parents, right? You have to differentiate, what’s the word? Separate, essentially-


Steve Motenko: Individuate.


Jim Hessler: Individuate is the word I was looking for, from your parents and then you go back and say “well, you know, there’s some stuff my parents did and said that was right on the mark.”


Steve Motenko: Right.


Jim Hessler: So maybe as we explore etiquette today we can kind of keep that in mind that maybe there are some stuffy things that we need to reject, but there’s also, to come back full circle and look at it with new eyes, maybe some of this stuff really makes sense.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, I mean it really is very similar to, I think, individuating as an adolescent, we turn our back on rules, we make rules wrong, we make conventions and norms wrong because they have defined us up to this point, and now we want to define ourselves. So we have to make those rules wrong and only later when we’re fully … can’t think of the word, embedded is not quite the word I want. In our new sense-


Jim Hessler: Self-actualized.


Steve Motenko: Of self. Yeah, in our new sense of self do we realize that wait, there is a really good purpose for norms and conventions for community agreements, cultural agreements.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, they’re not necessarily meant to stifle us or take away our individual nature or identity, but they exist for good solid reasons.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, to keep the wheels of culture and of interactions running in a smooth way.


Jim Hessler: It’s funny, when I go to a foreign country, I seem to have more patience for social conventions in a foreign country than I do in my own country.


Steve Motenko: Well probably partly because you won’t have to live under them forever.


Jim Hessler: Maybe so, yeah if I had to consider the possibility that I was going to have to act that way the rest of my life I might have more of an objection to it. That’s a good point, so … Etiquette it’s an interesting topic and we’re going to have Arden Clise with us after the break to talk, particularly this time of year, about how you want to show up or not show up at that company holiday party and I’m sure we all have horror stories that come to mind as we think about that. More from The Boss Show when we come back. Thanks for listening.


Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the Business Guy.


Steve Motenko: And I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy. Welcome back to the show for anyone who is or has a boss. If you’ve got an idea for a Boss Show topic, we would love to hear from you or if you’ve just got some feedback on how we do, what we do or what you’d like us to do better, we’ve got a listener comment line, it’s 206 973 7377. Also, you could send us an email,


Jim Hessler: So Steve, I’m doing kind of an intervention with you today because we’re coming up on holiday party season and I know you’re going to go to some holiday parties-


Steve Motenko: And you want me to stop picking my nose?


Jim Hessler: I’ve heard some complaints … so our guest today is Arden Clise, she’s the founder of Clise Etiquette and she’s the author of Spinach In Your Boss’s Teeth, which is a wonderful primer on workplace etiquette.


Steve Motenko: And a fabulous title.


Jim Hessler: And she’s a speaker trainer and a coach and she teaches etiquette that’s essential for workplace success, so Arden, welcome to The Boss Show.


Arden Clise: Thank you for having me.


Jim Hessler: You’ve been on with us before, but it’s been a while so it’s good to have you back.


Arden Clise: I’m glad to be back.


Jim Hessler: So you heard us talking about the evolution of etiquette, tell us what your perspective is on that.


Arden Clise: I really appreciated that you said that we sort of need these guidelines or rules to keep us sort of knowing how to behave and that’s really what etiquette is, it’s those tracks that keep us moving forward, the boundaries, and they do change. So if you were to go back 30 years, what was appropriate and wasn’t appropriate back then, for instance how you addressed each other, you’d probably say first title and a last name, you’d address people, especially women and there weren’t very many women in the workplace, especially like 40 years ago. So things have changed now, we’re a little more informal, we do address each other by our first names. We now are talking about technology and what’s appropriate with that, even that’s starting to change.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, and it really has changed. I remember, my business career is just over 40 years long now, I remember when you would meet two men and a woman in the workplace, you’d shake the men’s hands, you wouldn’t shake the woman’s hand.


Arden Clise: Yes.


Jim Hessler: I remember that very clearly and even back then it felt kind of awkward for me but that was the convention.


Arden Clise: Right.


Jim Hessler: As a child, I would never in a million years have thought about addressing an adult by their first name.


Arden Clise: No, you just wouldn’t.


Jim Hessler: That’s changed significantly.


Arden Clise: Significantly.


Jim Hessler: Even our close family friends were Mr. Bauscher and Mr. Hartman and Mrs. Hartman and things like that. So it does change, it does evolve and I guess maybe for good reasons and bad reasons.


Steve Motenko: Arden, I’m curious at the beginning here, how you respond when people say “oh, you know, etiquette is stodgy and rigid and it’s for old people” and it brings to mind Emily Post and it stifles our individuality, what do you say?


Arden Clise: I actually disagree because etiquette, really the basis of etiquette is making others feel good about themselves. That’s a beautiful thing, right?


Jim Hessler: [crosstalk 00:08:28]


Arden Clise: We can all agree on that.


Jim Hessler: Say more about that, that’s really an interesting perspective.


Arden Clise: So let’s say I’m dining with you, Jim, and your manners are atrocious.


Steve Motenko: Oh, you know him?


Arden Clise: A, I’m not going to point out that your manners are atrocious because that would be breaking etiquette, that would be poor manners to point out someone’s bad manners. I might even have worse manners, I might start using some bad behaviors to make you feel more comfortable, that’s etiquette.


Jim Hessler: Interesting.


Arden Clise: So while a lot of people think it’s all about stuffy-


Steve Motenko: Wait, etiquette to you is bad behaviors?


Arden Clise: If following etiquette is making someone feel uncomfortable, I need to break it.


Jim Hessler: Interesting.


Arden Clise: And I need to do what I can to make that person feel more comfortable.


Jim Hessler: The immediate thing that comes to mind is using colorful language. If somebody throws an f-bomb in a conversation I might tend to respond by doing the same to make them feel comfortable, I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not …


Arden Clise: I think that’s somewhat of an example, I think if you’re in a culture where that is part of it then you kind of follow that, but if it’s vocationally I don’t think you would want to do that, if you-


Jim Hessler: No.


Arden Clise: Yeah.


Jim Hessler: So it’s making etiquette is about making other people feel comfortable. That’s a much different perspective than trying to present yourself in a certain way. So I really appreciate that and we can talk more about that after the break. We’re talking with Arden Clise from Clise Etiquette and in just a moment we’re going to talk about that holiday party that’s right around the corner. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Steve Motenko: Hi, welcome back. I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the Business Guy and we’re talking with our guest Arden Clise from Clise Etiquette, that’s C-L-I-S-E in case you’re wondering how that’s spelled. Let’s talk about holiday parties, Arden, they’re coming up on the calendar here and I’m sure there’s a long list of do’s and don’ts with holiday parties, so help us out here.


Arden Clise: There certainly are, it seems that people sort of struggle with how to best behave at the company holiday party. It’s a social event-


Jim Hessler: What are you referring to?


Arden Clise: Not pointing fingers here at all. But I think when you mix more of a social event with often an open bar, you run into trouble.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: And people forget that it’s still a business event. They think party and they think freedom, I can let loose.


Steve Motenko: And alcohol helps them forget that it’s a business event or that there’s anybody else involved at all.


Arden Clise: Exactly, Steve. So true, yes.


Jim Hessler: Now there’s just a real quick point about alcohol. I was watching a documentary about Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholic Anonymous, and there was a guy on that that said “well, you know, I thought I could start drinking again” because he thought “after I have one drink, you know, I’ll just be able to tell myself not to have the second drink.” He said the problem is the person who just had one drink is a different person than the person that didn’t have the drink, so I don’t trust that person to tell me not to have the second drink and this shows up … They keep filling your glass, they give you a free bar-


Arden Clise: Right.


Jim Hessler: And all of a sudden you’ve knocked off three or four drinks and you are a different person.


Arden Clise: Right, right. So let me just say that I really advise people to stick to no more than two drinks-


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: At the company holiday party. Might seem boring but it will guarantee you’re not going to do something you’re going to regret later.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: So that’s a good rule to start with. Other things, make sure you respond to the invitation and I would say even if you hate those parties, you need to be there.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: It’s really important.


Jim Hessler: I’m really glad you said that because so many people, yeah it’s not for me. But you need to make a showing, bosses notice who’s there and who’s not.


Arden Clise: They really do.


Steve Motenko: Especially introverts, tend to do think-


Jim Hessler: Yes.


Steve Motenko: We’re airing a show next week on introverts in the workplace but yeah, it’s real easy for an introvert to say no, I’m going to show up at the holiday party.


Arden Clise: Right.


Steve Motenko: And you think it’s really important to resist that temptation.


Arden Clise: I absolutely do and because, as Jim said, your boss does notice, your coworkers notice and you don’t show up as a team player when you don’t come to the event. Is it a huge, huge deal? Maybe not, but it just kind of etches away at your credibility. So I say show up even if you are really uncomfortable with them, show up for half an hour, make sure your boss sees you.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: Talk to a few people and then you can leave.


Jim Hessler: I did this at a client social event recently, I showed up, I was probably not there for more than a half hour but I shook a lot of hands while I was there.


Arden Clise: Exactly. You did your duty, you got in-


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: Yes.


Steve Motenko: I know what event that was.


Jim Hessler: Yes, yes. So real quickly before we jump to a break, dress code.


Arden Clise: Yes.


Jim Hessler: Let’s start there real quick.


Arden Clise: So again, a lot of people think “oh, I can dress casually, I can wear jeans, t-shirt” it’s a social event. No, be sure you look at what the invitation says and follow that and also be really careful not to wear overly revealing clothes.


Steve Motenko: A mistake a lot of people, well women-


Arden Clise: A lot of women do, yes. So, yes be festive but be a little conservative.


Jim Hessler: We know you want to express yourself but please be careful about that, there’s places to express yourself on your own time with your own set of friends. Maybe the company holiday party is not the place to do that. More with Arden Clise when we get back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: KOMO News, The Boss Show is back on a northwest lifestyle weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Steve Motenko: Hi, welcome back, I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the Business Guy. We’re talking to Arden Clise of Clise Etiquette about holiday parties today because they’re right around the corner and maybe your company has one, maybe they don’t but most do I think. Arden, table manners, a lot of these serve just hors d’oeuvres, a few of them are probably sit down dinners but I would imagine most of them are kind of hors d’oeuvres. Talk about how to navigate that part of it gracefully.


Arden Clise: So there are a few things we want to pay attention to with hors d’oeuvres or buffets, if hors d’oeuvres are being passed on a tray by a waiter or server, take one of each item. So don’t like fill up your-


Jim Hessler: Load up.


Arden Clise: Yeah, exactly.


Steve Motenko: Oh, man.


Arden Clise: I know, Steve, bad news.


Steve Motenko: What a buzzkill.


Arden Clise: That’s right, that’s right. If it’s a buffet then you can take two of each item but don’t fill your plate up so full that people are thinking what a pig.


Steve Motenko: What a glutton.


Arden Clise: Yes, because you can always go back and get more. The other thing to avoid to is when you’re going through a buffet line, don’t put the food directly from the buffet line into your mouth, it should go, I like to use this analogy, we’re in Boeing country, food is like an airplane, it needs a place to land on your plate before it takes off again into your mouth. So do have it go on your plate or your napkin first before it goes into your mouth.


Steve Motenko: Is napkin okay? If you’re putting food on a napkin.


Arden Clise: Napkin is okay if there aren’t plates.


Steve Motenko: Oh, only if there aren’t plates, okay.


Arden Clise: Yes, but if there are plates then use the plates.


Steve Motenko: As we talk I realize I really need lessons in etiquette. I don’t come to this naturally.


Jim Hessler: You need to read Arden’s book, Steve.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, I will do that.


Arden Clise: It is in the book.


Steve Motenko: Spinach In Your Boss’s Teeth is the name of it, the title of it.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, it’s definitely worth reading and it’s not a long read. It moves quickly and it’s written in a sparkling language. I recommend it.


Steve Motenko: And speaking of that, where can people get it?


Arden Clise: They can get it on or and for those of you who live in Lake City or near Lake Forest Park, it’s at Third Place Books as well, so …


Steve Motenko: That’s here in Seattle.


Arden Clise: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.


Jim Hessler: Okay, so I got some questions for you. So you bring your boss or your significant other, how do you introduce them to people? There can be an awkward moment as you’re trying to … Should I let my wife walk in front of me, should I walk in front of her and then bring her in behind me, how does that whole mechanism work?


Arden Clise: So since you’re the person that knows everyone, you would walk in first and you do the introducing. So you would say to your coworker “Joe, this is my wife, Mary” if she has a different last name be sure you share her last name and then introduce Joe to her. So yeah, you’re sort of the facilitator, you’re the host essentially and you’re helping her to met someone, and I’m glad you mentioned that because I’d like to just say one thing about that. Be sure when you do bring a significant other or a friend that you’re not just talking shop the whole time, because that poor person is going to feel totally left out and bored to tears. So don’t talk shop, find some interesting things you can talk about that aren’t work related and involve your guest in the conversation.


Steve Motenko: As you say all this it makes me think of how many couples have had terrible arguments after the office holiday party. “Did you know I was even there?” Right? And “could you have spent just a few minutes talking about something other than the, you know, Shlumberg project?”


Arden Clise: Yes.


Jim Hessler: I really appreciate that and so I think that the other thing is how do I know what table to sit at? Right, because sometimes they just have these rounds, there’s eight seats and it’s like should I sit down first? Should I wait till other people sit down? I don’t know, any comments on that?


Arden Clise: Well I would say usually parties have a mingling period first and often invitations will say 7 to 7:30 networking or mingling, so follow that and then start sitting down when it’s about that time. I try not to be the first one because then it looks like you’re just not really participating in the mingling.


Steve Motenko: A loner geek.


Arden Clise: That’s right.


Steve Motenko: Who doesn’t know what to do.


Arden Clise: That’s right, exactly.


Jim Hessler: So I have some more questions for you when we get back from the break.


Steve Motenko: You are listening to The Boss Show. Stay with us, we’re talking with Arden Clise, etiquette expert. It’s The Boss Show, stay with us.


Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show. Thanks for staying with us, I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the Business Guy and we’re talking about the psychology and the business of the holiday office party today. Our guest is Arden Clise of Clise Etiquette. So Arden, from the boss’s perspective, what should the boss know about the company holiday party?


Arden Clise: So the boss has sort of some extra responsibilities. The boss is essentially the real host of the event, the bosses are, and so they need to treat as if they’re inviting people into their home. So that means greeting people, it means being there before everyone gets there.


Jim Hessler: Making sure they know where the buffet line starts and …


Arden Clise: Making sure that people are, yes, they know where the buffet line is or the drinks are, you know, whatever. It also means they need to be extra careful about being good role models. If they want their employees to behave well, not get drunk and endanger themselves, act foolishly and et cetera. The bosses really need to set that tone by doing that themselves. They also should make a point of mingling … It’s almost an excuse, it’s an easier excuse because they’re the boss so they get to mingle and, what am I trying to say? It just seems like when you’re wearing that role, it’s a little bit easier.


Jim Hessler: Well I think one of the really nice touches for a boss is to make sure that they meet the spouses and the girlfriends-


Arden Clise: Yes.


Jim Hessler: And the dates of the people that are there.


Arden Clise: Yes.


Jim Hessler: Introduce themselves by name so that the person knows who they’re talking to, and if possible, say something complimentary about their husband or their wife or their boyfriend or girlfriend in front of the significant other. I think that’s a really nice touch.


Steve Motenko: Something complimentary about the worker, about their employee.


Jim Hessler: Yes.


Arden Clise: Yeah.


Jim Hessler: Thank you so much for supporting your wife and her career here with our company, we really love having her. Something like that.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, it occurs-


Jim Hessler: Because you know, the spouse and the significant other, they’re a part of the career equation, right? And if they know if they’ve met this boss and there’s a positive association with this person’s boss, that’s going to help in the whole career arc for that person.


Arden Clise: Well, there’s several reasons I love that you just said that, Jim. A, it’s very nice to recognize the spouse’s part of supporting their partner and their career, but also that you’re complimenting your employee-


Jim Hessler: Right.


Arden Clise: And who doesn’t like to be complimented, especially in front of others.


Jim Hessler: Sure.


Arden Clise: I just think that’s a beautiful thing and mingling with, getting to meet the spouses and the friends and if there’s children, I think that’s a great idea as well.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Steve Motenko: The boss doesn’t have a lot of opportunity, I mean the big boss, the senior managers, don’t have a lot of opportunity to interact with all levels of the company. So in a way, this is an opportunity for them to be the face of the company-


Arden Clise: Absolutely.


Steve Motenko: In front of not only all employees, but their significant others. So they represent the company culture.


Arden Clise: Yeah, it’s such a great opportunity for both parties, for employees and for the bosses to let their hair down a little bit, not a lot.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Arden Clise: But to get to know each other and step out of the work zone and have those light social, personal conversations that you so don’t get an opportunity to have when you’re in the workplace.


Steve Motenko: So we’ve got about 30 seconds, give us one more tip, one more really important thing to know about the holiday party.


Arden Clise: So I would say be careful what you’re talking about. I already mentioned try not to talk shop but avoid gossiping, complaining or discussing politics. None of those will lead to a positive outcome, even if-


Jim Hessler: You think?


Arden Clise: Right. Especially this year.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, which brings up the thought that a lot of etiquette comes down to common sense, which is nowhere near as common as it ought to be.


Arden Clise: It’s not so common.


Steve Motenko: All right, final thoughts on etiquette with regard to that holiday party that you may be either excited about or dreading, when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko, this is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show, I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the Business Guy. We’ve had Arden Clise with us today, really recommend that you buy her book, it’s called Spinach In Your Boss’s Teeth and 10 seconds Arden, what do you do if your boss has spinach in his or her teeth?


Arden Clise: You do tell him, but discretely, or her, discretely.


Jim Hessler: Okay, great. Thanks so much for being on The Boss Show, we’ve enjoyed having you.


Arden Clise: Thanks for having me.


Jim Hessler: And if you want to listen to this or any other show that we’ve recorded you can go to and there’s an archive of all our shows and next week we’ll have Beth Buelow, the Introvert Entrepreneur to talk to us about introversion in the workplace and that has some relationship to how you show up at the holiday party as well, doesn’t it, Steve.


Steve Motenko: Indeed. We could’ve combined them both.


Jim Hessler: We could’ve combined the shows, yeah.


Steve Motenko: And done a third segment. The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions, our sound engineer today is Kevin Doddrell.


Jim Hessler: Remember this is the show for anyone who has or is a boss. Thank you for listening.


Steve Motenko: You can go to our website and download all of our past episodes, as Jim mentioned. You can subscribe to the podcast there, we’re also available on iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud.


Jim Hessler: And whatever you do, don’t forget rule number six.


Steve Motenko: Rule number six.



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