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Every year, the holidays introduce a variety of seasonal dynamics into the already complicated workplace. A time for celebration can quickly turn into confusion, whether attempting to accommodate a growing list of after-hours personal and business festivities or interpreting the often-blurred lines of colleague and management gift-giving.

Dr. Jenny Tatsak, professor of business communications at Walsh College, offers three recommendations to navigate the workplace this holiday season, while keeping etiquette in check:

1. Use holiday parties to build relationships and make a positive impression

Adding an office holiday celebration to an already jam-packed calendar of recitals, cookie exchanges and white elephant parties can be difficult for some people, but unless you have a significant family obligation, you should definitely attend. "View the party as an opportunity to get to know colleagues and the company's leadership informally," said Dr. Tatsak. "Also, consider mentally preparing a few topics to discuss throughout the evening to maximize the value of each interaction. You may be surprised by the useful insights you gain from others when you engage with them in an informal setting."

In addition, remember that even though the event is less formal, your behavior while there is still a reflection of your professional brand. Err on the side of conservative dress, avoid office gossip and complaints and be sure to keep alcohol intake to a minimum. "You will never wish you drank more at the office holiday party, but you will always regret drinking too much. If you go into the party with this mindset, you will be less likely to overindulge," said Dr. Tatsak.

2. Give gifts that give back to the local business and charitable communities

Unlike other times of the year, the holidays present an organic opportunity to show appreciation through gift giving. Take the opportunity to maintain and build stronger relationships with colleagues, management, vendors and clients. "Gifts don't have to be expensive or extravagant, but they should be meaningful," said Dr. Tatsak. "Look for unique items or experiences that will be memorable for the recipient."

Consider purchases that support Michigan-based businesses, such as apparel from The Mitten State or a subscription gift to the Oil & Vinegar of the Month Club from Fustini's Oils and Vinegars. (There are several more ideas on the Pure Michigan blog.) You also could arrange for your staff to volunteer at a local food pantry such as Gleaners or organize a Toys for Tots drive, which create opportunities for team building.

3. Don't rely on assumptions to guide your communication, whether verbal or non-verbal

It's easy to get caught in the playful nature of the holiday season, especially in a world full of ugly sweaters and sarcastic holiday cards. What's important to remember is that assumptions can cause discomfort among colleagues, friends and family. "Not everyone will appreciate comments made in jest or to humor a group. Ensure that your expressions of holiday spirit are appropriate for a professional setting," Dr. Tatsak said. "Above all else, you should be considerate of colleagues, employees and clients – especially those who may not celebrate the same holidays or who may be dealing with difficult circumstances in their personal lives."

'Tis the season to enjoy time spent with friends, family and colleagues, but do make sure you enjoy the holidays with professionalism in mind.

Founded in 1922 and celebrating more than 90 years of business education, Walsh College offers 19 business and related technology degree programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels that are responsive to student,  employer, and community needs. Walsh is a private, not-for-profit institution offering courses and services at locations in Troy, Novi, Clinton Township, Port Huron, and online.

This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Walsh College.

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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