7 Etiquette Rules for the Company Summer Outing

The office picnic, also known as the company summer outing, is a great time to bond with colleagues and socialize with the boss, but not understanding the etiquette around such an event can be a disaster for your career. Here’s how to navigate around the social pitfalls.

It’s summer and we’re finally enjoying those carefree days of warmth and sun we dreamed of while enduring one of the most brutal winters on record.

And with the increasing temps comes the surest sign of summer: An invitation to the office picnic.

Such events are often seen as a way to let your hair down and enjoy time away from the office, but they’re also a minefield of potential etiquette disasters that can derail your career.

If you’re going to be attending a summer office event, here are a few rules from etiquette experts:

  • Don’t ditch the event. Attending a get-together is as important to your career as attending a project meeting with your boss’s boss. You don’t have to stay all day, but show up early enough to help if necessary, bring a dish if requested and stay long enough to enjoy the meal and offer some chit-chat.
  • Limit drinking. It can often get hot at picnics or a sports event, but don’t fall into the trap of just having one more beer or margarita to cool off. It’s fine to a have a drink to be social, but then stick to soda or water so that you stay hydrated – and aren’t so drunk you end up doing the hula on the table.
  • Follow the rules. If the event if being held at the boss’s country club, for example, check beforehand to see if there are any regulations on what you can wear, and if you must turn off your cellphone when inside a clubhouse. Getting the boss fined by his or her club for a guest breaking the rules isn’t a great career move.
  • Prepare your significant other. Give your partner a heads up on proper attire. Let him or her know about the bosses or colleagues who will be attending so that small talk will go smoothly. Always make sure it’s OK to bring your kids beforehand. Only bring your dog if you’ve gotten a clear sign that others will be doing the same and Fido is well trained enough that he won’t piddle in the pool or bite anyone’s ankle.
  • Dress appropriately. If there’s going to be swimming and you plan to get in the pool, make sure you wear a suit that isn’t revealing. For women and men, that means no bikinis and a cover-up when lounging poolside. If you don’t plan to go swimming, still stay from revealing clothes – men can wear nice shorts with a casual shirt and women should stick to capris or sundresses and avoid short shorts. Also, if your company culture isn’t supportive of tattoos, wear clothing that will keep them covered.
  • Participate. Even if you’re not a great golfer or softball player, you should participate in activities and be a good sport about it. Supporting your team, having a good time and being enthusiastic can help you create some lasting bonds with colleagues and bosses. Sitting around looking bored or grumpy could hurt your work relationships and potentially hurt your ability to get ahead at work.
  • Remember to say “thank you.” Your spouse, your kids and you should all thank the boss or the organizers for the event. Don’t leave without offering your appreciation and offer to help clean up if you can.

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Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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  • aj4coco

    I wouldn’t sit around looking bored or grumpy; I’d be a great cheerleader; but believe me that nobody wants me on their team. I’m horrible at sports, and even “fun” games can be very competitive, and the other players do not appreciate somebody who pulls the team down.

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    Anita Bruzzese Reply:

    Ha! I know how you feel…I’m lucky to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sometimes being the “hype” person can be just as fun!

    [Reply]