Talk about weird! The CEO of Lululemon, the trendy manufacturer of trendy athletic gear, has resigned over a few innocent remarks. What did ex-CEO Chip Wilson say that was so terrible? He said: “some women’s bodies just actually don’t work.” Heck, for years now, our supervisors have been saying our bodies don’t work, and nobody has had to resign.
As it turns out, Wilson’s remarks were interpreted as blaming the customers for certain production blunders that turned Lululemon’s products into real lemons, like the see-through-surprise yoga pants that caused such a stir in my gym. And here I thought I was attracting attention because of my masterful downward dog.
Fortunately, business etiquette expert Diane Gottsman brought sweet reason to the season with an article in The Huffington Post titled, “Business Etiquette: Surviving the Holiday Office Party.”
During our recent run of hard times, holiday parties disappeared, like raises and job security. But now that happy days are here again, at least in the paychecks of our managers, the powers that be will once more be providing crumbs of stale fruitcake and paper cups of watery wassail before jetting off to talcum-powder beaches where they can frolic in the sun. (Note to ex-CEO Scott: If your holiday plans include a stay in the Cayman Islands, please bring a volleyball.)
Will you have a holiday party to survive? I hope so, because I will cheerfully gift you a few of Gottsman’s tips, which are guaranteed to “keep your glowing reputation intact.”
“Prepare in advance” is definitely good advice, especially when you can “plan a few conversation topics that are lighthearted and engaging, such as asking a client about his or her favorite holiday tradition or where they plan to spend the holiday this year.” I also advise preparing some lighthearted and engaging remarks you might make in response, such as: “It’s nice you can afford to travel over the holidays. We’re spending the holiday at a Salvation Army shelter. And exchanging gifts is a lovely tradition. If I were better paid, I could give my children presents, too, though they do love the government cheese I stuff into their stockings.”
“Make a proper introduction” is another good tip, especially “if the company party is one of the few occasions you see the CEO during the year.” Many workers are intimidated by the radiant presence of this great man or woman, but you don’t want to miss this opportunity to make a lasting impression. “Being the first to extend your hand for a professional handshake shows a confidence that is not easily overlooked,” Gottsman writes. True, but if you really want to be memorable, and also darned confident, be the first to extend your foot, or your finger.
As the party progresses, you’ll definitely want to “work the room.” That means you must “mix and mingle with other guests.” This will be a strain on you, especially if you follow another Gottsman tip to “watch your liquor consumption.” My suggestion: Mix a good strong drink before you mingle. (Gottsman recommends “limiting yourself to one or two drinks,” but she doesn’t say how big the drinks should be, nor how long the limit should last. If you keep each drink the size of a Big Gulp and limit yourself to no more than four an hour, you’ll make a real impression ... guaranteed.)
“Don’t leave without saying goodbye” is probably good advice, though I don’t agree that “slipping out the back door can prove to be a disastrous career move.” For years now, you’ve been slipping out the back door, or out the fire escape, or out the heating vent the minute you finish your after-lunch nap. Unless the party is a sit-down dinner, you can use your workday trick of leaving your jacket on the back of your chair, or you could leave your shoe in the punch bowl, or pin your name tag to a ficus bush. Trust me, no one will ever notice.
“Don’t wear anything that would make Santa blush” is a rule that may be difficult for you to keep, especially if you are wearing your Lululemon yoga pants. But maybe it’s OK. If the harsh realities of business life could force CEO Chip Wilson to resign, seeing the shapely derriere of one of the company’s best employees in a skin-tight, see-through outfit should be enough to make even a Scrooge of a CEO blush, and resign on the spot.
And what a happy holiday that would be!