Seven tips to navigate the company picnic

Family Standing Behind a Car at a Picnic SpotIt’s summer time and the living is good – vacations, casual clothes and the company picnic. Ah yes, that annual event fraught with many perils.

The company picnic is an important event that can either help or hinder your career. It’s important to remember it is a business social event – emphasis on business. Have fun, but don’t do anything that will reflect poorly on your professional brand.

Here are some tips to help you successfully navigate the summer office celebration.

Show Up and Stay a While

Perhaps spending several hours with your coworkers doing gunny sack races isn’t your idea of a good time, but attending the summer picnic is pretty much a requirement. Your absence will be noted. Arrive within 30 minutes of it starting and stay at least one hour or through the meal. Senior managers should be there the majority of the time as they are the hosts of the event.

Don’t Bring Uninvited Guests

Be sure to ask if your family is invited. If they aren’t, be polite and honor that request. However, if you are allowed to bring them, ensure your spouse and kids are clear on how to behave before you arrive. Make an effort to introduce your family to your colleagues and manager, and avoid boring them by talking business in their presence.

Dress Appropriately

Because it’s summer and an outdoor event it’s acceptable to wear more casual attire. This is the one time flip flops are okay unless it’s a more formal event. But avoid sloppy or over revealing clothes – no short shorts, skimpy tank tops, or clothes you would wear to work in the garage.

Two Drinks Max

If alcohol is served either pass on it or limit yourself to no more than two drinks. Uninhibited you never know what might come out of your mouth and you don’t want to find out the next day through the gossip grapevine or by receiving a pink slip in the boss’s office.


Rather than talking to only the people in your work group or to those you know best, make an effort to mingle and talk to other people, including upper managers. You have the opportunity to make a good impression by conversing with senior level employees. Ask them about their hobbies or interests. Stay away from talking shop or carrying on about your kid’s little league average. Limit conversations to about five minutes and be sure to thank the hosts for the event.

Avoid Taboo Topics

There are a few topics you should never discuss in a business setting even if it’s the company picnic. Stay away from politics, religion, sex, health problems, money problems or tasteless jokes that are hurtful or mean spirited. Also avoid gossip or complaining. Try to avoid talking business; while this is a business event, it’s also a social event. Remember, you’re there to have fun, not work.

Participate in the Games

Be a team sport and participate in an activity or two. If the dunk tank is not your idea of a good time, try one that is more to your liking. Rotate in on a volleyball game or play a round of croquet. Be a gracious winner or loser. Remember, people are watching you – this is business.

Have fun!


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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