The All-American Company Cookout

Sandwiched somewhere between Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day, comes an unofficial, yet important American event - the Company Picnic. Whether your boss is having a few folks over for a backyard barbeque or the CEO is throwing a company-wide bash, this innocent-sounding gathering can fast track you to the top of Monday's gossip list with a few unfortunate faux pas. The following dos and don'ts can help steer you clear of potential minefields that lie ahead.

DO: Go, Stay, Enjoy. 
This is a chance to get to know your co-workers and boss in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. Unless there's a major event that prohibits you from attending - like a wedding, funeral or planned vacation - you're expected to show up. No one likes a party-pooper, so stick around awhile and have some fun. Even if you're not an athlete, joining in on a friendly game of volleyball shows you're a good sport, a willing team player, and don't take yourself too seriously.

DO: Watch What You Wear. 
Now is not the time for low-cut, midriff-baring halter tops, skimpy shorts or t-shirts with lewd or controversial slogans. Walking shorts and a polo-style shirt for men and a tasteful sundress or capris for women make the ideal outfit.

DO NOT: Overindulge. 
Food and drink take center stage at the Company Picnic, but don't overdo it with an overflowing plate and helping yourself to seconds before others have had their first round. And while it might be tempting to calm your nerves with alcohol, watch out. A beer is acceptable, but more than that and others will take note. Many a career has stalled from over-imbibing and acting the fool.

DO: Mind Your Manners. 
Upon arrival greet the party host, whether that's the company owner, CEO, department head, or your boss. When leaving thank them (and their spouse as appropriate) for their hospitality. If it's a more intimate gathering, bring or send a small gift like a fruit basket, plant or bottle of wine. Always eat neatly and clean up after yourself.

DO: Make Small Talk. 
Every person from the mailroom to the CEO has something unique to share, something they enjoy outside of work, and something you can learn from. Discover what it is. Maybe they coach sports, paint landscapes or chase storms. You'll be surprised at the variety of hobbies and outside interests you uncover. Other safe topics include sporting events, the weather, travel destinations or current events as long as they're not too controversial. Use the time to network and learn as much as you can.

DO: Stay Hydrated. No one wants the Company Picnic to end with an ambulance ride to the hospital due to dehydration or heat stroke. Whether you're playing softball or sitting on the sidelines, summertime temperatures require you to stay hydrated. We've all heard that we should aim for eight glasses of water a day, more if you're engaged in strenuous activities. Watch for warning signs of dehydration which include increased thirst, decreased urination, muscle aches, fatigue and nausea. Don't let something as simple as insufficient fluids ruin the day.

The annual Company Picnic can be a great time to unwind, celebrate business achievements, and build camaraderie. Following these simple rules will go a long way to helping you build your network and your image. Go and enjoy!



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