Q: My company has scheduled an employee picnic for Labor Day weekend and seems to be planning a nice event. We have a Christmas party every year, but this is the first summertime event. I'll have to admit, I'm a bit nervous not knowing what to expect.

The Christmas event is formal with a set agenda, but we are told that this event is "casual with lots of activities to choose from." Is there a standard of etiquette for picnics or is it truly a "come as you are, do as you please" event? Including employees and their families, there could easily be 1,000 people at the picnic.A: Corporate summer events are lots of fun and a terrific way to develop friendships outside the office. I know of many long-term family friendships that began when the families met at the company picnic.

Please understand that while corporate social events provide an atmosphere for fun and games, many careers have been seriously hindered or destroyed because of improper behavior at a social gathering. Never forget that, while in the presence of other employees, behavior is always under scrutiny and a wrong move can easily make you the subject of conversation in the management meeting on Monday morning!

The wise employee thinks ahead as you have done and approaches any work-related event with a certain amount of respect and desire to do what's appropriate. Here are some specific guidelines for you:

- Consider refraining from alcoholic beverages and sticking with soft drinks. People react differently to alcohol and many become loud or extremely vocal after just a small amount. Remember, your conduct will be observed and discussed by both peers and managers. Someone who has had too much to drink is never attractive!

- Keep your conversation light and fun. A company picnic is not the place to discuss work-related issues, problems or subjects involving other employees. Do not talk about the "boss" and stay away from divulging confidences that you may regret when you get back in the office.

- Make new friends and become better acquainted with the families of those with whom you work closely. Be careful about lighthearted flirting which may seem harmless to you, but might be perceived as otherwise by someone else.

- Dress conservatively. Because of the heat, summer events provide a greater temptation to show your wild side. Remember that "less is not more" and wear something attractive, but conservative.

- If you aren't in shape, don't try to be the star of the volleyball or softball game. It won't go over well if you miss work because of strained muscles or broken bones.

- Observe the timing of the event and know when to leave. Unless you want to help with clean-up, leave while the event is still going strong. Be sure to compliment the organizers of the event. Rest assured this kind of effort isn't put together without a great deal of hard work.

Moderation is the key to success at any corporate social event. Just as it is important to "fit in" the corporate culture of the office, it is equally as important to match your behavior at the picnic to the behavior of those whom you most respect.

Most of all, have a lot of fun. Summer events provide something for everyone and have long-lasting benefits for the morale of the organization.