Men's Life Today: Expert Q+A
My colleagues socialize a lot outside of work. Am I obligated to join them? I'd much rather see my non-work friends after hours.
Life would be a lot simpler if we could leave thoughts of work -- and that annoying guy in accounting -- behind when we vacate the office for the day. Given that our jobs often encroach on our leisure time, I don’t blame you for not feeling the urge to buy rounds for your department-mates at happy hour.
That being said, I think your question can be answered in one of two ways:
1) Are you obligated to? Well, no. That is, as long as you’re okay with being perceived as a lone wolf who couldn’t care less about his colleagues, let alone his own career advancement.
2) Should you? You bet your bottom dollar. Particularly if you’re interested in forging relationships and being viewed as an asset to the company rather than as a self-important snob.
If the first answer sounds like you, feel free to stop reading and go back to Web surfing. However, if you grudgingly appreciate that quality social time with work colleagues can give you a leg up, you most likely have a follow-up question: “What’s the minimum amount of face time I have to dedicate?”
For starters, make sure you’re at any function where the entire staff will be in attendance, and your absence would be glaring. This includes the holiday party, the company picnic and off-site team-building events. You should also show up for special occasions such as an after-work toast celebrating the award your company just won or a party in honor of someone who’s retiring.
Here are a few tips to bear in mind at such occasions:
- Drink to excess.
- Talk exclusively of work. Instead, seek out alternate common ground; you might be surprised.
- Raise controversial topics.
- Feel obligated to stay until the bitter end.
- Arrive on time.
- Be seen by your boss.
- Have a short conversation with all of the powers-that-be.
Will any of this mean you’ll be re-tweeting your cube-mates’ Tweets, celebrating each of their birthdays and inviting them to your annual Super Bowl party? Probably not. Indeed, there is definite value in preserving the perception that you do, in fact, have a life beyond work.
But once you do start acting a bit more social with the work crew, I think you’ll find that the career benefits can be very real. Heck, you might even start liking your colleagues. Even that guy in accounting.