You might know the feeling of waking up the morning after the Christmas staff party, with a blazing pain searing through your head and a wobbly sense of what happened the night before.
“Did I do anything embarrassing?” you wonder, racking your brain to salvage memories of the evening’s events. You are already dreading Monday, when you will awkwardly interact with colleagues well into the following April, when it will be someone else’s turn to get a little too loose with the karaoke machine at the spring barbecue.
The challenges of socializing with co-workers leads some people to make poor decisions. On one hand, you’ve got the party animals running wild on liquid courage. On the other, there are the hermitic types who simply refuse to show their face at after-hours events. Both are damaging their careers in the process, and both employees and employers can be guilty of these bad habits.
When you are new to a work environment, either as a permanent or temporary employee, the pressure to fit in can seem particularly urgent. And as a manager, the distance between you and your employees could hinder productivity, because as workplace happiness expert Alexander Kjerulf says:
“Socializing and getting to know [your employees] will help you to communicate better, trust each other more, and work better together.”
If you have positive relationships at work, you are more likely to be happier, and people who are happier at work are often more productive. Happy people = happy results. You have so much to gain from getting to know your employees or fellow colleagues on a more personal level.
So! How do we go about socializing with co-workers without overstepping boundaries or clamming up in the corner of the room? Here are our top tips for owning the next workplace event:
If you’re the boss…
– Plan for social events in and out of the office. The time spent in the office, perhaps with a staff game or catered lunch around the boardroom table, is most valuable, says Kjerulf, because “that’s where employees spend the most time with one another.”
–Do not cling to your ‘favourite’ employee for the duration of the social event; you know, the junior exec who reminds you of a younger version of your ambitious self? It looks bad to the rest of the team, and starves the favourite of a broader socialization opportunity.
–Make time for socializing, but don’t let it take over your team’s entire afternoon. Schedule social breaks as you would business meetings.
-If the activity is taking place somewhere alcohol is served, ensure there are ample options for non-drinkers, and do not centre the activity around booze (ex: no drinking games). Do you really want to see your capable team at their worst?
–Help your newer employees synch up with your team by spending a few minutes personally introducing them to other individuals. Make an effort to show them you are happy to help them adjust.
If you’re the employee…
–If you know there will be alcohol served at the work function, and you’re inclined to imbibe, eat a hearty meal before attending. Also, consider pacing drinks by switching out a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage in order to keep your behaviour in check.
–Avoid talking about work. This is the ultimate challenge because work might be all you believe to have in common with your co-workers. Trust us, there’s more to talk about.
–Instead of talking about work, dive into a conversation focused on the person you are talking to. Start with an opener like “What are you up to this weekend?” or “Seen any good movies lately?” and go from there. Redirect any shyness or anxiety by making it all about the other person.
–Listen. Hard. In order for any conversation to go well, you’re going to have to listen so you will be able to respond effectively and keep the chatter going.
–Keep it light. Having positive work relationships is not about divulging your life story and revealing every personal drama in raw detail. There needs to be some boundaries. There are things you can share with your best friends and partner, and there are things you can chat about at work. Hobbies, interests and breezy family topics are fair game. Giving too much away could weaken your respect in the workplace and impact future promotions.
Give us your tips!
Whether you’re a temporary employee, permanent staff member or manager/owner of a company, you probably have had experience socializing in the workplace. Share your tips in the comment section and let us know what you do to get to know your co-workers!
Photo credit to Unsplash contributor Dogancan Ozturan. Link here for photo.