Tag Archives: networking

After work socialising: Do you feel pressurized?

Business and pleasure have always been uncomfortable bedfellows. It is widely considered than an informal off site or out of hours coffee, lunch, dinner or drink can oil commercial wheels and resolve tricky office situations much more smoothly than dealing with them in the office. Networking both internal or external are considered to be political skills necessary for professional success.

after hours socialHowever, I am increasingly hearing  from a number of sources the difficulties of dealing with the unspoken pressure to socialize outside offices hours with either co-workers, vendors or clients.

Processing this can be challenging for any number of reasons. Meet four people who say ” No”.

  • Childcare responsibilities:  many working  parents manage tight schedules when it comes to childcare. Many have  teenage children at home unsupervised,  others need to relieve nannies or collect kids from nurseries and day care. Very often there is also some after school participation in the early evening.  Suzette an IT Recruitment Manager told me “it’s  part of our office culture and routine to meet good clients for a drink on a Friday after work. My son plays football for a local junior team and I simply have to be back to take him there. My partner’s commute is much longer than mine and he can’t make it back in time. I  know this puts me in the poor team player category but it can’t be helped.  Sometimes I ask one of the other parents to cover for me with my son, but I resent feeling pressurized when I’m doing a good job in office hours and have excellent relations with all my clients .”   
  • No interest:  Some people simply don’t want to go to cafés and bars with their colleagues.   Aashif, an associate with an international law firm with suggests If I have been in the office since 0800 and if I can actually leave the office at 1800 –  I wouldn’t choose to go for a drink with people I have been working with all day. I  have given enough time. I just want to get home,  not because I have a wife or children,  but I want to do other things. I also don’t drink alcohol so it’s not a lot of fun because as a non-drinker I can see the impact that even one glass has on some people.  I am always happy to meet clients for lunch. I know I am viewed as anti-social”
  • Blurring boundaries:  Chloe a Fund Manager at a large bank finds the pressure to go to after work outings with colleagues and clients  frustrating and even annoying.  “There is a lot of blurring of boundaries at these post work drinks and some bad behaviour.  If people really want to socialize with their work colleagues or clients  they  can have coffee, lunch or even breakfast.  Very often some of these functions turn into late night events which I think can be inappropriate. ”   
  • Damages reputation:  Behaviour outside office hours can be quite often misconstrued and lead to office gossip and even reputation damage. Martin heads up an all female team and found that he was the subject of water cooler whispering following after work social events with a group of only women.   “They were perfectly correct occasions and genuinely intended to cement the team. But  the best of intentions back fired and there was a lot of open sniggering from outside the department,  so I simply stopped suggesting them.”

So do you feel pressurized to socialize with clients, colleagues or vendors after office hours?  Take the poll. 

The return of the office Christmas party

Raise your visibility for the right reasons!

Raise your visibility for the right reasons!

The festive period is now upon us.   After several years consigned to the doldrums by diminished, recession ravaged budgets,  I have it on good authority that this year, with the green shoots of recovery the good old office party is back in full force.

With an optimistic outlook about an upturn,  many organisations are going back to hosting their annual office Christmas knees-up.   A simple Google search on the topic produces almost one million results in 57 seconds would testify to this hearsay.   The physical reminders are all around us. Tacky earrings, seasonal ties and notices about Secret Santa gifts.

Post recession

For most companies the lavish pre-2007  budget, with no expense spared events at restaurants or hotels are still history.  I’ve only ever read about  the ones  featuring ice sculptures,  flowing Veuve Clicquot and cabaret artists that people have  actually heard of.  My experiences, especially in my early career,  have been more centred around parties characterised by Micawber like frugality:  a few mince pies thrown together in the staff cafeteria,  accompanied by a solitary glass of something singularly and poisonously unpleasant. My first ever boss invited me  for Christmas lunch,  ordered two cheese and onion sandwiches, before knocking back five double G & Ts and then going on to eat my leftover onion to take away the smell of the gin.

But for a great number, these renewed office festivities are a return to the dread that they faced prior to the economic crisis. This is synonymous with being forced to make small talk with the boss (or worse still his/her partner) eating limp canapés and  drinking inferior plonk with co-workers they would prefer to spend less time with, not more.

Super party-ers 

However,  there are always the super office party goers who regardless of the economic climate subscribe to the theory that if the drinks are on the house they are most definitely going to make the most of it.  These are the ones whose drunken aberrations (which  they don’t remember happening and have no wish to recall … ever)  provide the high-octane fuel of office gossip, well after the half-year results have been published.

Opportunity

For the savvy networker they can represent a great and unique opportunity to raise internal visibility and make strategic alliances. On what other occasion is the whole company brought together under the one roof,  at the same time?

By that I don’t mean chasing the co-worker who figures in their sexual fantasies around the photo copy machine with a sprig of mistletoe.  Or slurring to a senior executive that a box of cereal contains more strategic elements than the latest sales plan. That is a true story.  Nor obsequiously trying to ingratiate themselves with executive Board Members who wouldn’t recognise them in a line up thirty minutes later.

The office party can be a great opportunity to look into your own organisation to simply identify the people whom it would be great and useful to know. How can you best help each other and work together?

Research them.  Introduce yourself and tell them exactly that!

Have a great time!