Crossing the work/social divide
Some people like to draw a very distinct line between their private and professional personas, while for others the boundary is a lot more blurred. To a large extent, how much you socialise with colleagues will come down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable with, but it’s worth thinking through the pros and cons of any social activities in relation to your career and professional reputation.
A few work/social scenarios to consider
After work drinks
It’s Friday, it’s been a hectic week, and all your work mates are off to the pub, so it’s fine to go along, have a drink and let your hair down, right? Yes, if you want to, but proceed with some caution.
Socialising after work can be a good way to get to know people in a more relaxed environment, particularly when you’re new to a job, but there are perhaps a few things to keep in mind.
Keep your conversation appropriate, avoid anything that could offend, tread carefully with taboo subjects, and try not to overshare if you’re still getting to know people.
Limit your alcohol intake, staggering around and talking very loudly is not a good look. And, have fun, but not at anyone else’s expense, beware of what starts as good humoured banter escalating and going sour.
I think it can get easy to get overexcited when you start a new job and get on really well with your colleagues, particularly when social events (nights out, after work drinks) crop up.
But it's important to remember you work with these people, and while it's normal and okay to make friends, you don't want to get a reputation or say something you might regret, so it's important to take it slow at first during social events.
Abi Bennetts, UoN alumna, Psychology, 2018
The Conversation - Why every company needs a Chief Fun Officer
The Christmas do
A social faux pas made at the Christmas party tends to live on in people's collective memory far longer than a similar misdemeanour made at another time.
Perhaps it’s because it happens in front of a bigger audience, even colleagues who don’t normally socialise often make a special effort at Christmas, or maybe it’s because the events of the evening are subject to intricate analysis over the water cooler the next day. Whatever the reason, a social slip up is best avoided.
It’s fine to enjoy the seasonal spirit and get involved with the fun (some people even dance), but don’t go too far.
Should your tweets be personal or professional? Do you accept a Facebook friend request from someone at work? Should you connect with all your colleagues on LinkedIn? It’s tricky.
On one hand, connecting online might aid communication, it can help you to raise your profile, and it seems like the friendly thing to do. On the other hand, anything you post is open to misinterpretation, there’s a risk of oversharing, and people can be judgmental about what they see.
So, before you decide, think carefully about why you use each social media platform, consider how appropriate any content or posts are, and whether or not you want to share this space with colleagues.
At university you may have played sport, pursued a hobby, or been in a society. At work, this sort of additional ‘fun’ activity doesn’t have to stop, and it can provide an enjoyable way to develop deeper relationships with colleagues.
There are perhaps a few things to avoid. Try not to:
- form cliques, these are likely to have a negative impact at work
- be too competitive, particulary with sporting activities, you don’t want to generate any bad feeling that could tip over into the office
- ‘talk shop’ too much, it’s inevitable that workplace stuff will come up but don’t let it dominate, instead, focus on your activity and building relationships
I have found that a great way to settle in is to try and get involved in some of the social activities that many employers offer, whether that is sports, book clubs or exercise classes.
This will allow you to meet your colleagues outside the usual work environment and start to make friends. If there are colleagues that you strike up rapport with, maybe they are from the same area as you, attended the same school or university.
Don't be afraid to ask that colleague if they would want to have a coffee over lunch someday. Not only will it enable you to learn more information about the culture of the firm, it will simultaneously allow you to build a relationship with your colleague which will help you settle in and enjoy your work.
Andrew Drylie, UoN alumnus, Law, 2019
Read our blog post - Extracurricular Activities Aren’t Just For University: 5 Ways To Get Involved at Work
There is a key difference between away days and most other work/social activities - there is far less opportunity to simply opt out. Attendance is usually expected, if not mandatory.
So, even if you don’t relish the idea, you might as well get on board and approach it with positivity. Don't forget, enthusiasm and a willingness to get involved will be appreciated by your manager.
Try to think of this as an opportunity to:
- meet colleagues in person (which may be rare in big or geographically dispersed organisations)
- focus on a specific collaborative project without ordinary workplace distraction
- develop or demonstrate skills and expertise