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 and after work socialising both internal or external are considered to be political skills necessary for professional success. It is rarely mentioned in the recruitment process but taken as a given.
However, I am increasingly hearing from a number of sources the difficulties of dealing with the unspoken pressure in socialising 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”.
When after work socialising is a problem!
- 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. I actually resent the pressure to be involved in after work socialising.”
I want to do other things after work!
- No interest: Some people simply don’t want to go to cafés and bars and socialising with their colleagues. Aashif, an associate with an international law firm suggests “If I have been in the office since 0800 and 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 or breakfast. 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 get involved with after work socialising with clients, colleagues or vendors. Let us know how you feel!