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Work Parties: To do or not to do?

I tend towards being somewhat shy and introverted. I'm not a misanthrope, but I find long periods of human interaction draining. This fact is one of the main reasons that I avoided work parties at my old job. The other reason was because I did not like 50% of my coworkers, and the idea of hanging out with them for hours was...well, an unpleasant prospect. I don't believe that not attending these parties damaged my relationship with my coworkers or my career (I don't think anyone noticed my absence, and it was a part-time job). However, I feel that attending work parties at my full-time job would be important for my career/relationships. What would be the consequences if I avoided them altogether? Should I make it a goal to attend at least 1,2,3.... What if I don't like the majority of my coworkers? What if I don't like any of them? Finally, what if my job keeps serving foods which I'm allergic to? Would it be weird if I didn't eat anything?

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Michelle’s Answer

As soon as I saw your queseion, I was eager to respond.

If you keep in mind that at every job you will have, there may be instances in which you bond with all the staff, some of the staff or one person. Work image unfortunately sometimes does play a part in the life of a working person. On the other hand, all we can do is be ourself and be true to who we are, not pretentious for the sake of being everyone's best freind forever.

In my opinion, yes, you will have to go to some work functions. Some may be out of the office or in the office. Some may go on for hours or just an hour. In these instances, you can judge how important the event is to your manager and determine which ones to attend or which ones to be excused from. In my expereince, most managers do not expect their staff to attend 100% of them. My last full time job was very heavily into frequent events and placed importance on many, many functions. I always had a few or at least one person to mingle with and they actually weren't so bad.

As for food, it is an issue, yes. Some people are whole food plant based, vegan or intermittant fasting, not hungry, etc. At my last full time position I had always gotten approached if I wasn't eating. I would advise you to not force yourself to eat anything you don't like. You can have a soft drink or water. People just get like that about events that involve food. Try not to let it disturb you. Many people where I worked brought their own food to meetings or trainings, including me.

As for socializing outside of the office, my philosphy is : friendship is something that happens naturally, it is not deliberate. Here we all are, together with strangers, people we never knew before, and we're all supposed to get along, yet many times we have no common interests, temperment or bond. When you get a job in which there is full compatibility with all the staff, it is great ! It will feel like a family and you will have these friends for a long time. Just know that there is no way to predict before hand which job will present compatible coworkers or not. If things get too bad with the atmosphere at work, look for another job and quit the uncomfortable one.

Different fields of work and your specific position in a job will determine to what extent you will be expected to be a social butterfly. I'd say yes, go to a few events. My own opinion is that it may not be a big deal if you don't socialize outside of work with co-workers , but than again, that depends.

I believe that a person should be honored for their work and good character, not on who is friends with who or how popular a person is at the job. This isn't high school. Hopefully you will meet many people who believe the same thing.

Best wishes to you !
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Michelle! Genevieve
Thank you comment icon You are very welcome . Michelle Marotta
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Raisa Anan’s Answer

In my experience, most type of work requires at least minimal attendance at work parties. You have to consider whether it is mandatory or optional at your work place. Also, consider if it is optional and you don't attend, what are the ramifications.

I have also noticed that work parties are usually for bonding among the colleagues. Consider whether that is something you value, want to value, or don't want to be bothered with. I think no one should judge a person if they don't want to hang out with coworkers. After all, people have diverse range of reasons as to why they don't like work parties.

Thank you comment icon Thank you!! Genevieve
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Kim’s Answer

Genevieve,

Not participating in get-togethers with the team will harm your career. Plain and simple. I never went to anything. Not even funerals of co-workers' family members. I'd pitch in for flowers, but, not attend. I don't really have a good reason, except, like you, I found social activities emotionally draining. I also did not drink or dance, and didn't understand the concept of socializing with people who I did not like on a professional level. I also avoided public speaking in my first career (25 years) but had to do it at my next job (10 years) and actually grew to enjoy it! The more you can do to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, the better off you will be.
Thank you comment icon Wise words. Thank you!! Genevieve
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Jaquelyne’s Answer

This is a great question because as I started out in my career, I also felt the same way. Especially being in sales and advertising, it was important to build relationships not only with your co-workers but clients as well. I was very uncomfortable at first. I will say that you most likely do not need to attend every event but I do recommend at least trying to go every once in a while, depending on how many events your job has. I have found that it has tremendously helped my career. Think of these events as an opportunity to know what people do at the company and how you may work together. Feeling uncomfortable is a natural feeling and know that most likely there are people in that event that feel the same way. While not attending may not necessarily hurt you, this experience can only benefit you. I suggest maybe buddying up with someone on your team or someone you are close with at work as this helped motivate me to attend and socialize with other people.
Thank you comment icon That's a great idea about paring with someone! Thank you! Genevieve
Thank you comment icon Speaking of "buddying up", depending on the event, you may be able to bring a plus one! Having a buddy or significant other that you know and trust can help you calm your nerves Gurpreet Lally, Admin
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Jayda’s Answer

Hi Genevieve, these are great questions! My recommendation is that if you are in a position where you are uncomfortable or dislike majority or all of your coworkers, it may be a good time for self-reflection. Some questions to consider are:

- Does this company align with what you value in a workplace?
- Does the company provide the type of environment where you can thrive?
- What is causing the misalignment between you and your co-workers, and can it be fixed?

This may help you determine if finding a different team or work environment is what you need, or if conversations with colleagues could make you feel more comfortable attending work events.

Work events are important opportunities to get to know your colleagues better, so when you're available it's great to attend. I don't think you have to aim for a specific number, but I do think communicating a desire to connect with your colleagues is important so that they still feel you are an active team member.

If your job doesn't serve foods that meet your dietary restrictions, you can talk to the event planners in advance to find out if there's an opportunity to provide different options.

Wishing you well!
Thank you comment icon Great advice Jayda. Thank you! :) Genevieve
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Tyrone’s Answer

Hi Genevieve,

This is a great question. Believe it or not, even extroverted people, like myself, find work functions draining. That said, I do believe they are a helpful tool in career advancement. I say this for two reasons:

First, these informal connections allow for co-workers to connect with you on a personal level and not simply work deliverables. It's these relationships that will prove very helpful in the long-run. What you will find is that if people "know" you, they will do more for you.

Second, it's a way for you to identify people with whom you may want to align yourself to professionally. These events are good ways to find formal and informal mentors. Mentorship is extremely valuable and social events are great ways to identify potential work friends.

All of this is said with one big caveat. Prioritize your mental health. If these events cause you too much stress, don't go. You can always find ways to network outside of these events. Your mental health is your responsibility and I would encourage you to prioritize that.
Thank you comment icon Thanks Tyrone! Genevieve
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Sikawayi’s Answer

Hello Genevieve, thank you for your question. I understand your reluctance to socialize with your co-workers outside the office, but maybe you can look at the situation through a different lens. To starter most of the people there will be people you see and interact with every day, secondly this will be mostly pleasant conversation if there are people around you who only want to complain about work you want to excuse yourself. If you know you don't like to drink only have the one drink how it the whole night, the worst that can happen is you'll have a night out, Best of luck
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Sikawayi! Genevieve
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Molly’s Answer

I think work parties are a great way to get to know the people you work with and build relationships that could be beneficial to you in many ways. Having a positive relationship with the people you work with can help make your days go by faster and smoother. You never know when a professional relationship can help you out down the road.

Work parties are also a good way to show your employers/upper management that you are excited to work for their company. These events are typically held for many reasons but one of those reasons is to celebrate and applaud you, the employees. Not attending on a frequent basis can be a sign of disrespect and can build tension up in the office. That's not to say you must attend every party that is held, but making a presence and putting the effort in to socialize can go a long way. Stay for half and hour to an hour and just chat with a few people and head out, but I bet you'll be surprised at how much fun you can have if you allow yourself.

I also was in your shoes with previous jobs where I didn't really enjoy it and I didn't really care for my co-workers but as I transitioned into more of a career position for a company I wanted to work for, those problems didn't occur to me. When you look for a career position you should look for things you enjoy and value and that typically means working with like minded individuals. Try not to overthink things and allow yourself to be open to the idea. These are meant to be fun not a hassle!
Thank you comment icon Molly, Thanks for the advice. I'll try to put it into practice at my next job!! :-p Genevieve
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Matt’s Answer

Great question! If the situation is dangerous or involves doing something that would hurt your career, that is a different topic. However, if the reasons for you to not go is as mentioned in your question, here are some additional suggestions!

Think less about the reasons keeping you from going. Try to find reasons you may want to go! Here are some examples but feel free to add your own!

Try to enjoy this event for the experience itself. I've noticed that these events are sometimes different depending on the groups!

You might not be in this department / job / role for your entire career. You can visualize that and know that this is only once, or two times, or only a few times you will be with these specific people in your life and make the best of it.

Concerned about hours long hangouts - tell yourself that you will go to "check it out".

That person you work with may have been hoping that you would come!

Perhaps you can use this as an experience to provide someone guidance who has the same questions you do in the future!

Perhaps it is at a restaurant or a place you've never been and you can use that opportunity to check it out. There are some places that I have been for work functions that I may never have visited otherwise!

Also, keep in mind that some people are completely different in these situations than they are at work. There are some folks that I have met at gatherings that I talk to years later because you may get a chance to see who that person is outside of their role at work.

Finally, you will learn that there are some folks that are amazing at these events and live for them. However, you will also find that many people feel the same way you do. I'm not very chatty, but love listening to people and their stories! After all we are all just people - be kind and you may have a great time!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for taking the time to help me!!! Genevieve
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Ann’s Answer

Great questions! I'm an introvert as well and completely get it. Networking is crucial to career advancement. Studies show that one of the reasons women hit the glass ceiling is because they aren't part of the "Good Ol Boys" club. Not interacting with people that could potentially be in a position to elevate your career will have a negative impact. With that said, work parties aren't the only way to network. Finding a mentor you work with regularly, getting to personally know your co-works and maintaining relationships by grabbing coffee or lunch are all ways to build and maintain your network.

If you are doing these actions then missing work parties may not be an issue. It really depends on the company culture. If attending these gatherings are considered as the cultural norm and your one of the few not going that could harm your reputation, but if it's the same few in the office going to these events I wouldn't sweat it.

Also, depends on the event, like a happy hour for example, it is fine to stop for an hour, talk to a few key people and then run. Quality of interactions is more important than quantity.

In my current role we don't have many in person events, but in my last role I missed many of them because I had my daughter to take care of. My company understood my absence and was supportive. They were always so kind at the few I made it to. Being I was having valuable connections in the office I don't feel like it hindered my career.

I hope that helps! Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the awesome answer!!! Genevieve
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Matthew’s Answer

I recommend to always make an appearance to show face. This social atmosphere provides people a different angle to get to know their colleagues and you are also showing leadership (management) that you are apart of the team and want to be there. You never know who you might be introduced to at these events that can also help transcend your career. You do not have to stay the entire time. Read the room and after whatever time, if you are not comfortable, you can leave. At least you were seen making the appearance and people will remember that.
Thank you comment icon Thank you!! Genevieve
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