Friday, 1 March 2019

Socialising and the office party

Networking at work is important: it creates teams, allow us insights into people whom we might otherwise dismiss, or to find commonality with people we normally oppose.

However, socialising with people we are paid to work with is often fraught with uncertainty, angst and pretence. It is an uneasy and abnormal mix of work and leisure. Most of us don't want to be there, because we can't relax like we can with friends.

There are some helpful things we can do to keep our good reputation when socialising with work colleagues. We just have to keep firmly in mind that we are still at work. They are:
  • Don't invite your partner if you can't trust them to be discreet about the gossip you have shared. 
  • Don't bring a friend. If you are going on to something afterwards, get your friends to pick you up from somewhere nearby.
  • Drive to the event so you can't drink too much. That will prevent you button-holing someone who has really got under your skin during the year and giving them a good talking to, ending your future prospects because they are great friends of the CEO.
  • Pick up a group of colleagues on the way to give you a sober driver role. 
  • If there is a drinking culture in your industry, drink soda water in a cocktail glass gussied up with ice, fruit and mint leaves for camouflage.
  • Ask questions like "what are you reading for pleasure?" and "what great movies have you seen lately?" and "what new music should I try?". Don't get sucked into rehashing work if you can avoid it.
  • Give yourself a task to pick out five people on the periphery and talk to them each for at least ten minutes, asking them questions about themselves. Really listen. People are very interesting when you start to know their story. They may race vintage cars in their spare time, or build sailing dinghies. I have met both at office parties.
  • Give yourself a task of pulling peripheral people into groups. You can only do that once you know something about them, and you build grace and reputation in learning to host well. 
  • Watch for someone who is starting to derail. Recruit others and see if together you can save the train-smash.
  • Start a game of charades with in-office themes, but keep it professional.
  • Keep your phone off, unless you are taking nice photos. 
  • If you are getting bored and your colleagues aren't ready to go yet, wander around and look at artwork or books. 
  • Don't screw the crew. Don't consider playing that way: it makes you look as if you have poor boundaries, and are unprofessional. Keeping your pants on will prevent you becoming the office urban legend... sometimes for YEARS after you have left (as happened to a former colleague of mine)
Those should help the office party go much better.



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