Fitting In: Alternatives to After-Hours Socializing with Co-Workers

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WorkYou spend most of your day surrounded by the people you work with and when it’s time to go home, you are ready to clock out. But what is one to do when constantly invited out after hours by work colleagues? You don’t want to look antisocial, but you have other things to do.

There are other ways to fit in with your co-workers other than hanging out after work. Have actual non-work conversations with them.  “When you are at work, make an effort to get to know your co-workers. Ask about more than what they’re doing over the weekend, and make a point to remember things about them to check in,” suggests Kelsey Goeres, Social Media and Marketing Associate at MyCorporation.com. “People listen so poorly these days that you stand out when someone really feels heard. Actually, if you really listen when your co workers talk, you won’t need to go to happy hour with them every day after work in order to feel a bond.”

Make an effort to be part of the team. “First of all, there’s fitting in and then there’s isolating yourself…the most important thing to ask yourself is do I fit here and if the answer is no, it may just be time to find a company to work for where you do fit.  These days, the office is a home away from home and not fitting in can be a real drain on the way you feel about yourself and your work. So, first things first….find a place to work where you do fit in. But in the meantime, make an effort.  You want to be sure you’re not alienating yourself or isolating yourself to the point that it’s awkward for you when you do try to interact with your co-workers,” notes Michele Mavi, resident Career Expert at Atrium Staffing.

It is actually wise to spend some time with your co-workers outside the office. “People who don’t hang out don’t realize that work talk happens during the ‘hangout discussions.’ Also, in relaxed settings (away from the job, especially if alcohol is involved) people are more apt to share ideas that have been banging around in their heads. Consequently, agreements, attitudes, and plans are often formed or revised during these times,” Brian Massie, communication consultant at Taylor Business Solutions, points out.

Find alternative ways to be social outside of the office that won’t eat into your after-hours time. “Going out after work may not be an option for you, but hanging out at lunch is always a great option and a great way to stay connected,” says Mavi.

And try to go out with them socially occasionally. “If you have the ability (the schedule) to hang out with your co- workers, it really would be nice to do so every now and then. When you’re friends with someone outside of the office, you’ll work better with them in the office. You don’t have to hang out all weekend; that may be a little too much together time. But joining in on team-bonding outings when you can won’t hurt you,” says Goeres.

Adds Massie, “The degree to which advancement depends on hanging out with co-workers varies tremendously on the organization, so hard and fast suggestions are difficult. However, based on other social theories and practices, I recommend attending at least 25 percent of them or twice a month. Whichever is greater.”