“My boss and coworkers go out together almost every day after work for happy hour or dinner. I really don’t want to join them. Seeing them during the workday is enough. Is it bad if I skip out on these gatherings?” – Marcus from San Jose, CA
While a company can’t legally require you to participate in any unpaid activities outside of the office, you may want to rethink shying away from these kinds of get togethers completely.
Working successfully on a team means developing good relationships with your colleagues, and depending on your company culture, these relationships may be built outside of a 9-to-5 schedule. Additionally, when it comes time to determine promotions and raises, those individuals with whom your boss feels greater connection and trust may be the ones who benefit.
First, it’s important to think about why you don’t want go out with coworkers after work. Do you have a family or other obligations to tend to in the evening? If these gatherings involve alcohol, are you comfortable participating? Are you an introvert among extroverts? And, when it comes down to it, do you enjoy the people you work with?
If you have other obligations in the evenings, don’t hesitate to let your colleagues and boss know this. The same goes for happy hours – if you’re not comfortable being in an environment where people are drinking, it’s fine to express this preference to the people who are urging you to join them. Put it this way – if they don’t know your reasons for skipping out, they may assume you don’t like them.
I encourage you to set your own participation threshold for these events. If they’re going out every night after work like you said, maybe you’d feel comfortable joining them once a week. Let them know you can join them on Thursdays, for example, and you may get less grief for skipping out during the rest of the week.
If you truly don’t like your colleagues or boss, you might consider looking for work at a different company. There are many organizations out there where employees interact with each other within the confines of the workday and where they may even keep to themselves most of the day. The next time you interview for a job, be sure to ask what the work environment is like so you don’t find yourself in a similar situation to the one you’re in now.
And finally, if you do decide to participate, keep these tips in mind. Even though the setting is more casual, you don’t want to totally let your guard down and say something you’ll regret or that will jeopardize your relationship with your boss or colleagues.
Best of luck!