How to Navigate Social Participation at Work

11/18/2016 - Jaco van Buren-Schele, CFO of Monocle

As graduates join the workforce of large corporations, chances are they’ll find themselves at social events with colleagues and seniors. Sailing through without ruining your reputation requires a careful balancing act.

The days of employees choosing a position based solely on salary and longevity are long gone. Today, a company’s culture is as important – more so, for millennials – than a payslip. Companies are therefore making a huge effort to create a culture that fosters strong connections between employees. And part of that includes organising social events at work. As an employee, participating in those events can be incredibly beneficial – provided you don’t cross any boundaries.

I believe it’s as important to participate socially at your company’s work events as it is to deliver on your KPIs. It shows the company – and would certainly show me – that you are fully invested in the company; that you are in it for the long run. By seeing you there, enthusiastically taking part, I understand that you appreciate and respect the time and effort it takes a company to throw the event.

Participation also builds relationships with your colleagues. You spend the majority of your time at work, so it’s important that you connect with, understand and bond with your colleagues on a personal level. It’s no secret that doing so results in greater teamwork and productivity at the office.

However, interacting with your bosses or colleagues on a social level at the office can often feel like walking a tightrope; one step out of line and you could spiral out of favour with those who call the shots. Balance is everything.

First and foremost, understand that boundaries exist at social work functions. While the idea is to relax, have fun and bond with your co-workers, you cannot let your guard down totally – especially if there is alcohol involved. You need to keep an eye on your behaviour, and remember to act in such a way that you will still be respected when you arrive at work the next day – instead of being the subject of office gossip.

Also, be weary of oversharing. You may find yourself having a casual chat with your CEO. Believe me, he or she doesn’t want to know about your Tinder date. Instead, use the social event to your advantage. Engage in relevant and meaningful conversations about world events, news, or trends in your industry.

Think of it like this: the financial industry is an HQHP (high quality, high performance) environment. I truly worry about whether or not our employees are going to be loyal, dependable and respectful when it really counts. Will they be consistent in all environments? If you can still be gracious, even in the moments when you are relaxed, it shows you are exactly the person we want on our team. Master this balance and you’ll be walking that tightrope to success in no time.

Oh, and just because the boss is paying, does not mean you should order four of the most expensive single malt whiskeys…

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