When Work Involves Socializing
How to Plan and Enjoy Work Events
Remember work socials and office parties before social distancing and COVID restrictions put an end to large gatherings? Chances are, someone would usually have a bit too much to drink, or perhaps you did something that you wish you hadn't?
Business socializing – with your colleagues, clients or boss – can develop good working relationships and a culture of trust, as well as boost your job satisfaction. But it has different rules from socializing with friends and family. Many people, however, treat the two situations in the same way, which can lead to negative consequences for their careers.
Now that virtual working is commonplace for many businesses, and with COVID still prevalent around the world, work socials are now harder to arrange to include everyone safely, while still being fun.
In this article, we discuss how to plan an inclusive social event, and offer some tips to help you have a good time with ease and confidence.
Planning an Event
If you're charged with planning an event with clients or team members, you'll need to consider their needs, interests and expectations. There's a lot to organize, so start early and ask a co-worker for help if you're planning a large gathering. Here are some things you'll need to think about to ensure that your event is a success:
Choose the location carefully. Many people choose a place randomly, but this can be a big mistake. If your guests have to travel a long way, then they're not going to be impressed. Select a location that's close to your guests, and is easy to get to.
The safety and well-being of your team and/or clients should be your first priority. Ask your potential guests if they'd be comfortable with an in-person gathering and traveling for it. Everyone will feel differently, so do not pressure anyone to attend. Work socials should be optional.
If a large in-person event isn't feasible, consider arranging multiple, smaller meet-ups for your teams, or a virtual company event instead.
Choose an activity that everyone can take part in and enjoy. For example, just because you love the outdoors, that doesn't mean the entire office would be willing or able to spend a day hiking. And your passion for classical music doesn't mean that your clients would enjoy the opera.
If you decide to organize a business lunch or dinner, a tried and true way to discuss deals or bond with team members, choose a venue that can cater for everyone's dietary requirements.
Remember your overall goals: for example, if you're attempting to win a key contract from a client, then choose an activity and place that will allow you to talk seriously. If the event is meant to strengthen ties within a department, then arrange an activity that will allow people to get to know one another, such as Mind Tools' popular virtual Escape Room Game.
If you're negotiating with a client over dinner, it's important to make them feel at ease from the beginning, so make sure that they know who's paying the bill. If you're the host and you issued the invitation, then you should pay. To avoid confusion, tell your clients up front that they're your guests.
But spend appropriately. Remember that your boss will probably review how much you spend on the client – and compare it with how much you can reasonably expect to gain from developing the relationship. A general rule is to make sure that the amount you spend on clients is proportional to what you expect to earn from socializing with them.
For team or department socials, it is important to establish a clear budget in advance. It may be that your organization is prepared to meet the full cost of your event or, in some cases, staff may be asked to make a small contribution. If you have been tasked with putting together a proposed budget, it may be helpful to consider what budget was allocated to similar previous events. You could also contact a couple of potential suppliers to obtain provisional figures for your event.
How to Socialize at a Work Event
Lockdown has left many people feeling out of practice when it comes to socializing. You may even need a little refresher on how to make small talk! And it can be even more challenging with colleagues, clients or bosses who you don't know very well. Here are a few things you can do, to make the right impression and to make the event enjoyable for all.
- Keep your conversation appropriate. Don't tell jokes at a party or gathering that you would never tell in the office. Offending your team members may make them uncomfortable, and could hurt their feelings. And that's something they may not forget anytime soon.
- Discuss nonwork topics. Aim to keep the conversation away from business. Get to know your team – ask them about their hobbies, families, and interests. Talking about the report you just wrote, or discussing your recent promotion, can be boring or annoying!
- Be a listener, not a talker. Most people feel special when someone really listens to what they say. If you're the one doing all the talking, people may perceive you as selfish and self-centered. So listen first, and talk second.
- Spend time with new people. Company events are a great way to get to know colleagues and bond as a group. But resist the temptation to talk with only your regular circle of co-workers. Move around and get to know people from other departments or regions. if your boss sees that you're mingling confidently with different people, they'll likely think positively about your abilities as a communicator.
Limit your alcohol. Quite simply, don't drink too much. Walking around in an unsteady manner while laughing loudly will definitely get you noticed – but probably not in the positive way you'd like.
Relax... but not too much. Be yourself and have fun, but don't relax so much that you say or do something you'll regret the next day. You may feel more comfortable with your co-workers, but this doesn't mean you can let go of all self-control. You still have to maintain your reputation and keep the respect of others. Remember that you're representing your company, so dress appropriately and be respectful of everyone else.
Deal with inappropriate behavior, appropriately. If you see a co-worker behaving inappropriately at the event, you should speak to a member of HR. They will know how best to proceed. Don't call out the misconduct publicly as this could start an argument, which won't do you any favors.
If you're socializing with your boss, you face a different set of challenges. Remember that even in a social situation, this is still business.
Spending time with your boss is always about work. No matter how well the two of you get along, They're still your boss. Don't forget the lines of authority, or expect special treatment when you get back to the office or workplace.
Planning an inclusive event is a challenge, so start early and consider all of your guests' needs.
Business socializing has its own set of rules and practices that are far different from socializing with friends and family. It's important to understand that no matter what you're doing, or with whom you're doing it, attending corporate events is still part of your work life. So don't do or say anything that could harm your reputation or working relationships.
If you spot bad behavior from one of your peers, don't try to shame them in front of the group. Instead, raise your concerns with a member of HR who will know how to deal with it.
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