Socializing and work

I went out with some of my colleagues for drinks after work this evening.  We had a good time, drinking and schmoozing, and also had a very illuminating conversation about the culture of the office.  It started out as a discussion of the annual holiday party, and how it’s been somewhat of a focus for culture clash issues in the past, and eventually it turned into a discussion of socializing and work.

What I learned is that the two senior people in the organization are both strong introverts, and tend to think that everyone should be sitting in their office working and not "wasting time" standing around in the halls and talking.  At the same time, they’ve spent a lot of time over the last year trying to figure out formal ways to break down some of the organizational silos.  It hasn’t occurred to them that ordering in Chinese and letting people have informal conversations about what they’re working on might work better than more meetings.

What’s really strange about this is that this is not an organization with a high emphasis on clock-watching.  People work from home or flex their schedules all their time, and with very little supervision.  There’s very much an expectation that we’re all professionals and will get the job done.  If anything, people tend to work more hours than they’re paid for, since they care about the mission.  So it seems very odd to me that they’re worried about staff "wasting time" through socializing.

Of course, this conversation was precisely an example of the kinds of things that you learn through informal conversation that make you better at your job.  And while I don’t object to having a Berry Lemontini every so often, I shouldn’t have to stay late to learn these things. Landismom wrote the other day about wishing that there were other working moms in her office.  There are actually lots of moms with young children in my office — as noted above, the powers that be are very open to flexible schedules — but of the other two in my particular division, one telecommutes from another state and the other is out on maternity leave.  So there’s no one else to say "hey, I really need to get home for dinner, let’s do something that isn’t drinks after work."

As it happens, T and the boys were elsewhere tonight, so I wasn’t missing out on family time, but in general, I’d rather have these conversations at lunch.  I think I’ll try posting a menu for takeout and seeing if I can convince others to order with me some day.

7 Responses to “Socializing and work”

  1. Laura Says:

    I regularly invite colleagues out to lunch, sometimes just one, but often an odd collection of folks. I do also try to make an after hours meetup once a month or so. Occasionally my department will have a happy hour at a nearby bar that starts at 4:30 so that those of us who need to get moving at 5:30 can at least get in a quick drink.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    When I came back after maternity leave, I realised after six months that those after work chats I used to have when we were all winding down before leaving actually helped my productivity. I still haven’t figured out how to replace them, as I’m generally trying to get the same amount done in a shorter day, and it’s hard to convince yourself they’re more valuable than, well, work.
    But I should arrange more birthday cakes and stuff – that usually helps.
    And I’ve convinced the powers that be in my office to make the kitchen area a big space with lots of chairs to sit in – so it’s easy to have lunch together without making a big thing of it.
    Good luck with your lunches!

  3. landismom Says:

    Yeah, I strongly believe in the value of lunch-time gatherings as a part of the work I do. This reminds me of a conversation I recently participated in at my organization. We’ve been going through an organizational change process and working with a consultant–some of the executives had been told to go out and have a non-task-related conversation with three of their supervisees. Only two of them (out of 12) had actually done it. Then they got into an argument about whether they could have work-related (but not task-related) conversations, and if that would count. You wonder why we need a consultant!

  4. Kelly O Says:

    This definitely struck a chord with me. Pre-kids, I was a lot closer to my co-workers, a lot more in the loop. Lunch socializing doesn’t seem to have the same bonding power as happy hour, maybe in part because of the the social lubrication that those Berry Lemontinis (or, in my case, bourbon on the rocks) provide, maybe because it’s significantly separate from the work space.
    Or maybe I’m just being mopey because happy-hour is a thing of the past for me.

  5. Anjali Says:

    We started doing this regularly for coworkers’ birthdays. Anytime anyone had a birthday, we’d invite people to go out to lunch, or order in, and we’d cover the birthday person’s meal. It was so fun, and a lot of people who weren’t very social, ended up participating.

  6. SamChevre Says:

    I can sympathize with your bosses. I’m an actuary; we’re a profession of incredible introverts. It’s not that I think people having conversations are wasting time; it’s that they waste MY time by hindering concentration when they have conversations while I’m trying to work.
    So I think your idea of ordering in Chinese and having lunch get-togethers is great, and probably won’t face much resistance.

  7. jill Says:

    My office has an unoffical tradition of the “young” employees organizing happy hours. Once upon a time, I was one of those people but no more. They usually announce their happy hours the day before going – making it totally impossible for me to scramble my life together to stay after work for a beer and conversation. So, three weeks ago, I emailed everyone about going to happy hour next week – giving them a month’s notice. I got many responses thanking me for giving people a heads-up so they can arrange their schedules to attend. Now, I just have to hope and pray that none of the little people in my house pick next Wednesday to come down with a stomach bug.

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