At the beginning of the holiday season I wrote about not being a party-pooper at work and I encouraged everyone to make an effort to enjoy the festivities. I heard from many people who agreed and some who didn’t. Even those who had another view were unanimous that they didn’t mind a few cookies and some decorations here and there. One man said he had been inspired to help coworkers put up the decorations and he found he enjoyed it far more than he thought he would. Their disagreement was more with the idea of forcing people to participate in things that seemed to be outside the scope of workplace camaraderie. I agree with them on that topic!
Happy Hour events. In some workplaces a weekly or monthly “happy hour” get-together is routine and a fun activity for many. However, not everyone wants to drink alcohol, be with those who do or be in a bar or similar place, even if no one is having alcoholic drinks. Many people need to get home and be with their families. Some know they have alcohol, smoking or sexual temptations and they try to avoid situations that lead to those things. Some can’t afford drinks and snacks every Friday afternoon or even once a month. Many have told me that happy hour times tend to be gossip times in which remarks are made about those who aren’t there. As a result, they don’t want to go but also are fearful about not being present!
If your office has a regular happy hour, make sure everyone knows it is optional. Don’t let anyone who is absent become the target of remarks. If there are problems with anyone about work it should be handled openly at work. Whateever your role in the workplace, you can stop that kind of conversation. Keep the Happy Hour happy and don’t let anyone drive home if there is even a mild concern about sobriety.
Group and spouses functions after work or on weekends. Some employees enjoy participating in all-group events such as movies, bowling, sports or other activities that happen after work or on weekends. Usually spouses are invited to these and that seems to make people view them more positively. However, there should not be even a vague hint that it has anything to do with work success. Example: “You don’t have to attend, but I see it as a way to decide if you want to keep being part of our team or not.” In the real-life situation, the threat was obvious and even though the manager didn’t have that level of authority, the employee knuckled under.
Company parties and picnics. I think these should be appreciated by employees rather than avoided, but they still should not be used to judge the quality of the employee on the job and should not be mandatory. (Often those who opt out would not have added much anyway, because of their negative view of everything, so don’t push it!)
Charitable giving or activities: I’ve always supported food drives, Toys for Tots, The United Way, The Combined Campaign, school volunteerism and similar activities, but I resented the few times when it was made a requirement not a choice–most people I know feel the same way. So, before your business, group or division adopts a school, supports a program or has a blood drive, make sure there is an understanding among organizers that participation is voluntary and no strong-arm tactics will be allowed.
Your role: If you are a manager or supervisor speak up to represent the employees in your group when it seems there is inappropriate pressure being put on to participate in any activity or function that should be voluntary. If you are the one who came up with an idea for a function, charity or progam, take your ego out of it. Getting 100% participation doesn’t mean you have 100% support. It may actually mean 100% of the employees resent being badgered into participating.
If you are an employe who feels pressured, think about whether you really must participate or is it just that you don’t want to say no? What will happen if you don’t take part? Often the idea of intimidation is mostly in the mind of the employee. They could courteously say no without repercussion, but they would rather sigh heavily and do something they don’t enjoy. Decide and do it or not, of your own free will.
Bottom line: We still have a work week to go before Christmas. Enjoy the season and encourage those you work with to relax, smile and enjoy it too–without implying, “Or else.”