The art of socialising at work

By Robert Half on 17 April 2015

Socialising at work may not be as simple as you think. Learn the art before jumping into the pool.

Interacting with peers and clients is the perfect way to connect on a more personal level and gauge how they operate in real life, as opposed to the closeted world of the office. By engaging with work associates outside the workplace, you’ll be able to determine a more effective way to communicate with them, understand their personal currency and build trust. Socialising at work helps build good relationships with your workmates, making your workplace a home away from home.

But this can all fall to pieces if you don’t follow the protocol. Let’s take a look at how best to socialise on the work front.

Keep it casual
Although it’s tempting to raise work issues in a more relaxed social environment, not everyone wants to talk about it outside work hours. Unless the intent is reciprocated, try to leave work issues in the office and keep the conversation light and entertaining. Ask co-workers about family, friends, holidays, hobbies, favourite TV shows and movies rather than simply relocating your work relationship to the pub.

Don’t drink too much
Limbering up with a few glasses of pinot noir may seem like a good idea at the beginning of the night, but when inebriation kicks in, there’s no going back – especially after indecent or offensive behaviour occurs and embarrassment ensues. Keep your drinking in check and evenly paced – being red-faced (or worse) come Monday is not the desired outcome of your social event.

Be inclusive
Don’t mimic playground behaviour by socialising only with the cool kids and not including junior peers. Be inclusive and show everyone that you’re a team player. Whether you’re a boss proving you can engage with everyone or you’re more junior and keen to demonstrate that you can deal with the big players, mingle as broadly as you can.

Avoid controversy
Until you truly get to know your work colleagues and clients, avoid raising controversial issues such as religion, sex or politics. And even when you do get to know them better, don’t assume that everyone is comfortable talking about these issues. Check the temperature of the room before diving headfirst into a sensational conversation about the state of the affairs of the country, or anything else that may seem a sensitive topic.

Be respectful and honest
Although socialising with peers removes some of the barriers that exist in the office, it’s worth respecting the hierarchy of the workplace, both up and down the ladder. For example, don’t ask your boss to buy you a drink. Be respectful. This is also an opportunity for your workmates to get to know the real you. Don’t pretend to love Game of Thrones just because everyone else does. Be honest and people will like you for who you really are.

Like all good things in life, moderation is key; and this applies to socialising at work. You don’t need to discover the ins and outs of all the minutiae of your colleagues’ lives – keep it casual and friendly before becoming besties. There’s plenty of time for that down the track if you feel it’s appropriate.

This post was adapted from “The dos and don'ts of socialising with colleagues.”, which originally appeared on the Worklife blog.

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