I've been working for this company in the Netherlands for 6 months now. When they said they valued get-togethers and game nights, I expected the occasional Friday afternoon gathering or a game night every now and then. Not the multiple times a week gatherings they are having in reality...

Every week there will be at least 1, usually 2-3 events that take place outside of working hours. About 40 people in my department get invited. I'd say the party is usually 30 people every time I attend.

I work on a different location on a project with 3 coworkers. Invites will be sent out through email, you have to accept/decline and people will email/bug you if you ignore it. If you decline, you will also get an email or possibly even a phone call to tell you how sad it is you're not joining, trying to dig up what your reason is in hopes they can counter it. The same 2-3 people do most of the organizing.

Aside from the fact that I'm an introvert, I have no desire at all to spend 2 evenings a week with my coworkers, every week. I have enough personal things to fill my week, and frankly I don't want to spend that one night a week I can just stay home with my coworkers, so I decline most of the time. I've decided I will do at least 1 event a month and even that is somewhat of a burden to me.

I'm scared this will negatively influence my position in the company, however. I love my work here, I like my coworkers (during working hours...) and I have an indefinite contract, so I won't be fired any time soon. But I am scared this will negatively influence a promotion or otherwise affect me.

Should I attend all/most gatherings or will declining most likely not influence anything?

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    What are the positions of the event organizers? (Workers, managers, etc). Are the events being supported by company money? – Arcanist Lupus Oct 9 at 5:35
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    Are there people who don't get invited? Can you shift yourself into that group? – Lycan Oct 9 at 6:02
  • Did you consider telling them that you have a busy schedule during the week with visiting your mom, helping out at the church and doing Karate training? And therefore 1 event per week is really the maximum you can do? – vikingsteve Oct 9 at 9:34
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    Is it mostly young employees? It's hard to imagine people with family responsibilities being able to attend activities several times a week. – Barmar Oct 9 at 16:40
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    If you don't mind me asking, what industry do you work in? I'm the type of introvert who's mentally exhausted after one event with more than 4 people. And if I have to suffer through two events in one week with more than 6 people, even my closest friends, I won't attend anything social for at least a full week. I work in IT where my introverted nature is the rule, not the exception, so your work environment would be like carefully crafted torture! – pbarranis Oct 10 at 15:43

12 Answers 12

up vote 108 down vote accepted

When they said they valued get-togethers and game nights I expected the occasional friday afternoon gathering or a game night every now and then.

Did you actually tell them this?

If you decline, you will also get an email or possibly even a phonecall to tell you how sad it is you're not joining, trying to dig up what your reason is in hopes they can counter it.

Why not during this time say what you thought above? "I'm sorry Bob, when I first started I knew you value these social gatherings, but I did not know it would occur multiple times a week. I simply cannot attend these social gatherings so many times during a week. I can only do once a month."

See what they say. If you say nothing, and simply reject every single social gatherings, then yes, that could negatively impact you because as you said, they value these sort of gatherings.

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    Can you elaborate a bit on how you think telling them this is likely to turn out? What do you expect they will say, and how should OP respond in each case? Would simply telling them this be likely to prevent it from affecting OP? It seems like it's a core part of the culture, which won't be changed by highlighting the misunderstanding. – Dukeling Oct 8 at 17:48
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    I think this is a good answer because you suggested something active and social OP can do to engage and communicate clearly. Personally, clear and honest communication are a very good fall back in professional situations, even if it feels weird. Saying something and being honest and open would at least help everyone else understand you; if, after that, it isn't better... OP can't control anyone but himself. This idea might let him learn which situations are best for him professionally. – RoboBear Oct 9 at 19:57
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    @Dukeling it's quite common that Dutch people go home after work to spend time with friends and family. Social work gatherings, sure, when they have time.. but those gatherings come second every single time. I understand this companies' culture is different, but they require an explanation and so seem to disregard Dutch "culture". – Edwin Lambregts Oct 10 at 9:32
  • I find it highly unlikely that everyone else is attending and only the OP is missing. As @Barmar said in the comments, it seems highly unlikely that people wouldn't have other responsibilities at home, even a young person (parents, pets, gym, etc). I might be wrong, but it seems highly unlikely. I think if OP opened communication channels, it would likely be understood that he'd only attend rarely - in their eyes since they're going near daily. – Dan Oct 15 at 13:09

This is just my humble opinion about this, but if canceling these kind of events is going to have a negative influence on your career, I'd consider to search for a new company to work for.

Being "socially active" within the company is not the reason why they hired you. It is something reserved at your sole discretion. You don't have to attend to that events if you don't want to.

If things get worse, you can always say, in a polite way, that attend to social events is not stated on your contract.

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    you're not really answering the question OP asked here, you're just stating they should leave? – bharal Oct 8 at 13:32
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    @bharal The question asked, "Will cancelling on my company's many social events negatively influence my career?" is basically unanswerable without knowing the exact company, and possibly even division within that company, that the OP works for. Dev is spot on with this advice. – Kevin Oct 8 at 18:37
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    There is no polite way to say "your social events aren't in my contract". If you're at the point of pulling that particular card, you almost certainly want it to have a bit of a tone anyways. Agreed that OP should be searching elsewhere before that, but ideally this can be resolved much more simply and amicably by just communicating better, like Dan's answer suggests. – Matthew Read Oct 8 at 21:12
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    "if canceling these kind of events is going to have a negative influence on your career" - isn't this exactly what the question is asking? You're saying if what the question asks is true, then OP should leave, which isn't really an answer. How does one determine whether it will have a negative influence on one career (without just sticking around for years, that is)? – Dukeling Oct 10 at 10:09
  • @Kevin If the question is unanswerable in your opinion, the best course of action is to vote/flag to close it and/or attempt to fix it with a comment or edit, not to post an answer which doesn't answer the question. – Dukeling Oct 10 at 18:14

You asked 2 different questions. I'm going to answer each of them separately.

I'm scared this will negatively influence my position in the company

It will. Groups like this are very political. They want to create bonds and feel included and feel heard, etc etc. They want an environment where socialization equals advancement because socializing is one of their primary skills.

If you don't share those desires and insecurities, they will see you as abnormal. They probably already do. They will think: you don't like them, there's something mentally wrong with you, you're just "making excuses" if you explain you're not drawn to socializing. In their mind, socializing is the norm and anyone who doesn't do it is failing to do what they're supposed to.

Will cancelling on my company's many social events negatively influence my career?

No. It will benefit your career. You'll become an outsider and leave. Then you'll find a company filled with reasonable people who don't think work is about chatting constantly and playing politics.

Finding mature people to deal with is the best possible thing you could do for your career.

Editing to add a comment from RoboBear because it was so good:

I want to add to this that some of the best career advice I ever got, in my opinion, was find the PEOPLE you want to work with. If you find a place where you fit in and or share values, you will be less impacted by and more happy with "not being like everyone else". Some teams and groups really are more understanding and open minded to diversity in behavior and personality.

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    "Finding mature people to deal with is the best possible thing you could do for your career." I want to add to this that some of the best career advice I ever got, in my opinion, was find the PEOPLE you want to work with. You can't escape socializing on the job, not really, but if you find a place where you fit in and or share values, you will be less impacted by and more happy with "not being like everyone else". Some teams and groups really are more understanding and open minded to diversity in behavior and personality. – RoboBear Oct 9 at 19:56

Yes, it will. It 100% will.

You won't have a social network in the company, you won't hear the company gossip, you won't, effectively, be "part of the tribe in the company".

If you want to go into management then you'll really struggle, because management is a more social role than any other (excluding sales).

You'll also make your day-day work harder, as lacking that social network in the company it will be harder for you to reach out to co-workers outside your immediate department for help or advice.

If the company is as social as you say, then should layoffs become necessary, then the person who fits in least will be a viable candidate (along with low-performing people).

Being an introvert isn't a reason to not socialise, by the way. View the socialising as part of your job - perhaps it is an unpleasant one, but then, don't all jobs have their problems? Once a week is a much better target than "once a month", and get to know your team mates. It will help tremendously with career growth - much, much more than being a star performer.

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    Being an introvert is a reason to limit the amount of socializing. If I wear myself to a frazzle with social events, I won't be very effective at work. – David Thornley Oct 8 at 19:36
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    If weekly social activities are "part of your job" then you should be paid for them. – curiousdannii Oct 9 at 7:09
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    @curiousdannii no. i mean, sure, yes, that makes sense. but it's also a very narrow, very engineer-y view of "work". Look, most engineers complain about hiring practices being broken - and then utterly fail to do any networking whatsoever. It's the networking that gets you the good jobs with the breezy hiring practice! – bharal Oct 9 at 8:08
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    If socializing is part of your job it should happen in your paid time. People have families, hobbies, sometimes have to commute for quite some distance or simply like to stay at home. Of course it does not invalidate first part of your answer in any way. – Ister Oct 9 at 9:04
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    -1: Being an introvert doesn't make socializing "unpleasant", it makes socializing extremely energy draining. Introversion vs. Extraversion is not Shy vs. Outgoing, it is Loading Batteries During Solitude vs. Loading Batteries During (hey!) Being Around Others. – phresnel Oct 10 at 10:29

Sadly if that is their values then not attending will negatively influence a promotion.

What is disappointing is they follow up if you decline. You should be able to just decline. This is your time.

Problem you have here is say you attend 2 / month that may not be good enough. Appears they want 100%.

I say just go 1 / month and if looks like that is going to limit your career then look for another job. 2-3 a week if that is not comfortable to you is just not worth it.

My first job out of college there was an employee club that was dirt cheap. They held 4 nice events a year and almost everyone attended but no one was forced to attend.

This is absolutely something that can affect your career. Gatherings outside the office like this, whether it's lunches, happy hours, or coworkers who carpool together, are places people talk about work and make connections. If you're missing out on these times, your coworkers will be discussing work projects, thinking about new projects and directions, and coming to conclusions without any input from you. That kind of thing means that others really are making contributions that you can't match because you aren't present for these unoficial meetings where work is discussed (and sometimes even carried out).

Besides that, they all know each other better than they know you, including the higher ups. That's a hard barrier to overcome if you ever want promotion.

Aside from that, management might decide that your refusal to attend is down to a poor attitude, and that you just aren't a good candidate for more responsibilities, though that would be a sign of poor management.

How much of these things is true depends entirely on the local culture. But from what you've said, it's a huge part of the company culture. I'd guess that never attending will result in you being overlooked because the people doing the promoting don't know you or your work as well as they know your coworkers, and possibly in others concluding that you're just not a good fit personality wise for that company. You may be able to overcome that by being exceptionally good at networking during the regular workday, but it would be an additional challenge.

My solution in a case like this, where they're adding essentially a full workday's worth of hours to your social schedule each week and it's inconvenient, would be to look for a job with a less demanding social life. It sounds like this company just isn't a good cultural fit for you.

I had a similar experience.

Some years ago, I moved to another city, with my wife and toddler son, to work on a company composed mostly of young, single co-workers. They had many social events I couldn't attend to, or didn't want to.

It did affect my career negatively. I found myself locked in a low-relevance project while many others were given to my bosses' friends, or even newcomers.

The problem was not only missing these events. I was not assertive enough to promote myself. I was too shy to ask for opportunities. Yet, when I asked my previous boss what happened, he said he forgot about me, was too distracted. And the company, being young as it was, was not wise enough to have a system to ensure these problems don't happen.

Besides that, I really liked my job so I took some actions:

  1. First of all, I become much more assertive of my goals. I pushed for space and opportunities. Not aggressively, mind you, but just letting people know I wanted to have new opportunities.

  2. I also started to participate more in social events. It was a bit hard at first, I was always tired (and I would classify myself as introverted if I didn't find the term dangerous) but I strengthen our connections. I did not go to all gatherings, not even most of them, but when I went, I was there mindful enough to make a good impression and to have fun.

The company also evolved, got more diversified and opened different lifestyles. All in all, I work remotely from my home town today, so my steps above paid off.

I cannot say what you should do, but I can say what did work to me:

  1. Regardless of anything, it paid of to be assertive in your career. What I could not say informally in gatherings, I said explicitly to my leaders. Whatever opportunities I've lost for not being such a party animal, I compensated with clarity (and results, of course.)

  2. I got a stronger bond by going to some selected events. The important thing was to go heads down, having a good time and being a pleasant company.

The point is, if you think an ancillary aspect of your professional life will hold you down, you can compensate for it elsewhere, you can improve on it, or you can do any combination of the two options.

(First of all, I'm assuming you mean "decline", rather than "cancel"). There are two questions here: will not going hurt your position in the company, and will going help? These are in some sense the same question, but they do have different emphases. The first deals with issues such as your coworkers feelings that you are anti-social, etc., while the second deals with missed opportunities to build stronger bonds with your coworkers.

For the first, you should make an effort to communicate your feelings to your coworkers: tell them that it's a lot of events and you can't make all of them. If you get the feeling that they are still punishing you, you should consider getting another job.

For the second, you just need to accept that the world is full of trade-offs. Pretty much everyone could be making more money. Someone who's putting in a 40-hour week could be doing 60, someone doing 100 could be doing 110. If you're constantly worrying about what more you could be doing to advance your career, you'll go crazy. You need to decide what you value more: your time, or more chances of career advancement. There's nothing wrong with deciding that your preferences are different from your coworkers'. You might want to consider, however, whether there are other jobs where the tradeoff is more favorable for someone with your preferences.

For both, you should ask whether the company can move more of the events to work hours. If they truly think that socializing is important, they should be willing to make time for it.

From the perspective of Dutch labour law and regulations it depends a bit if the social events are organised by the employer (with an actual or implied mandatory character), or if they are organised solely as social function by and for your fellow employees (but probably sponsored by the employer).

If such events are organised by the employer and your presence is mandatory (i.e. you are not supposed to refuse the invite or your presence is part of your role as a team lead or manager) typically the working hours law ("Arbeidstijdenwet") is applicable. That has a number of requirements and consequences, among others:

  • You're by law entitled to a 11 hours of uninterrupted rest between shifts, i.e. if the event ends at 22:30 the next day you don't have to start until 09:30 at the earliest.
  • When the employer sets working hours the employer must make a reasonable effort to respect your personal circumstances outside of work and your duties as a care giver, parent and your private life.
  • You're not allowed to work for more than 60 hours in an individual week nor exceed 48 hours weekly when averaged over 16 weeks.
  • IIRC when your income is below the level of the minimum wage times three (± €60.000,- per annum) those hours will be either considered paid overtime or part of your contract hours which can be compensated, rather than "part of your well paid job" or after hours in your own time.
  • Collective Labour Agreements (Dutch: "CAO") may have different regulations.

In practice that means that most employers in The Netherlands take great care to keep the number of mandatory after hours events to the absolute minimum.

When the after hours events are optional, which is therefore usually the case, officially your lack of attendance may also not negatively impact your performance reviews as those are about how well you do in your actual job.

Of course the result may still be that you're also not considered exceeding beyond the expectations for your current job, which could be barrier for promotion to team lead / manager where such attendance might be a required part of the job.


As a native Dutch national with experience in a number of smaller and larger companies I think that Dutch work ethic is very much that a job is a job, it earns you a living, but it doesn't need to provide you with a life.

Many natives won't attend optional after work socials and, rightfully, expect that no reason needs to be given beyond that they simply don't want to. Or if they do attend, it will only be for a single drink (drunk driving is not only illegal but also frowned upon) and they are not embarrassed to leave again quite quickly.

IMHO People attend the optional after work socials because they either genuinely enjoy them, they don't have a spouse or children that require their presence at home (or they are avoiding those), they may believe that it is good for networking and their career or they don't yet have much of social life outside of work.
That latter category are seems to often be younger colleagues and expats.

Many expats remark that in many regards Dutch society is open en welcoming to them, but it is also very difficult to make Dutch friends and integrate more into Dutch society. If there are many international colleagues that may be an important reason your employer sponsors that many social events, to provide a substitute for the social lives expats left behind in their native countries.

If you don't need that, good for you and decline.

As others have said you will be the outsider, and possibly 'the weirdo'. Parties -- yuk! Being accessible at work is plenty.

  1. Stand up against being bullied into out of hours socialising.

  2. Suggest alternative activities which are perhaps more cerebral or physical. For example the theatre or 5-a-side football. Anything except the vacuous aim of being jolly together.

  3. You may find there are others who think like you. Take note of the stratification in the business. You may find aloof seniors who are more mature and will 'sneak-off' to a dinner.

It's not an easy situation for somebody with little self-confidence. Good learning experience though. I have seen this before and assume the jolly culture covers-up a lot of feeble work skills and general under-performing inefficiency. With that sort of easy-going muddle it's a fair bet your talents in the job won't be recognised or used. Bad for you and bad for the company. You may want to jump ship.

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    I might have not made it clear enough in the question but I work remotely, I only see 3 of my coworkers from the company daily. – Summer Oct 11 at 9:44

Should I attend all/most gatherings or will declining most likely not influence anything?

The question is: in case it might influence your career in a bad way, how can you avoid this?
I'm in a similar situation as you are, but the amount of gatherings is much smaller here and I also have an age difference which makes the situation easier for me.

I'm doing something very simple: regularly there are breaks during the day (one in the morning, there's the lunch break, and there's an afternoon walk too). Regularly, during those breaks, I talk with my colleagues about the things I've been up to: regularly I have a walk with my dog, I go visit my mother who's in a bad health, I do some sports, ...
All those things tell my colleagues "Hey, I'm doing stuff which is interesting for me. So when I don't come to your gatherings, that's not because I don't want to be with you, guys, that's just because I have my own stuff which I value."

Like this is you have a respectable way to handle this (there's nothing wrong with having a personal life where your colleagues are not part of). In top of this, it might happen that you do things which interest your colleagues:
"Oh, you have a dog? I know somebody who has this particular problem with his dog, how would you handle this?"
"Oh, you perform martial arts? Can you tell me anything about legitimite defence?"
"Oh, you know about first aid? Can you tell me anything about ...?"

Now, there can also be the situation where people think of themselves "What we are doing, is the best thing in the world, and people who are doing something else are bad and should not be part of our wonderful group here at work.", this kind of attitude sometimes happens in companies where there are lots of young graduates who believe they will change the world just by themselves.
In that case, I'd advise you to get out of that company:

  • I work remotely and only see 3 of my coworkers daily so that will be a bit of an issue I guess. Although I do like this answer for anyone who doesn't work remotely! – Summer Oct 11 at 12:34
  • Ok, now I understand the issue: those so-called social gatherings are the only times where everybody of the company meets everybody, which also explains why this is perceived as important gatherings. In that case, those gatherings MUST be done during office hours and you must be paid for joining them. In case not, this is a deliberate theft of the management of the firm, by stealing your personal time for professional purposes. Is there any compensation for the employess who go to those gatherings? – Dominique Oct 11 at 13:28
  • They are not during work hours and there is no compensation.They are not officially viewed as mandatory either, yet people tend to take it 'personal' if you don't want to come. – Summer Oct 11 at 13:57
  • It looks like hidden working time: you're expected to be there, but you're not paid for it. Although the gatherings appear to be social and fun, they are far from that: they are masked professional meetings, which tend to blur the boundaries between your professional and your personal life, slowly trying to invade your personal life and repalce it by non-paid professional activity. This is expressed in a very harsh way, I know, but this is just a warning: such environments are magnets for burnouts and seen your introvert character, the gatherings are very heavy for you... – Dominique Oct 11 at 14:18
  • Hence I'd advise you to seek other opportunities. Currently in Belgium the jobmarket is as such that you can easily find another job. I believe the same to be true in Holland (or am I mistaking here). Good luck. – Dominique Oct 11 at 14:19

Perhaps it makes sense to attend all these gatherings for the first week or two. Hopefully, some gentle inquiries will enable you to not only answer your question accurately, but also develop an effective strategy for future selective attendance that avoids reputational (sic?) damage.

protected by Jane S Oct 11 at 21:15

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