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I work a couple of years in a company that organizes company parties once a month. I was on such event once when I started my job (just to see what it looks like). Since then I didn't participate, because I just feel uncomfortable while being in crowds of people, especially on official dinners (I am an introvert). I talk with my teammates at work naturally and I am reliable and helpful for them, but I just don't like to participate in company events. So far it hasn't been such a problem to skip those events, because the team I have worked with was spread around the office and some of us have worked remotely.

However, I was recently reassigned to other project with new team, including people from other projects. Some of us proposed to meet at the upcoming team party to better know each other. I would like to skip it, but I don't have a clue how to refuse, which already makes me feel very anxious about it. I don't want others to think I don't like them or make them dislike me, but I would rather do overtime work than go there.

Do you have any suggestions?

  • Are these events on-site? Are they during working hours? Are you paid for that time? – mhoran_psprep Jan 12 at 14:09
  • These events are hosted in restaurants. They are optional (at least nobody officially forces to attend them) and take place after working hours (so not paid). – IT_Guy Jan 12 at 14:23
  • Does this answer your question? How to exclude myself from informal activities with colleagues? – Dave Gremlin Jan 12 at 17:07
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    Important question: do you have a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder? – nick012000 Jan 13 at 1:47
  • Dave, i think the author of that topic is in quite different situation, his management asks him to go, but colleagues accepts he doesn't want to. In my case, there is not insisting from boss or anyone from hierarchy. @nick012000 No, i have never done any such test. – IT_Guy Jan 18 at 18:29
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i am an introvert

First and foremost, stop using this excuse. There is no such thing as introvert or extrovert, instead, everyone has traits from the entire spectrum (as far as modern papers go). Once you will stop using "I am introvert" as a universal excuse to not do something you can start working on the actual issue(s) you are facing.

I just don't like to participate in company events

Why? Do you enjoy participating in non-work events, where there may be crowds of people? If so, what's so different about the work outings? You've mentioned anxiety, and let me assure you that a lot of people suffer from it, especially when facing large crowds behavior in front of whom may have an impact on your career. But also a lot of people learn to manage those, either with self-help or by working with a professional to overcome those. I would strongly recommend that you will seek either of those options, instead of shutting yourself out with "I am introvert" excuse.

Ultimately You have to figure out the actual issue with those parties, and when you do - go to company HR, explain the problem and see how they can help you manage the anxiety and help alleviate some of the worries you may have. Maybe they can assign you with few buddies that will stay with you, someone you are comfortable with? Or alternatively, you can come for the start of the party, and dip out as soon as the anxiety is too much to handle. All of those things you should discuss with HR (or your boss if you don't have HR) and see what they think. Remember that you are not the first, or only one, facing those challenges.

Alternatively, you can keep making excuses (can be as easy as "got personal commitment already" or "family obligations", doubt that anyone will ask further) instead of socializing with your coworkers, no one can force you to go to an after-hours party. But the reality is that this will lead to at least mild alienation from the team, whether conscious or not. How much will that affect the workplace, promotions, opportunities, and day-to-day interactions is impossible to tell, but at best it will have no consequences, and likely at least slight negative ones. More so as the company clearly cares about the outings as part of their culture.

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  • "There is no such thing as introvert or extrovert" - i read that basic difference is introverts like to spent their time alone or with a few close friends, while extroverts prefer to be surrounded with many people. "Do you enjoy participating in non-work events, where there may be crowds of people? If so, what's so different about the work outings?" - i don't like crowded places, specifically when i have to sit by the table among people i barely know privately. – IT_Guy Jan 12 at 14:19
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    I don't think I'd get HR involved, unless this was a very progressive company that puts a lot of work into employee wellbeing. But I would absolutely try to find help outside the company, because if discomfort in social situations becomes a problem for your career development, then you need to handle it. – ObscureOwl Jan 12 at 14:38
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    @IT_Guy that sounds more like an issue with few individuals who may or may not be at the party, not the concept of going out for the company events. Can you clarify which one is it? – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 12 at 15:06
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    @IT_Guy As per my answer, I can only urge you to at least try to attend, and maybe dip out after an hour or so, get out of your comfort zone a bit. It's also fairly usual that some people dip out that early, for myriads of reasons. But if you are so set on not going, and not trying to solve this problem for the future all you really have to say is that you cannot due to personal commitments, and that's it. But also doing it over and over may have negative effects. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 12 at 15:24
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    Just because you don't sympathize doesn't mean it's not a real thing. Evangelical extroversion gets real old, sometimes.. – Ben Barden Jan 14 at 21:59
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Your introversion will damage your career

Like it or not, success in a career has as much (arguably more) to do how you relate to other people that the quantity or quality of your work product. Not being able to do so is as big a hole in your resume as not being able to do any other part of your job. You don't have to be the life and soul of the party but you do have to learn to manage in all sorts of social situations.

My advice: enroll in a public speaking course. Once you can stand up and deliver a 5-minute speech to a room full of people, social gatherings hold no fears.

As it says in Popular from Wicked:

To think of

Celebrated heads of state

Or specially great communicators!

Did they have brains or knowledge?

Don't make me laugh!

They were popular!

Please!

It's all about popular

It's not about aptitude

It's the way you're viewed

So it's very shrewd to be

Very very popular

Like me!

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  • I don't think it's entirely accurate to say that introversion damages careers. Rather, the choices we make and the behaviors we carry out damage careers. People who identify as introverts can certainly learn to accept situations they once felt uncomfortable - at the start of my career, I hated casual work events, now I love them - because I've learned how to behave at them in a way that feeds my "introversion" rather than fighting it. I get the intent of your answer but I think it's just promoting an over-simplification of the real problems here. – dwizum Jan 13 at 14:09
  • I didn’t say introversion damages careers, I said the OP’s introversion is @dwizum – Dale M Jan 13 at 19:35
  • "at the start of my career, I hated casual work events, now I love them - because I've learned how to behave at them in a way that feeds my "introversion" rather than fighting it" - @dwizum could you give more details about it, please? – IT_Guy Jan 18 at 18:38
  • @IT_Guy - it's a pretty broad subject and not really fitting for comments on an answer like this. Maybe you should ask new questions if you need more information. Also, a book I found helpful was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. – dwizum Jan 21 at 13:46
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There's nothing wrong with politely declining to the event organizer and your manager. Perhaps say something like:

I'm sorry I won't be joining the team event next week. I'll be curious to hear how it goes and am looking forward to getting to know the team better in the office.

You don't need to give a reason or excuse for not wanting to join events outside of work hours. If these team building events are a regular expectation of your organization, you might want to discuss how you feel with your manager to make sure they understand why you choose not to participate. He or she can help you find ways to get to know your colleagues better outside of the events.

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  • These events are not obligatory. I wasn't participating them for a long time and nothing wrong happened. So far i haven't been asked why i didn't participate, but now an explicit idea came up in the new team and i would like to have a polite excuse. – IT_Guy Jan 12 at 15:24
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    Honesty will serve you much better than providing a false excuse. Is there a problem with sharing that you prefer to get to know your colleagues in the office? – Jay Jan 12 at 15:28
  • The problem is what arguments shall i use to avoid making people think of this as weird? – IT_Guy Jan 12 at 15:35
  • Have you received feedback that skipping the events is weird? That would be something to discuss with your manager. If avoiding the events is something that could adversely impact the way others perceive you, or your own experience on the team, then you should talk with your manager - he/she is there to help you navigate the team in a way that works with your preferences and feelings. – Jay Jan 12 at 15:50
  • I haven't receive such feedback from my boss. Maybe a few coworkers noticed that, but they didn't extensively elaborate on that topic. – IT_Guy Jan 12 at 15:58
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"Some of us proposed to meet"

So not everybody is proposing to meet, and you don't appear to be the team leader. I don't see any pressure here on you to attend the event, and I can't see any disadvantages.

You aren't alone; it's not an anxiety issue, but a lot of people (myself included) prefer not to socialize outside work.

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  • By "Some of us proposed to meet" i meant that a few people proposed this, i didn't put an effort to recognize who aggreed and who didn't. I am not a team leader, nor a manager. The problem is i don't know how to explain that i don't want to come. – IT_Guy Jan 12 at 15:06
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This sort of event is usually organised by the sort of person who enjoys noisy crowds and can't imagine anyone wanting to do anything else.

Suggest some alternatives that you would like to do. Find out what your team mates like to do and see if you can put a group together.

Throwing a company party is expensive, so they may be willing to fund alternatives if enough people are interested. For example, we have a regular board games evening, we've been bowling, go-karting and done an escape room. There's a couple of sports teams too.

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  • "For example, we have a regular board games evening, we've been bowling, go-karting and done an escape room" - i would also prefer to have such theme events instead of spending time in a pub/restaurant. At theme event there is a chance to talk about specific topic (like a game or other activity related to the event) and participate in a concrete activity, which can introduce a rivalizalization and also strenghten team bonds. I am just not into events where a crowd of people sits in closed place by the table and do a random chit chat. – IT_Guy Jan 18 at 19:05
  • I think you'll find that most technical people are the same, so the hard part is finding an activity that interests people - the good news is that you only need a small group, or even one other person. – Robin Bennett Jan 19 at 20:48
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I concur with Dale here that this is potentially damaging to your career. It's a simple, 30 minutes to an hour top meet up. Not a huge party where you're going to spend hours on a drinking binge and bar hopping. It sounds like your only issue here is your reluctant to go out due to fear of being around people.

My advice is to accept this outing and stay no more than 30 minutes. Just order water if you are not a big drinker and simply say hello to everyone and briefly ask what they do, what you do, then blast out of there. Chances are other folks will leave well before you. If folks aren't leaving, then tell them you got to head home and leave.

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  • "It's a simple, 30 minutes to an hour top meet up" - for the first hour people are usually gathering and the event lasts often up to midnight or so and some people go in other places for an afterparty. "Not a huge party where you're going to spend hours" - there are at least 50 people at such events, so it's not just a meeting of closest coworkers. Not bad advices, but i am not into jumping from a one person to another and do a random chit chat. I prefer having a valuable conversation with people i at least briefly know already. Then i know we share some mutual topics. – IT_Guy Jan 18 at 18:55
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I want to tackle this question more directly from the "Intorvert" angle. In my case, I'm using "Intorvert" as a term to mean someone who gets physically and mentally exhausted while engaging in a social atmosphere, and needs time alone to recharge. While there are additional classic introvert tendencies, this is the only one I consider relevant to this question.

For me, the denser the crowd, the more drained I'll become. So while an organized, open layout like a theme park is something I can enjoy all day (before needing a full day to recharge afterwards), a densely packed ballroom at a company event will drain my batteries in well under an hour. As a general rule, the more comfortable I am with the people around me, the slower it will drain, but I'll still vote for "parties" of four or five friends rather than ten or twenty. I'm not shy, I love performing in front of a crowd, and I don't have anxiety issues - but I still opt out of company events when I determine it probably won't affect my social standing.

So... there's the real question. How do you determine if it will affect your social standing?

First, IT_Guy, I'd like to applaud you for going to one of these events when you first started working at this job! For an Introvert, just the description of the event likely made you assume it wouldn't be your cup of tea, but you went anyways. This is important when joining a new job, because it establishes that you're a team player.

Which brings me to my first bit of advice -- despite the fact that you're in the same Company, since you're in a new team, who doesn't really know you yet, you should treat it as a new job and attend the event once. Yes, it will be exhausting, and you've already established that you probably won't enjoy it, but your coworkers will remember.

After you've attended once, your obligation to this particular party has probably been fulfilled. When you decide not to attend, I suggest being honest with your coworkers.

  • "I'm going to pass -- I've been before, but it's not my cup of tea."
  • "No thanks. I went once, but it was exhausting; I'd rather stay here and work." This is meant as a joke; do not feel compelled to work overtime

Chances are, if your coworkers are observant, they will have noticed this (mine usually laugh and nod to themselves). However, there is still a possibility of affecting your social standing - in order to minimize any negative affect, make it clear that you're rejecting the event, and not the opportunity to spend time with them. Tacking on something like "But let me know next time you go to grab lunch!" establishes that you want to be included in the team.

If there's ever an event that includes just your team, and not the rest of the organization? Suck it up and go. Even if it's not explicitly labelled as team-building, it probably is. You may not like them all, but getting along with them outside of work has the added bonus of making them more likely to be more responsive or helpful during work hours.

Finally, I've seen a few suggestions that not attending company functions could hurt your career path - and my personal counterargument is that I wouldn't want a promotion that required me to attend monthly company parties. Earn the promotions you get from working hard and being a great team player, and if this particular company doesn't recognize those efforts, find a different one which will.

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  • "How do you determine if it will affect your social standing?" - i think if i am interested in project tasks and problems we approach and keen on helping others on day-to-day work, my absence shouldn't have an negative impact. "(...)going to one of these events (...)is important when joining a new job, because it establishes that you're a team player" - technically it should, but from a practical point of view, if you won't personaly meet new people at such meeting who will remember you, then i wouldn't say there are "team building" related advantages for you. – IT_Guy Jan 18 at 20:28
  • Thus, for me forcing myself to go just "to show up", but without building relations would exhaust me and presumably give no team/job oriented benefit. Yet, thank you for bringing similar point of view about skipping company events that drain energy. :) – IT_Guy Jan 18 at 20:31
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I agree with Tymoteusz Paul in that it's totally your choice what you do here, but that you should reconsider why you are doing it. However, I think he and the other answers miss something about the party.

This get together is a subset of the larger team party, if I read your description correctly. There's 2 parts to this that can happen. You can: go to the mini-side-party and acclimate yourself a little bit to groups while meeting your new team members; or you can tell these team members that you don't go to the team parties so you won't be going to their side party/meeting. Even this last option has two paths: they accept and understand that you don't; or they will decide they want to do the "meet and greet" somewhere/when else, where you will have another decision to make if you're interested in going to that.

Understand your position

I do agree that some companies will consciously hinder your progress for not making it to these parties, but those are usually shallow managers that probably aren't people you want to work for anyway. However, not going to these parties also keeps you "in the shadows" when it comes to promotion time. They'll remember Amy and Brian for their antics at the party as well as the insight they had for the progress of the company given in a more informal setting, plus them being productive and on-time workers during the day. What may unconsciously happen is that the people on whatever promotion board your company has (if it has one) won't know you from "employee #46" and even though you are a productive and on-time worker as well, your name slips from their minds due to not having any personal interaction with them. I'm not saying you need to be a brown-noser or a water cooler busybody, but it wouldn't hurt to get yourself known a little more.

I'm also an introvert. When people know me by my name or reputation, I get a little concerned that I have no idea who they are and did I meet them before. I'm so bad that when a woman says she's glad to see me, I get a little skittish. This goes double for when a manager says that same thing or wants me to talk with them in their office. I'm 100% sure they want to berate me for something I did or fire me, and I keep trying to remember what I did wrong and how I can argue against it. Part of that is my unfortunate employment history of being laid off for any fluctuation in economy, work availability, office politics, and more, but that's off topic here. I don't go to all office parties, but I go to some. I've even argued really hard with one employer that I really wasn't going to the party.

Christmas party

However, one Christmas party for a company I really liked working for at the time, I even took over the proceedings for a few minutes. On my own, I had made a nice gift for either the CEO or the owner of the small company, with who got the gift being part of my time. I worked with the office manager to get those few minutes for my "presentation". I already knew all of the people at the party, so it's different from your situation, but being more than a wallflower at a party can be fun, and I've plenty of time as a wallflower, too.

Explain to others

Simply telling your co-workers that you are uncomfortable with the whole party idea might be enough to get them to "back off", but realize that you can't control how they feel about you or their impression of your personality. Each person will make their own decision and may come to different conclusions based on the same data. One might take you as a snob for not going to the party and another will completely understand, since they don't want to go either. Another one might take it upon themselves to try to encourage you to go and even want to schedule some "mini parties" to get you acclimated.

The best thing you can do it to try to make whatever decision you make to be in the best light as possible. Lying rarely works and even making a cheap excuse is often seen through fairly easily. These will not put you in the best of light with most people. Unfortunately, telling the truth will also not be best for some people, but those are likely to be people you don't want to be around anyway. The simple fact is that you can't make everyone happy, so the only solution is to make yourself as happy as possible.

Just remember that sometimes getting outside of your comfort zone can be a positive experience, too.

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