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I am a mid level manager. I have a direct report that doesn't talk much. I want him to socialize with the team. Is it okay to tell him in private that he needs to start either socializing more or join us in lunches or out of office events? Some events we have including guest speakers coming in and we mingle afterwards all during work hour.

He does decent work but him not talking not anyone during work except on work related matter doesn't sit well with me. To be clear I'm not forcing him to do anything but strongly encourage him to start being more social.

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    Why do you want him to socialize? If team buidling is the goal consider if you can organize something that doesn't require him to spend his free time at work-related events.
    – Roland
    May 25 at 6:42
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    Are out of office events part of the employment contract? If not, then you have no right to even think about asking.
    – Solar Mike
    May 25 at 7:27
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    It doesn't sit well with you? That sounds like a personal problem you have to deal with. Don't try to impose requirements on the personal lives on your employees because of some sort of personal discomfort you feel. May 25 at 8:07
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    People seem to be using the downvote button to mean "This is a bad idea". This isn't meta, people!
    – AakashM
    May 25 at 10:31
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    @AakashM Given the poster's other questions on this site, I do not believe this is a question being asked in good faith. May 25 at 11:08

5 Answers 5

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Is it okay to tell him in private that he needs to start either socializing more or join us in lunches or out of office events?

No. Absolutely not. You don't tell your subordinates to join you in non-work functions. Depending on your sex, their sex and both of your sexual orientations it is somewhere between extremely annoying and creepy harassment.

First, you find out what is the workplace problem. Could they or the team as a whole work better if they changed something? If you identified it, try to solve the problem. And it may not even be them. For example if they are not in on project details, because project details are discussed during lunch, then it's not that one employee that is the problem, it is all the others, that discuss work during off-time. You can either make them discuss it on company time and grounds, or you can make lunch a paid, mandatory company function (with another break where everybody can actually have a break rather than a company lunch either earlier or later in the day to compensate). Forcing the employee to spend their time and money during their break time on company issues would be against labor laws almost everywhere. There is a reason it's a break. And the reason is not "to give the employer the opportunity to make the employee work unpaid overtime".

So to summarize: figure out the actual workplace problem. "Not socializing" is not a workplace problem. If you cannot find one, you will have to live with the fact that some people actually just have a job to make money and socialize outside of their workplace.

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  • Im not saying he has to join in on social functions but he needs to pick something to communicate with coworkers better he can talk during work hours.
    – user129827
    May 25 at 6:59
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    @naiva Why does he need to talk about non-work stuff with coworkers? What is the actual work issue here other than you? May 25 at 7:03
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    @naiva Why would the worker, talking about let's say muscle cars and game of thrones on company time make anything better? Does it produce more of whatever your team is producing?
    – nvoigt
    May 25 at 7:14
  • It's a good answer, but I don't believe that "your sex, their sex or [either] of you sexual orientations" has anything to do with whether it's creepy harassment or not. The only thing that makes it creepy harassment is if it's sexually motivated. Unless you mean it might be perceived as creepy harassment?
    – Kichi
    Jun 2 at 19:01
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The best approach is to make sure they're included on the invite, and that it's clear that all social engagements are optional.

Some people aren't social creatures - they might be introverted, autistic (describing myself, there), not get on socially with their current colleagues, have commitments that take up their free time (lunch times spent checking in with care responsibilities, etc.), or much prefer their own company.

So long as the standard of their work is sufficient, it shouldn't matter how much they talk. Many autistic people prefer others to get to the point and communicate directly. I know introverts (and some highly skilled people snowed under with work) who also prefer this style. I'm one of them - back when I used to work in an open plan office, I'd be sat with headphones on all day (yay sensory overload issues) and people knew to get to the point with their requests so I could get back to the other tasks I had.

If the wider issue is that work-related issues creep up or happen because of a lack of work-related communication, that needs dealing with in a non-confrontational, behaviour-focused approach. I doubt this is the case given you mention "He does decent work," but should that change and work isn't getting done, you could raise it as a "How do we make sure tasks are completed efficiently?" question for the entire team at a team meeting.

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    Introverts are social creatures. They just have different preferences than extroverts when it comes to the timing, frequency, duration, participants, and nature of social interactions.
    – Theodore
    May 25 at 15:14
  • I think it's important to try and find out why this person doesn't talk too much, are they just naturally shy or is there a problem here that's making them behave unusually? I would want to talk to them to gently understand the reason, and maybe point out the regrettable importance of visibility in order to progress in most environments
    – CurlyPaul
    May 27 at 12:18
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You cannot, and should not try and force an employee to attend social events in their own free time. If you really need them to be part of a social (or team-building) event then you can schedule it during working hours.

There are all kinds of reasons why someone may choose not to partake in work related social events, and they are not required to give any reason or justification for why they don't.

However, given that your question implies that they have chosen not to partake in previous social events, it would be worth thinking about what some of those reasons might be:

  • Does the company cover all costs for the events, or are employees expected to pay out of their own pockets? Would they cover childcare costs for people who need it?
  • Are events always held on the same days/times, when some people might not be available?
  • Are the events all the same, or do they cover a range of interests? For example, if all your events involve going to the pub, then that's not very appealing to people who don't drink.

You could certainly have a chat with them, say that you're looking at planning future social events, and ask if there's anything that would appeal to them. Maybe they'd love to go paintballing or something like that, and arranging something that actually interests them would encourage them to come.

But ultimately, if they don't want to socialise with other people more than is necessary for their work, then that is entirely their right.

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In general, at a workplace, it is a good idea to have employees socializing with the whole team. But, it should not be a "robotic and mandatory" activity. Instead, the manager should have a nice and cool way to make the employees feel comfortable and enjoy socializing.

For example, maybe, you can invite the whole team to lunch once a week so that everyone can talk and get to know each other better, and learn about each other's favorite activities outside work. Generally, people enjoy socializing with someone they know better, share common interests outside work, or at least fun to talk to.

In addition, you can also organize other team activities which are fun and relaxing for the whole team to enjoy during the last work hour of a hard work week.

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  • It sounded like the OP has already invited them to lunch "Is it okay to tell him in private that he needs to ... join us in lunches" May 27 at 13:28
  • @mattfreake, Thanks for your comment. I just found out after I wrote my answer, the OP added the note to his post about the fact that he already invited the employee to lunch. So, I did not know about that fact... Let me see how I can adjust my answer... :-) May 27 at 20:09
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As other answers have pointed out, someone choosing not to socialise at work is not something you can, or should, do much about.

But I kinda get your feelings about it. In a team that is otherwise very chatty, having one person sitting quietly in the corner the whole time can feel off-putting. I think it's natural that you'd want to include them in the fun and to get to know them better.

Other answers have covered some options for helping your employee feel more comfortable so I wanted to add some thoughts that might help you, since you're the one asking the question.

Firstly, you need to accept that he's not very comfortable socialising in the settings you've described. Whatever the reason for it is, you can't change his personality and you don't know what's best for him.

It might be useful to remind yourself what he brings to the team. You mention that he does decent work but I'm sure he has other strengths that help the team as a whole. If talking about your personal life is an important quality in your team, it sounds like that's well covered by the other team members and perhaps someone that can remain focused on the work adds some important balance.

As a manager, I assume that your career goals have some focus on progression up the ladder. It is helpful to recognise that not everyone shares that goal and some people are content with showing up to do their job and going home again. As long as he's getting the job done satisfactorily, you don't get much say on what he should be doing in addition to his contracted responsibilities.

As your report, he might express a desire for a promotion at some point. That would be an appropriate time to suggest that better relationships with his peers would be beneficial if that would help in the new role.

If your goal is just to build a better relationship with your report, you could try talking to him about things he's interested in rather than trying to make him share personal details he's not comfortable with. This might mean talking to him about work things.

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