I work in an engineering environment with very smart people.

However, with some co-workers, I get the feeling that if you have a dynamic mainstream life outside of work, you are not a real engineer.

I do have (some what) of a life outside of work, including a wife, kid and a few friends.

There is a large number that don't have wives, kids or many friends outside of work. I understand they have a life doing other things but if your life is not like theirs, I get the feeling they view it as not worthwhile or juvenile.

Some engineers view going out for drinks, volunteering, playing club sports and other social activities with mainstream society as stupid or illogical...so I never really talk about it, to subscribe to the mentality.

Some individuals even try to make one feel bad for having a life/work balance - while they stay late and work on the project.

What are some strategies when working in this context?

Right now I just keeping everything strictly to work.

What are some things I can do to make this experience more enjoyable?

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    What specifically are you trying to accomplish? Smoothing these conversations? Adjusting the dynamic so it's ok if you don't work every evening and weekend? Staying in the loop if your coworkers live at work and you don't? Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 2:46
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    This sounds more like a rant than an actual question. The fact is that everybody has a life outside of work, so your question starts from an incorrect assumption.
    – user8036
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 6:37
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    Your question covers several things so answers will likely be general, addressing workplace expectations and culture fit. If you want more specific answers, consider asking new questions: going home on time when everyone stays late, socialising with introverted coworkers as an extrovert, safe chat topics between coworkers with different hobbies or personal situations, ...
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 10:43
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    @JanDoggen - For all practical purposes, people at this company expect you to act as if you don't despite the fact that everybody does.
    – user8365
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 11:17
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    The fact is that, without being pedantic, some people don't have "a life" outside of work, and some do. Everyone is different. This does not at all come across as a rant. Are you perhaps able to relate to those who don't have a life outside of work?
    – James
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:18

5 Answers 5


Allow me to first point out that although this was probably not your intention you come off as kind of a jerk while describing your problem. I bring this up not because it hurt my, or any other Workplace users', feelings but because if you are describing things to us and it sounds kind of crummy, I can image that a similar emotion comes across when actually interacting with your coworkers and peers.

Consider it from their side for a moment. You exclaim that they don't have a life! Or that the life they think they have isn't real because it doesn't involve a wife, volunteering and 'paint nights'. Let me just say that that is the yuppiest thing I've heard since people stopped throwing white cardigans over their shoulders and putting extra 'h's in all their words. And, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is thinking that that is the only kind of worthwhile life there is.

I'm a grown up, I have a life and it's nothing like yours. And that's ok. That's ok for me. That's ok for you. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all the same. I would try toning down the 'I have a real life and y'all are losers' a bit, that would probably help with socializing with your coworkers. And while they're baffled at you bonfire, painting, wine tasting, grownup nights where you all talk about serious politics and issues facing the world, you're probably equally baffled about their raiding, poopsocking, World of Warcraft night elf druid role-playing all-nighters where they totally banged their head against heroic lich king but they almost had him(phase 7 d00ds!). It's all a matter of different priorities.

All of that being said, it also sounds like you and the group work with may not be a good fit culture wise. This might mean it's just the group you work with. It might mean that it's the whole company that's not a good fit and, again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. While it's true that you don't have to socialize with your coworkers it makes for a much nicer work environment if you can find some sort of common ground. Since you are apparently the odd man out, I might suggest trying to find something they like to do and getting a little bit involved. This would give you all some common ground and almost everyone likes sharing their hobbies with others. Another option would be looking for another team within the company(or another company if this is a company-wide sort of culture) that has a culture more in line with what you like to do.

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    I didn't get it coming off like a jerk at all. I've worked with many of those types, and people who do things that aren't engineering related, i.e. they don't go home and write open source code or build nodebots, are viewed with a mild contempt as not passionate and not engaged with their field. For me, I love writing code, hacking on things and whatnot all working day and often in my spare time, but I've definitely been scorned because I enjoy sporting events, whether as a participant or spectator, or good food, or whatever on a friday or saturday instead of going to the hackathon, etc. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 4:27
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    @GregMcNulty: That's essentially my point. From your perspective they are being jerks. Isn't it just as possible that from their perspective you are being a jerk? I'm a lot like the people you are describing and it's hurtful to hear that what I like to do isn't a 'real life' just as it's hurtful to that they don't approve/appreciate the things you enjoy. It doesn't really sound like they are terrible or you are terrible but, rather, that there's a culture clash coming into play. My goal with my answer is to get you considering that there isn't a 'better' way to live a life.
    – Nahkki
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 4:46
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    Please also note I did not say they do not have a life and have a less worth while life. I actually value everyone i work with. What I did say is a life outside of work. Very big difference. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 4:49
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    @GregMcNulty: This is getting dangerous close to a 'chat' conversation but I think it is worthwhile. When you say or imply that "they don't have a life outside of work" that is sending the message to them that they aren't doing what they 'should' do with their time. It's really not that big of a difference, it's still a rude thing to say. It implies a value judgment on their choices that you may not be aware of. That will cause friction of the sort you are seeing.
    – Nahkki
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 4:55
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    If you goal is to make work more pleasant the tl;dr answer is - change what you are doing. You are not going to change your coworkers and make them appreciate bonfires and painting nights. In this situation the only thing you can do is extend an olive branch and try to relate to them in a different way or accept that the current level of interaction is going to be the norm while you are part of the current team. There is no answer that can be given to change their life priorities.
    – Nahkki
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 4:58

What are some strategies when working in this context?

Everyone has a life outside work.

It might not be the life you would choose. it might not involve a wife. It might include a lot of drinking, sports, and activities that you view as stupid or illogical. But everyone has a life.

Everyone chooses their own life. And you get to choose yours.

It's not necessary to socialize with your co-workers. And it's certainly not necessary to socialize with everyone at your work.

You could be selective. You could choose to direct your stories and socialization efforts to those who do share your interest in bonfires and painting nights and away from those who try to make you feel bad about your lifestyle choices.

If you start on that path, I suspect you'll find some others who actually feel more like you do. It's easy to fool ourselves and think "everyone is so different from me", if we don't look closely and try hard. And remember, nobody can make you feel bad about your choices unless you allow that to happen.

A healthy work culture can have people from many different backgrounds with a wide variety of interests. I have worked for startups containing a large percentage of much younger folks than me. I enjoy hearing their stories and their interests - even though they are quite different than mine. I tell them a few (not too many) "in my day" stories, they tell me a few stories of their outside interests. I learn a few things, they learn a few things, and we all share a laugh or two. I like that blend.

If there truly is nobody at your work who shares your interests, and you feel work socialization with people having common interests is very important, you might need to seek work elsewhere. Find a workplace with a culture closer to your own. It would be rare that you are so alone in your lifestyle, but I suppose it happens.


If your talking about your life outside of work is not welcome, then simply stop talking about it. Just do your work, and then you can debate your life with your friends in your free time.

On the other hand, work exactly as many hours as you are paid for, then go home. Your work is not your hobby. You don't have to use your life as an excuse for this... just say that your working hours are over and that you will come back again tomorrow.


There are different kinds of people in the world. We don't have to like everyone, but we must respect everyone. Said that, in your situation, I would suggest to ease the tension by trying few things:

  1. Give up your 'life outside work' for a day, once in a month or week and just hang around with your co-workers. Try to understand what they exactly do after hours. Who knows, they might be doing some fun stuff you are not aware of.

  2. Find at least one thing in common and talk about that ( other than work of course). Strike a personal connection.

  3. Even better would be, invite your co-workers for one of your fun nights. I am guessing you will face some resistance or negative talk, given your relationship with them. But understand one thing, if you include them in your life, may be they will understand you better.

  4. Another thing is plan a team outing outside work. When you are in an environment which is not a comfort zone for your co-workers ( I am again guessing that from what you told), talk about their life outside work. You will be surprised that they have much more than what you thought.

Every person has a life outside work. It is usually different than yours.


Well, at my office I sometimes feel like an outsider. Most people there are older, they talk about gardening, their kids, households and stuff. I on the other hand like books, TV series, going to the cinema, my cats, geocaching, climbing, going for a walk. Nothing of that is very interesting for my colleagues and I am not very interested in the topics they talk about.

We also have a different kind of humour. Actually I am a funny person, at least my family and my friends love my funny remarks but my colleagues usually look weird if I comment on something. So what :)

I like my work, if I have a question or we have a meeting we don't talk about personal things anyway and I see them all as competent colleagues and they think the same about me.

If you care so much and if you are the outsider than you should try to talk about their topics and not make them talk about your topics.


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