17

Many companies I've worked for host company functions like a holiday party. I understand that these are suppose to serve as a bit of a morale booster and a thank you from the company to the employees. I'm quite introverted and typically avoid these types of functions for no other reason than they tend to be more stress then they are worth.

However, I've also had conversations with employees afterwords where they ask why I didn't go, and what was wrong. I usually explain that I simply prefer not to go to these functions, but I started to wonder if I was doing more damage than I initially believed.

Should I be concerned about any impact to my job or career by skipping these functions, or am I being paranoid?

  • 3
    I think this mainly depends on the culture in your organization. I have been with companies where the whole dev/tech department refused to participate in such events, so they where management+sales+support only all the time. But if you are asked such questions afterwards quite often, I think it may mean, that they genuinely would like you to be a part of such events. – s1lv3r Nov 27 '14 at 12:19
21

It's really unlikely that not attending will actively damage your career. However, you could be missing opportunities to do better than you are now, and you could be leaving the wrong impression with some people.

I, too, have dreaded some of these social events. And sometimes when I go to them I really don't enjoy them. So I have sat down to learn two important things:

  • what do I want from them?
  • how can I increase my chances of getting that?

Buried in "what do I want" is "what do I want to avoid" by the way, and that's really important.

For me personally what I want from them is:

  • to show I'm a "good sport" and a "team player" and someone who's willing to participate
  • not to be stuck all alone feeling left out
  • not to get trapped in a conversation about a topic I hate (politics, some kinds of sports, cars, etc)
  • to meet some people I wouldn't otherwise meet, and learn a little about them
  • to cause some people above me in the company to think slightly well of me (at least "a polite and pleasant person from what I can tell" if nothing else)
  • to enjoy at least one of the "delights" - the food, the music, the prizes, the earnest speeches from management - that have been put on for us all
  • to have the experience so that when someone refers back to something that happened at the party, I was there for it

How can I increase the chances of these things happening? For me, strategies include:

  • form a team of 2 or 3 people and arrange to share a ride, or to walk together, or at least get them to agree they will be there. You can spend at least part of the evening with these people
  • learn how to join small groups who are having a conversation
  • learn how to leave a conversation (easier if it's not a two person conversation, but can still be done)
  • try to be open hearted about the "delights" and see something good in them. Get out of conversations that are all about how dreary and lame and cheesy this whole thing is
  • do not have more than one alcoholic drink eg one glass of wine
  • check back against my list every 30 minutes or so and see if I'm ticking things off it. If not, get out of my current situation and go work on the list

Almost any book, website, tutorial etc on networking will teach you how to join small groups who appear to be having an interesting conversation, and how to politely end a conversation. This terrifies many people but honestly a simple "I'll have to ask you to excuse me, I'm afraid. Enjoy the rest of the party!" works very well and doesn't require you to pretend that your phone is ringing, you need to pee, or you need to refill your drink. Nor do you have to worry that your former conversation-mate will be mad when they see you in another conversation later.

Think of these parties as free networking practice. Assuming you don't throw up on the CEO, the stakes are very low. There may come a time in your career when an event like this holds tremendous value for your career. So learn how they work and what skills you need, and go this year and start working on those skills. You will get better every year and starting the first time you go, you'll see a benefit - people will stop asking why you're not going, for example.

  • 1
    This sounds contradictory: "It's really unlikely that not attending will actively damage your career. However, you could be missing opportunities to do better than you are now" Isn't missing opportunities to do better the same as damaging your career? – Johnny Nov 26 '14 at 22:41
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    Nope. You could have an average undamaged ordinary career and never go to such a party. But perhaps, maybe, you might have a boosted amazing career as a result of something that started at a social / work event. – Kate Gregory Nov 27 '14 at 1:54
11

It's OK to be introverted, in fact it's something to be proud of. That being said, don't be afraid to go to a party. You don't have to stay long, you don't have to drink, but you should make an appearance. Go up to your boss, smile, shake his/her hand and simply say "Happy Holidays, glad to see you outside the office." Introverted or not, I know you can do that much. Say a few brief words to the people you eat lunch with or with whom you work most closely. Eat some of the free food. Say hi or wave at a random person that you've seen at work but never met. If you manage to do that, and I am sure you can, you'll be proud of yourself the next day, I promise.

People are asking why you didn't go -- this means a) they notice when you are or aren't around and b) they want you around, believe me, if they didn't, they wouldn't ask why.

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    She explains it better than I can: amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153/… – ExactaBox Nov 27 '14 at 1:22
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    No, just no. Different people express different social behaviors. It's not something to be "proud" of. – Rad1 Nov 27 '14 at 8:03
  • @Rad1 are you implying that introverts are somehow inferior to extroverts? – ExactaBox Nov 28 '14 at 20:59
  • @JoeStrazzere are you implying that introverts are somehow inferior to extroverts? – ExactaBox Nov 28 '14 at 21:00
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    Absolutely not. – Rad1 Nov 30 '14 at 18:29
4

It depends.

If you're in a role where your social networking within the company is important, or it's important for you to "be a leader" then you should go. It shows your dedication to the company. It shows that you know how to play the game.

Otherwise, it should be fine to bow out. It might contribute to the perception that you're not dedicated to the company, but not overly much. And honestly, there is lower expectations for dedication there. Though I would recommend making up an excuse, even if weak: "I had a prior engagement" is always a good one. If people press, then blame your girlfriend/boyfriend/family/etc. Everyone has family stuff around the holidays.

1

No. There is no obligation in your job description that obligates you to attend social events. I never do, and I don't plan to start because it would decrease my morale.

Now, that being said, it is important to consider that a lot of things are subjective. So, it is really only important that you and your manager are on the same page. I made it a point to ask my manager if not attending morale events or social events would impact my performance assessments. This was important to gauge how he viewed participation in them. You can typically gauge the level of importance your manager places in such events by how they answer the question. Also, if your manager says it isn't going to negatively impact your performance review, then you have some level of assurance and insurance.

Nevertheless, if you are a lower level employee still climbing the ranks, there is no better way to climb the ranks than networking. These events are usually key and very helpful if your productivity at work isn't getting you the visibility you need, which can happen in large organizations.

But, overall, the answer is no. We are not all the same, and our personalities might not support this level of exposure. Diversity should support the varying degrees of introversion as well.

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