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Possibly related to this thread about declining participation.
However I don't feel like the answers fully suit my case, and as the details are different, so perhaps the answers will be.

I am currently a consultant, employed by a small consulting firm.
The company I'm assigned to (where my actual day to day work is performed) has team events during business hours, which I mostly attend (work permitting).
However the consulting firm (where I spend little to no time) also has team events, monthly to twice-monthly, that have no set duration. (in the lines of: it might be a dinner, it might be a bbq, or it might be drinks) which makes planning around it hard. And twice yearly outings.
The monthly events are impractical to take my girlfriend to, because they tend to be at hours where our son is already asleep. And the drive is substantial enough to make a back-and-forth take up enough of the evening for her as to be impractical.

I've made excuses in the past, which I know is not the best way to deal with this situation, but when put on the spot I did so without thinking.
Currently nearly everyone attends, and I've had the argument raised that if others can make the time, so can I. I really dislike being compared to others when it comes to my personal life. Covering the cost of the drinks is not enough incentive to give up an evening at home. And the arguments about how others choose to spend their time actually makes me want to push back even more.

I attend the twice annual team buildings, and I endure them because I consider them part of the job. I'm not a very sociable person but I do my best for these events.
Yet I'm quite sure if this is a bi-weekly occurrence, it will cause strife between me and my family for something I don't actually enjoy doing. And it will just cause me to resent the events even more.

How can I adequately convey that, while I do appreciate the invitations, and I think team-building is important. For me personally the twice annual events are enough, and I would appreciate being able to skip the additional drinks / outings without being looked down on.

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    and I've had the argument raised that if others can make the time, so can I who is making this argument and/or complaining? Is it a teammate, your boss? And can you say more what context was this complaint, e.g. if I imagine you say like "Oh, I wish I could make it tomorrow evening to the informal team dinner but I have something planned with my son already" and then comes the argument that you should make time anyway?? – Brandin Mar 2 '15 at 11:08
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    @Brandin This argument was made by a senior colleague, in the presence of my boss. When I declined a subsequent informal event during the previous event. And it was more along the lines of "We have a trip to our out-of town relatives planned for that day". – Reaces Mar 2 '15 at 11:48
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This depends on the nature of your consulting business and your specific company. Some consultants justify their fees not only with actual value but perceived value. Your company may want everyone to behave like they really care about their job and company. This can require face time at social events.

You need to determine what can be gained from these events:

  1. Face time - just showing up is enough.
  2. Strategically connecting with certain people in the firm that you normally don't get to meet. If they don't want to discuss business, this may not be beneficial.
  3. Decisions get made. Similar to #2, but may be more direct about a certain project and some action is decided.

There can be varying degrees of effectiveness of any of these. Once you determine what can be gained from these events, you can decide which ones to attend. Maybe it is more important to show up before bonuses are determined. If there is a change in management, you may want to go to the next event and introduce yourself.

Nobody can be expected to be perfect, so pick and event to skip and see what happens. Just say you have a prior engagement even if it is an evening at home.

Just remember, if people get the impression you're slacking off due to lack of attendance at these events, you'll be the last to know. Unfortunately, when evaluations are based on such informal perceptions, no one is going to give you objective feedback.

  • I'm afraid if they expect some perceived value from me, which requires face time at social events, they're putting me in a position I'm ill-suited for. While I care a lot about my work (which I enjoy doing quite a lot, else I wouldn't be asking for advice here) I'm absolutely horrible at social events... – Reaces Mar 2 '15 at 13:49
  • I understand your reluctance, but you should take this opportunity to work on your socializing skills. It's not always what you know but who you know in this world. Set some goals. Send an email to someone that you look forward to seeing them at the event and make a point of going up to talk to them. If having a date will help you, get a baby-sitter ready who can help on short notice. Maybe you can return the favor. Don't miss out on this opportunity. – user8365 Mar 2 '15 at 14:17
  • While I understand the premise, and I appreciate the advice, I still feel inclined to not go. My reasoning is that I'm still young enough and my career is still far ahead. But currently I have a wife and child that take priority, and any time spent with them now is something I'm not going to be able to catch up later. My career however can be caught up later. – Reaces Mar 2 '15 at 14:24
  • @Reaces - You're rationalizing because you don't like socializing at these events. You want to spend time with your family; that's your decision. One evening a month is not that bad. What if your girlfriend wanted to attend a book club once a month? Is that too much time away from the family? Your career is not going to get better as a consultant if you can't socialize. If you fail to get promoted in this current job, how long will it take before you're not marketable to other companies? – user8365 Mar 3 '15 at 3:08
  • While I think you're very much overestimating the need for socializing, I might indeed be rationalizing to try and avoid something I don't want to do... I was hoping to find some advice on how to correctly communicate that I would rather sit out most of these events. But maybe if the main response is that I am better off conforming for the sake of future career benefit, I might need to reconsider! Thank you for all your advice. – Reaces Mar 3 '15 at 8:41
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I am completely editing my remarks, as you clarified in your comments and edited your question. I understand that you are employed by a consulting firm that hires you out to their clients as a consultant and you perform most of your work at client sites. Your consulting firm has "bonding" events after hours and you are feeling pressured to go and miss quality time with your family (and young child)

I think you need to talk to your immediate supervisor at the consulting firm and have a discussion about his expectations (and his boss' expectations) regarding participation in these events, and express your concerns about them. If it's a necessary part of the job/company culture, try to work out a compromise that will work for all parties - maybe you can attend one event every month or every other month... something like that.

  • Sorry if it was unclear in my question (perhaps you can help me rephrase?) but the events are with the consulting firm that employs me. – Reaces Mar 2 '15 at 12:56
  • @Reaces It was unclear. Are you an actual employee of a consulting firm? Or are you a consultant, contracted to a firm who further contracts you out? (You can edit your original question directly, as comments are ephemeral) – CGCampbell Mar 2 '15 at 13:34
  • @CGCampbell I edited the question, is it clearer now? English is a third language for me, so feel free to be as direct in your criticism as required. – Reaces Mar 2 '15 at 13:40

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