The Daily Grind

How to get out of office drinks and other workplace social occasions

Awkward workplace social occasions

There are some things in workplace culture that have always left me a bit confused.  I’d imagine that some of you would feel confused by them as well.  If you have ever been invited to office drinks, provide a plate or compulsory rounds of birthday celebrations then this is the post for you.  Here are some office hacks that will see you through the awkward workplace social occasion and save your bacon every time.

After work drinks

It has always baffled me why, after spending 40+ hours together, some good folks are always angling for more time together, in the pub.  Some would argue that I am a social Grinch.  I prefer to believe in staying for a good time, not a long time.  Either way, usually by Friday night (well let’s be honest, by about 2pm Friday), I am toast.  In fact, toast is all I really want, on my couch, in front of Netflix.   So how can you get out of the incessant whine of the Friday arvo drinks round up:

  1. The Friday fade away. Book out an interview room or quiet room from 2 or 3 pm on Friday afternoon, work from there, avoid the invites.  The hard core option of this is to arrange with your boss to work from home every Friday afternoon. If they can’t find you, they can’t pin you down to attend.
  2. The alternate appointment. An oldie but a goodie; the ‘I have something else on’.  If you can get away with it, you also might be able to claim a permanent fixture booking, like a spin class.  Only try this one if it is likely you will be believed.
  3. The hit and run. Tell everyone that you will be at drinks, turn up, and make sure everyone sees you, then leave.  You can do this effectively by, moving to another group then slipping away.  Or letting the person next to you know that you are heading to the bathroom, but don’t mention that it’s the bathroom at your home.
  4. Turn the tables. Again, agree to attend, then don’t.  On Monday, grab a colleague who you know was there and ask why you didn’t see them, where were they?  Mention that you were in the group around the corner, make a song and dance about the fact that you didn’t see them, and wasn’t it loud.  This is particularly effective if you can coerce a mate into corroborating your attendance.
  5. The Facebook fake. Get a friend who is there to take a photo of the event, have it sent to you.  Post.  Wallah!  Instant proof of attendance.

So that is Friday drinks covered, what about some of the other awkward work/social events?

Bring a plate

I have a mate who abjectly refuses to bring anything, but turns up to everything and eats his fill (of sandwiches usually, they are his kryptonite).  He shows zero shame in the face of the plates of other people’s food and delights in commenting on the excellence of the food.  Everyone knows he does it, no one does anything about it.  Not everyone can get away with this type of bravado.  So what can you do?

  1. Double book. Work priority always trumps morning tea.  So book another meeting with another department.  Stay for the happy birthday/congratulations on the promotion/baby/tenure then head off.  Swing by the kitchen after your meeting for guilt free leftovers.
  2. Outsource. I have a friend who got her nanny to make plates.  But often there is a colleague who loves a good bake up.  Offer to slip them a fiver and take the kudos for excellent banana bread.
  3. The share plate. Much in the same vein as the outsource concept, on the day, sidle up to the colleague who has made the most.  Offer to pay for half of the cook if they agree to proclaim loudly that the muffins are from you and them.
  4. The pity plate. Find the organiser and let them know how sorry you are that you didn’t bring a plate but last night you were:  firefighting, writing a 3000 word essay, at the vet hospital or dealing with a maggot infestation.  Normal excuses like a child that refuses to sleep or a useless partner who forgot to buy the butter will not cut it.  Ask them if it is ok if you attend anyway, because you would really like to be there for xx.  It’s a no brainer.
  5. The low bar. We all know someone close to us who deliberately sets a low bar.  They do so in order to avoid future responsibility.  In this case, the low bar might be out of date (or open and stale) crackers.  A jar of mints, sardines or olives or something equally unimpressive at a morning tea.  No name anything or a packet taken from a reject shop bag, plonked proudly on the table should do it.  Set the bar low once, avoid future plate bringing entanglements.
The birthday contribution

Man, is this a controversial one.  How much to give?  If I give to this one, do I need to give to that one?  Rather than hacks, this time I am just going to tell you what I do.  This goes one of three ways for me and I am ruthless in my application of these rules:

  1. If the person is special enough to me, they get their own present from me, not everyone else.
  2. I will contribute $10-$20 to a milestone birthday.
  3. I will not contribute to anything else, but am happy to sign the card.

It should be noted of course, that the more you say no to any of these types of events, the less likely you will be asked again and the efforts may not be reciprocated.  So if it is genuinely a one off, then make sure that the next time you are asked, you go along or bring the plate.  If you have a real need to take a long term approach to avoiding social workplace events, try the above, it will work a treat!

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