Making Connections—The Right Way To Socialize At Work
For most people, socializing at work is a must. After all, you spend a large chunk of your day—and your week—with these people, you might as well make it pleasant! In fact, consulting psychologist and executive coach Dr. Maynard Brusman says in Forbes magazine, “The modern workplace has become a community center, or a ‘home away from home’ where people get many of their social needs met. Neuroscience research supports the idea that our brains are hard wired to connect with others. We spend so much of our time at work, that it's natural that we develop relationships in the workplace.”
But there are definitely right (and wrong) approaches to forging connections in the office. And while you already know to be on your best behavior when socializing with clients, it can sometimes be hard to remember your officemates deserve the same consideration. Read on for ways to connect with those around you—the right way.
Know Your Office
In general, larger businesses have a more restrained sense of sociability, which usually means less social engagement both inside and outside of the office. Smaller companies often operate on a less formal basis, meaning more personal connections. Where does your office fit in on the spectrum? Take time to observe how your office operates on a social level, and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Don’t Dominate the Conversation
While too much chatter is definitely detrimental in the office, some water cooler talk can be a great way to decompress and refocus. Just be sure you’re not hijacking a particular conversation or person. Especially at out-of-the-office events, keep in mind that most of your colleagues have a number of people they’d like to catch up with—so keep the conversations to a respectable length.
Remember that You’re A Professional
As fun as those office parties, after work drink meet-ups, and company dinners can be, the first and foremost thing you have to remember is that you are a professional interacting with people who share your place of employment. In other words, limit your alcohol intake and avoid office romance. There is such a thing as getting too comfortable around your coworkers.
Make An Effort
Whether it’s attending a wedding shower for a coworker down the hall or making an appearance at a retirement party for the office legend, it’s important to make an appearance—at least for a few minutes. You might not think your appearance (or lack thereof) makes any difference, but people notice…and will appreciate you showing that you’re part of the team.
Don’t be the Office Curmudgeon
We all know “that person.” The one who manages to find flaws in a successful work project, complains about the yearly bonuses, and projects negativity on Every. Single. Thing. While all of us need to vent about work sometimes, save it for friends and family. Your coworkers aren’t the shoulders to cry (or complain) on.
Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you should stop learning! Be prepared to contribute to the conversation—or start one of your own—by reading the paper, listening to a podcast, or keeping up with the latest industry news. Knowing how to manage the conversational flow is a skill that will serve you time and time again.
Encourage “Smart Camaraderie”
The best way to nurture a friendly rapport with your coworkers? Participate in social activities that are directly connected to the company itself. Join the company baseball team, attend the company picnic, volunteer at the company-sponsored nonprofit event, etc. These activities are often well structured and have unspoken, built-in parameters all by themselves.
In the end, employees seem happiest when they can be friendly and polite to each other while leaving the personal dramas and minutiae at the office door. That line can be a tricky one to walk, but it doesn’t have to be! Just remember to be your (professional) self.