It was right as the green bagels were circulating on St. Patrick's Day that I realized I should be more grateful for Human Resources' efforts to put together a fun and festive work event.
HR departments around the country spend thousands of hours planning corporate events that are designed to build morale and encourage communication. Some work well, others fail miserably. Regardless of the perceived outcome, here are the minimum requirements for attending HR-thrown events:
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As an employee, you should:
Show your face. I don't care if you're swamped with work, sick to your stomach, or planning on leaving the job in three days, it's imperative that you attend--even if it's only for a few minutes. No-shows are quietly judged by both management and their peers, and no one likes someone who is "too good" or "too busy" to make an appearance.
Act responsibly. From the food you take to the topic of conversation you choose, no matter how relaxed the event, you are still on company time and must act accordingly.
Break outside of your clique. Sticking with your "usual" group during work leisure activities makes other people feel excluded. You are an adult and there's no need to align too closely to any one person or group. Your behavior and work accomplishments/failures are solely tied to you. Spread your wings and make the rounds.
Hold the negativity. If I had a dollar for every employee I've heard mutter, "They should just pay us more," I'd be rich. The reality is, these events are relatively inexpensive to hold, and if the money were to be divided up, it would equal peanuts. Besides, is a few more dollars a week really going to change your outlook on work?
As a supervisor you should:
Give employees space. Let employees control the mood of the affair and do not attempt to "manage" them during fun events. Doing so, will do nothing but counteract the purpose of the party. Plus, you'll look like a tool to your management peers.
Once the event is over, it's over. The worst thing bosses can do is hold an employee's time at the event against them at a later date. For example, if there's an error on a report or mistake made around the time of the event, do not blame the employee's attendance.
Encourage employees to attend. Speak positively about the event and find ways to motivate workers to attend without making it mandatory. The illusion of choice is a powerful tool. When your full team makes it to the party and has a good time, you end up looking good in the process.
The bottom line is that everyone should give it their all to make these non-working events at work more fun. Most of the time you're getting free food, time away from your desk, and the opportunity to network up the ladder. If that doesn't put a smile on your face, nothing will.
P.S. I tip my cap to those who work in HR. In some cases, you’re truly in a no-win situation.
After working for FOX News and MTV Networks, Andrew G.R. founded Jobacle.com, a career advice, employment news, and jobs-site review blog. He is also the author of The Exit Guide: How to Leave a Job the Right Way.