Q: I'm in a very awkward position at work. I really like my job (the work). It's what I want to do, and I am learning a lot and doing well. The problem is that I only generally like my co-workers. I am polite and friendly when I have to be, but they are not the type of people I would choose as friends, and I don't want to spend my personal time hanging out with them after work. They go out for drinks at least once a week after work. Most are married with children of all ages. I have no idea how long they stay out for, because I have never gone. I have nothing against drinking, but I have nothing in common with them, and I'd rather do other things with my time. I don't have a baby or any great excuses to not go, so I always say, "Thanks, but I'm really tired." I hoped they would stop asking me to join them, but they haven't. Should I just be honest so they stop inviting me?
A: First, you should be thankful they still think enough of you to invite you. If they didn't like you, they would probably not extend the invitation each week. And no, you should not be honest, if being honest means telling them your true reason for not joining them for drinks. That kind of honesty is mean, rude and intended to wound. It's important to think about how your words and actions will affect each person in the group and will also likely affect your future in the job you so love.
You seem to have written off their value as individuals and that they might have things of interest to share with you simply because you have nothing outwardly in common with them. People are far more than their outward appearances or the superficial information known at work.
There are companies at which no socialization takes place. People show up, do their jobs and leave. Your workplace obviously isn't like that, so if you wish continued success, an attitude and opinion adjustment is in order.
One's ability to socialize appropriately is an important soft skill in the workplace — a skill most employers report as lacking in their employees. Socializing can be more than superficial conversation. People can learn from socializing with others, especially when those employees are from different lifestyles, ages, races, national origins, educational backgrounds and social statuses. As you converse and learn about each person you get to know, that knowledge and those experiences will help you at work, as well as in life. The more you know about people, their customs, their behaviors and their attitudes the better your decisions at work and in life will be.
Seeing as you are not morally or religiously against alcohol and drinking establishments, seriously consider joining the group occasionally. You don't even have to drink alcohol to be part of the group. Casually order a sparkling water, and start talking. Your periodic presence can change the group dynamics by adding varied and lively topics to the conversations. Mixing with people whom you have nothing in common with adds to your repertoire of social skills. If and when you move on to other companies, you will be able to add your newly acquired social skills to your list of abilities. Soft skills can open doors to jobs you may not have previously considered. Don't underestimate their value.
Email your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @I_truly_care. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.