How do I draw the line between work and play with colleagues?

Nine To Five: Special to The Globe and Mail, Published Sunday, Apr. 21 2013

THE QUESTION

I work at a sport and events marketing company and have recently been promoted to account manager. The marketing/advertising realm is one of a “work hard, play hard” attitude, which seems to lead to hanging out at night and on weekends with your co-workers, both superiors and subordinates. This can create a sensitive balancing act in which your weekend friends then become your superiors/subordinates on Monday morning. You then need to pick and choose when to converse as co-workers (maintaining respect, professional decorum, hierarchy) and friends (joking around and talking about your personal life).

Are there specific professional guidelines that address how to interact with co-workers as both colleagues in the workplace and friends?

THE ANSWER

If you are working and playing with business colleagues, the most professional and safest role to take is always one of “at work.” Socializing with your boss is a great way to get some one-on-one time in a relaxed environment, but business is business and you can’t cross the lines of authority because you are now in a social situation. Your boss expects respectful behaviour and appropriate dress.

Socializing with co-workers means you still have to maintain your reputation and keep the respect of others. Keep your jokes and banter the same tone as at the office. Don’t risk hurting anyone’s feelings or embarrassing yourself.

Limit your alcohol (just because someone else might be paying doesn’t make it a free-for-all). Eat something before you attend an event so your stomach can handle that first drink.

Discuss non-work related topics as much as possible. You’ll get to know people better by steering conversations along a personal line rather than your latest promotion. Try to speak to as many people outside your immediate work circle as possible. Use these opportunities to build a stronger, more diversified network. People love listeners best of all. Never gossip, tease or speak badly about anyone in the company.

Look at your behaviour this way: If you wouldn’t want what you did or said to appear on the front page of Monday’s newspaper, don’t do it.

Colleen Clarke
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It