by Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D
Question: “I often feel like an outsider in my office. I am 61, overweight, and have gray hair. My co-workers are in their 20s and 30s. The whole group goes out for “happy hour” once every six weeks. My boss’s boss came up with this idea, and he always attends. I usually avoid these get-togethers because I don’t feel comfortable with the youngsters. A good friend said my colleagues and managers will think that I’m snubbing them. I had a good time at one happy hour, but I’ve skipped the last two. Do you think I should start going?” — Old & Gray
Marie’s Answer: When you were bopping to the Beatles and watching the first moon landing, your office cohorts weren’t even born. So of course you feel different. But the more you let these feelings isolate you, the more you actually will become an outsider.
Happy hours are not a job requirement, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to go. However, attendance does bring political benefits. Social interaction will strengthen your working relationships. And because your boss’s boss organized these outings, he may notice who shows up.
Chatting with the young folks may be easier than you think. Simply listen to their stories, ask about their interests, and look for common bonds. You might enjoy getting to know them. Since your last happy hour experience went well, give it another try. A few months from now, you may wonder why you ever stayed home.
For more tips on networking at the office, see How Good Is Your Network at Work?