Should you attend after-hours functions?

At many organizations, it’s common practice to celebrate co-workers’ achievements with a drink after work or to band together for volunteer projects. But is it fair to penalize people who don’t want to participate in these after-hours activities?

That’s what one admin asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum. “It was suggested during my performance review that I don’t attend enough office social events like happy hours or volunteer days, and that I keep to myself too much in general. Is this a valid criticism, or is my employer overstepping the bounds of how I should be judged at work?”

Many Forum readers shared the admin’s resentment at participating in these activities and thought the company was out of bounds. “No, it is not a fair comment because you do have a life outside of the office,” Gloria writes. “I went through this myself. My response was ‘reschedule the events during working hours. Then, I’ll attend. I’m here all day. Why should I take more time away from my family, my other job, whatever it is, to spend with co-workers?’”

Others talked about the importance of finding other ways to connect socially. “My family commitments prevent me from participating in happy hour or volunteer events on weekends, so I try to participate in other ways,” Carolyn writes. “I send out communications to the office on volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, etc. When it is possible, I participate because I know that building relationships with staff in other departments is good for my career.”

Others expressed concern about the risks of participating in such events. “On some level, I think this is just asking for trouble because after a few cocktails people loosen up and questions are asked or comments made that might possibly cross some legal hiring lines,” ­Charity writes.

MGR Handbook D

Not participating comes with its own risks, Edward J. writes. “At some point, being absent from every activity a company offers might be taken as a judgment on co-workers, and it would be tough for that not to have a subtle effect on how a supervisor perceives your happiness with, or good will toward, the people you work with.”