We said it — it’s okay to skip your office happy hour.
Office culture isn’t always easy to navigate. You chat in the break room with other colleagues, pick at a cupcake when someone comes by your desk and insists you take one, and make sure to help out by washing your coffee cup at the end of the day. There are those holiday parties that you’re obligated to go to and make an appearance and the board room meetings you regularly attend because you don’t really have a way out. These are all normal, every day interactions that you have with the people you work with on a daily basis. The small talk and niceties of workplace culture are necessary to maintain a civil, pleasant work environment.
Social outings with coworkers outside of work may mean anxiety ridden happy hours or dinner outings that you really would have rather skipped. The office is a great place to make connections and meet new people, however sometimes there’s a line that needs to be drawn or relationships you’d rather not pursue outside of the workplace. Should you suffer through the interaction? Should you steer clear all together and make an excuse for why you can’t go?
We understand that it’s difficult to continuously make up excuses for why you can’t make it to the weekly get together when everyone closes their Outlooks for the day and answers their last messages. When it comes to happy hours and social outings with colleagues, there are ways to politely dodge the situation or to handle the pesky coworker that won’t accept no as an answer.
It’s okay to say no. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or like it will affect your professional environment or personal life, it’s okay to politely refuse the offer and say you’ve got other things going on.
… you’re working on establishing boundaries
New to the job? It can be extremely uncomfortable turning down those invitations for fear that door may never open back up or you won’t be included. However, it can be an important tool for setting boundaries and establishing what you’re comfortable with. If you’re uncomfortable drinking and staying out late with co-workers, saying no is okay. Co-workers are people you spend a good portion of your day with and it’s perfectly normal to want to get to know them in a different setting or separate your social life from your work life. Spend time with them on your terms and get to know them in a setting that feels appropriate to you.
Instead of happy hour, ask if they would like to grab lunch during the week after a big meeting or suggest picking up coffee together on the way to the office. By establishing boundaries, people at the office will get to know the ‘you’ that you are ready to share with them.
… you’re really just not up for it
You’re behind on grocery shopping. You really don’t want to make the 15 minute drive the opposite way as home. You are really tired and could use some downtime. You want to catch up on your favorite TV series with your family and spend some time cooking with your significant other. It’s okay to skip it when your heart really just isn’t in it. When you don’t feel like being somewhere and you’d rather be doing something else, those around you can tell and it can really affect how people interact with you. Leave the office happy, come back in the morning, and ask if everyone had a great time. Who knows, maybe you’ll be up for it next time.
… you have prior obligations
It’s your anniversary, you have a yoga class that has been scheduled for a week and a half, or you made dinner plans with someone special. Saying that you have prior obligations or plans shouldn’t be the end of the world. To be honest, if it’s something that you’re really looking forward to (even if it’s just an hour long Vinyasa class with your best friend or happy hour with the guys instead), it’s not something you should feel bad about.
When you’re finished with work for the day, your free time starts. The beautiful thing is, you can choose how you spend it! Kick back, throw your favorite slippers on, order a pizza — enjoy your night.
… you are looking for a more personal interaction
When drinking and new people are involved, it can be a challenge. Happy hours are not meant to make you feel socially awkward and uncomfortable. They’re supposed to be a way to bond and decompress after a long day. If you don’t feel like that’s the case, skip it and suggest something else for another night. Maybe you get nice lunch on a Friday afternoon. Maybe you and one of your co-workers can go out for appetizers and one glass of wine in a smaller setting at a place you feel comfortable. Maybe you skip the alcohol all together and suggest a fun, active activity that they may like. Getting to know people in a social setting with alcohol involved can end up working against you if it’s not handled correctly.
… you want time to do something that is good for you, your mind, and your body
You should never feel guilty about taking a night to pick up your favorite meal and make it to the gym. Self-care and wellness are two things that are always a priority and it’s okay to take advantage of spoiling yourself when you have the time. If taking a yoga class after a long day or taking a long run by the beach is what helps you unwind, by all means do it.
Every single person doesn’t celebrate the weekend by going out and drinking. It’s okay to focus on what is good for you and be selfish!