It is okay to skip out occasionally if you really do have a good reason. Technical folks tend to avoid social gatherings at any cost. If you can overcome the initial anxiety attack, it is a good idea to attend the work social events, even if you decide to arrive late and leave early. Those events are designed to help with team building so that people get along better at work. When we work in the same lab and share space, equipment, and supplies, sometimes we may run into conflicts. It is easier to resolve conflicts if people on the team like and trust each other. You may also be more willing to help when a coworker asks for your thoughts on a project or they need an extra set of hands or eyes on the lab bench.
Some events are designed for you to get to know people who are outside your group but with whom you work closely on large projects. If you are an R&D chemist, once you settle on a new formula, you would transfer the recipe to QC, regulatory and operations so they can start planning for production. These folks may need more information from you and it is much easier for them to pick up the phone or stop by your lab, if they know you, and vice versa. The work social events help create a sense of community, partnership and cooperation. The goal is to make it easier for all of us to work together.
Attending social events at work has its pluses in terms of networking with people in the larger company or building a stronger bond with your current team. However, unless the event was included in your personal goals or your attendance would greatly benefit the company or your team, it is perfectly acceptable to skip it. Employees have different personalities (introvert vs extrovert) and varied priorities (family, hobbies, work deadlines, etc.) and as a result they cannot be expected to attend all social events.
Ultimately one's work ethic, reliability, accountability, helpfulness, team player attitude, and other such qualities are more important than attending social events. If you have additional concerns about skipping out on work social events, it's generally a good idea to consult with your manager or a trusted member of your team to ask for personal advice.
Context is key with this question. If it's scheduled during the workday and the company is making reasonable efforts to make the event accessible, you should do your best to attend. Outside of work hours, it's okay to skip out on events, but try not to miss every one. You will tend to find that as you get to know people on a more personal level, your job suddenly becomes MUCH EASIER. People are more apt to help those they know and like.
Attending company events is not mandatory, however, not attending can have negative consequences. You will need to understand the company’s culture, i.e. does the company value such events? You could be viewed as “not being part of the team” or that you may not be ready for that next promotion. We all have very busy schedules, and sometimes we are not able to attend a company’s event. Therefore, turning down an invitation to a company event should be conducted in a professional manner. I would caution that you do not want to turn down all company events.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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