When working in an office or any other environment, your colleagues are perhaps the single most important factor that will decide your happiness in the coming months and years. Sure, your boss is important but we tend to spend the most time with our colleagues. When we get on with them, the day seems to go much quicker and we can start to enjoy what we do.
Nowadays, a big part of getting to know our colleagues comes from social events. Whether it’s going for a meal after work, celebrating birthdays, or for any other reason, social events have become crucial for solid relationships with your colleagues. Suddenly, you see them in a different light without the shirt and tie or with the hair down. Not only are social occasions inevitable, they actually become indispensable for creating the work/life balance.
In addition to being important on the positive side, they can also be detrimental if dealt with incorrectly. With this in mind, we have some advice below.
Topics to Avoid - Above all else, we recommend avoiding three main topics; politics, religion, and sex. Why? Because two of these are based around personal opinions and something we all feel passionate about while the other makes people feel uncomfortable very quickly. By bringing up these topics, you instantly destroy the light atmosphere of the event and you bring up topics people simply don’t feel comfortable discussing. If you’re open with all three topics, this is absolutely fantastic but you cannot assume others feel the same way.
Topics to Use - On the flip side, most other topics are available and people won’t mind discussing their views. As long as you don’t get too personal and remember who is in the room, you shouldn't have a problem getting started with a conversation. If talking to someone one-on-one, you can start by getting to know each other’s backgrounds including college, interests, hobbies, etc. Once you get over the initial awkwardness, the conversation normally starts to flow once you find a mutual interest. For example, this could be that you both went to the same university, love the same sport, like the same music, etc.
As we’ve said, a social occasion allows you to meet people you don’t really talk to and this can include people in a different department. Often, we tend to stick to those who sit near us and this limits our options somewhat. By having a social life as a group of colleagues, you meet others and find bonds with people you’ve only ever smiled to in the corridor or kitchen.
Avoiding Inappropriate Conversations - While on this topic, a significant amount of people want to know how they can avoid inappropriate conversations and this is a good question. Not only do you not want to be involved in the conversation or linked with the opinions being voiced, you also don’t want to upset anyone so you do need to be careful.
First and foremost, we recommend considering the situation. If you’re at a party or a bar where there are different groups of people mingling, you can simply remove yourself from the conversation and join another group. If you see that the other participants in the conversation look quite happy, this is a good way to distance yourself from the views.
Alternatively, there’s nothing wrong with speaking up if you’re at a restaurant and you can see others feeling awkward or upset about the topic. Of course, you don’t have to do it in a rude way but you can certainly steer the topic of conversation away to something lighter.
Summary - If you’re to enjoy your work both now and long into the future, colleagues are pivotal so take the time to get to know them, enjoy social events, and use the advice we’ve provided if the situation calls for it!