It's the same old story, week after week. Your colleagues are gearing up for happy hour and ask you to come along, only you once again respond with an apologetic "no." There are plenty of good reasons why you might choose to forgo work events rather than participate along with many of your peers. Maybe you have a long commute, and one you'd rather not delay. Maybe you have children at home who are eagerly waiting for you to make dinner and put them to bed. Or maybe you're just plain tired, because work can do that to people, and your idea of a good time is sitting on your couch in pajamas while reading a book to unwind.
There's also the notion of mixing business with pleasure that might come into play. It's one thing to engage in limited banter with your colleagues when you're all trapped in the same office together, but it's another thing to cross the line into developing actual friendships.
Still, if you have a tendency to completely avoid work events that take place outside the office, it's time to change your tune, at least a little. Here's why.
1. You'll build better relationships
Getting to know your colleagues on a personal level can help you all work better together. But in a busy office environment, it can be hard to do that. Attending work events on occasion will give you an opportunity to learn more about the people you share an office with and what makes them tick. And that, in turn, could lead to better teamwork and collaboration.
Just as importantly, once your colleagues get to know and like you on a personal level, they'll be more apt to come to your aid when deadlines loom, cover for you when you want to take vacation, or do any number of things that can make your life easier. And that's reason enough to make an effort to spend some extra time with them.
2. You'll get an opportunity to network
When it comes to furthering your career, it's often not what you know, but who you know, that makes a real difference. Ask any career expert, and he or she will tell you that networking is one of the most important things you can do to advance professionally. But it's hard to network when you spend the bulk of your waking hours mingling with the same people in an office setting.
That's why attending work events is so important. You never know when a colleague of yours might bring a spouse or friend to one of those gatherings whose company has a prime opening. Or, you might meet people through your colleagues whose advice and experience open your eyes to new ideas and help you work through challenges you've been facing. Either way, you probably won't meet those same people within the confines of your office, so it pays to get out with your coworkers once in a while.
3. You'll show your colleagues -- and boss -- that you care
When you constantly decline offers to socialize outside the office, you send the message that you don't care about who your colleagues are as people. Even if joining your team on a sunset cruise is the last way you want to spend an evening, do your career a favor and push yourself to go, because it'll show your coworkers that the idea of spending time with them isn't loathsome to you. At the same time, you'll be sending the message that you care about your job and are willing to take extra steps to succeed at it.
Remember, even if your boss isn't at the event(s) you attend, word will likely get back to him or her that you were there. And that will make you look like the team player your manager no doubt wants you to be.
Spending your limited free time at work events may not be ideal in your mind, but it's an important step in building relationships, advancing your career, and gaining a good reputation at the office. So the next time you're invited to do something with your colleagues, say yes. And who knows? You just might end up having a good time in the end.