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Insights: How to Strike a Social Balance at Work

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Question

Submitted by: WISE Cleveland member | 6-15 years professional experience

I like to keep to myself and focus on what needs to be done, especially since the company I work for is a startup and has been experiencing growing pains as of late. We've had a lot of turnover and a lot of personalities come through the door. I don't mind a little chit-chat now and then, but I feel like if I'm not focused on all of my responsibilities, I’m hurting our company. I don't want to come off as cold and antisocial, but I need my job. Any advice on how to strike a balance and maybe set a tone for all the new teammates?

Answer

Workplaces are full of different personalities, some we like and some that annoy us. But, the one thing that makes any workplace successful is the notion that we can all work and have some fun together — after all, you spend the majority of your life at work. It doesn’t mean that it should be non-stop chatting or that there is a lack of focus on what needs to get done.


It is also important to take part in that social side at work. We have all been in situations where drinks after work are organized, or some other activity is planned that you’d rather not attend, but it’s important to occasionally participate. Otherwise, you will become increasingly isolated and it is during these informal social interactions where decisions are often made about who to involve. If you aren't there, you won't be included — whether it’s for a new project team or even to be considered for a new role. It’s part of the team culture that every boss looks for in their employees, and it is important you are seen to be part of the team and not an outsider.


It also sets the tone for the office culture, and if someone makes it clear they don't want to be a part of that, then they will quickly find themselves labelled as “not fitting in” and the culture will quickly push them out.


You do need to find that balance between getting your work done and chatting with co-workers. There is nothing wrong with saying to someone, “I have something I really need to get done right now but maybe we can chat later.” People respond well to that, so use that tool when you need some quiet time to focus on what needs to be done.


Don't forget to spend time with your colleagues; they are the ones you will need at some point to help you with a tricky issue or to partner on a project together. If you have spent the time getting to know them, it will make things easier.


Good luck.

Jane Hollman

About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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