Do I Really Have To Go? How To Choose What Work Events to Attend
If you work for a large organization, chances are in any given month there is at least one event you have to attend for work outside of work—an announcement, retirement party, awards ceremony, celebration of a new project, completion of a project, promotion party and more.
If you work for a small organization, chances are your attendance at any and all functions are required, and your absence will be sorely missed.
These work-related events are more than photo opps; often they are ways to meet and greet the leaders of your company, mingle with clients, speak casually with mentors and mentees. The good news is events are used as a perk to retain employees, reward them publicly for great work and effort.
But they can also be huge wastes of time. Too often, too demanding, non-essential and unrelated to your goals.
So how do you decide what walk through the proverbial rose garden and salute to pomp and circumstance is mandatory and helpful? And why would you want to go to the events in the first place? One simple reason may be to c connect to the culture.
“According to research by Deloitte, 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success. Deloitte’s survey also found that there is a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy and valued at work and those who say their company has a strong culture,” Forbes reports.
For instance, at the company Sweetgreen, “Employers host a ‘Gratitude Night’ to thank employees for making a positive impact on their customers. This type of event highlights employee achievement and gives them some public recognition for their hard work,” Forbes reports.
According to Entrepreneur, “A recent Blind survey revealed that LinkedIn has the happiest employees in tech, with 83.25 percent of the company’s employees reporting they’re happy at their job. It’s worth taking a look at LinkedIn’s corporate culture, which is enlivened by an assortment of event-based company rituals. In addition to hosting regular speaker series and wellness events, the networking giant hosts weekly gatherings for its employees like “Beers for My Peers” in the New York office’s speakeasy.”
Certainly some of these events may be interesting and beneficial to you and your team, but really. You have a life. You may have children, be caring for elderly family members, or want to go home on time to your pets. You also may be involved in sports, have robust after work activities, be busy with side projects, or have friends you want to spend time with. Or you may even want to just go home and crash.
Fast Company reports, “Thanks to a huge push in how employers recruit and retain talented employees, company culture events are on the rise in every workplace. And while some of those events and perks are impressive, we’ve all witnessed a professional development or team-building event that was more eye-roll worthy than Instagram-worthy.”
Fast Company continues, “Part of being a team player and getting in important bonding time is being available and in attendance for major events, if only every quarter or so. However, that’s no reason you have to block off your calendar to spend time with work people during your personal time. You just have to use your knowledge of your company culture to weigh the necessary frequency of your attendance to these events and fly under the attendance radar.”
One strategy that may be helpful for you if you either cannot attend all these work perks or you care not to attend all these after-hours pile-ons, is to establish what your life outside of work entails. Mention that you have a schedule and boundaries after hours. You like to play tennis, for instance, or your sitter leaves at 6.
The best way to address these requests for your time is for people to know you have other obligations beyond your workday that are important and necessary. You can be gracious and say you are grateful for the chance to attend, but you simply can’t. And don’t wait until the last minute. And yes, occasionally you may want to attend an event just so you get a sense of what happens there.
Karla Miller writes in Washington Post, ”These events may be a well-intended way to offer everyone equal access to managers in a casual setting outside the daily grind. In that case, your employer could avoid potential discrimination and wage concerns by scheduling events during regular business hours, or keeping attendance voluntary. A treat, not a trial.”
The motivation for HR or company leadership to schedule these events may be to foster a great cohesive company culture. Leaders may not be aware of all the different responsibilities that make attendance impossible.
“Corporate events have become a method to foster a feeling of cohesiveness. It is also a great way to meet people from the industry and grow business. In fact, corporate events are the best place to collaborate with peer companies towards something big,” Krishna Vijay writes in Your Story.
“But employees feel happy when their work is appreciated and they are valued on a bigger stage in front of fellow employees. It has been noticed that companies which organize business meetings were 3 times more productive than those who didn’t. Also, corporate events help with employee retention as they make the employees feel special, happy, and an integral part of the organization. Corporate events act as opportunities for employees to relax and build relationships with colleagues. Even the smallest event can have a huge impact on the morale of the employees,” Vijay writes.
Make a suggestion to policy makers at your organization that perhaps some of these team-building events can be included in the workday—a regular recognition lunch for instance, or a gathering the last hour of each Friday in the conference room.
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge reports that according to new research by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans, “More than 80 percent of American employees say they do not feel recognized or rewarded, despite the fact that US companies are spending more than a fifth of their budgets on wages.”
Whillans writes in Compensation & Benefits Review, “Winning the War for Talent: Modern Motivational Methods for Attracting and Retaining Employees,” with Anais Thibault-Landry of the Université du Québec à Montréal and Allan Schweyer of the Incentive Research Foundation, “When these needs are satisfied, employees feel more motivated, engaged, and committed to their workplace—and they report fewer intentions of leaving their jobs.”
If it’s recognition that breeds retention, and not the events themselves, Robert Boyd, CTO at Outcry writes in Thrive Global. “Gratitude can flourish in a workplace that provides avenues for recognition, such as a message board or Slack channel where employees can call out others for a job-well-done” in addition to events and regular parties and get-togethers.”
To go or not to go? You get to decide.
The best RSVP is an honest one. Be transparent about your availability and also express appreciation that the company leadership is attempting to reward teams with events. Go when you can if you can and contribute to the team. And for sure, if you are the honoree at the event, recognized for your efforts, be the first to reply “yes.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com