Social Protocol at the Workplace

I am not only new to the workplace, but also new to this country.

Will someone please educate me on the Social Protocol at the Workplace?

What I mean is making friends, chatting at the water cooler, drinks and pool after work – I am so confused. I wish I had a Manual for Immigrant Dummies in Canada or For Canadian Immigrant Dummies.

Let me illustrate this with a short story of 2 employees that started working with ABC and Company on the same day. They are Satish and Carina, both from different cultural backgrounds. Both have completed working with the company for the first 3 days and they are at the Lunch table with their colleagues in the cafeteria. Topic of discussion around the table is preparations for the weekend and more importantly the Friday evening hang out at the favorite bar.

Satish and Carina do not know what to say and are actually petrified just thinking about being asked out for the evening on Friday. Fortunately today is Thursday and they have another day before they have to take a decision and answer. What will their colleagues think in case they agree and what if they refuse? Will they be treated as outcastes and not be included in any future outings and activities? Tough decisions.

Satish and Carina have been thinking about this the whole evening. Satish is concerned about what his wife is going to say when he tells her that he will be late Friday evening. On the other hand, Carina is thrilled about the prospects of going out with co-workers and building a stronger relationship or at least she thinks so. She has decided to go, whereas Satish will decline the invitation. On Friday morning, both are asked whether they will join the gang and Carina accepts while Satish excuses himself.

All is well and life goes on. The beginning of the next week arrives and as days pass, Satish realizes that he probably missed something. When he watches Carina talking their language, repeating the fun activities and conversations of last Friday evening, Satish starts feeling kind of left out. He gets back to his work as usual and concentrates on the reports that he has to send out by the end of the week. He does not have the luxury of time and socializing at the water cooler. Carina on the other hand has made a lot of friends and is constantly surrounded by co-workers in chats, even during work. Satish is in the midst of his report when Carina comes up to him and starts chatting, not realizing that he is extremely busy with his reports. She feels hurt when he politely tells her that he will get back to her as soon as his reports are done and sent out. Anyways, Carina walks away and in her next discussion with her friends at work, she talks about the incident and points out that Satish is pretty rude and certainly not friendly. They do not comment but just nod.

The end of the week is fast approaching and once again they are invited. Both Satish and Carina accept this time and have a great time Friday evening. Sometime next week, one of Carina’s co-workers mentions that she really liked Satish and he was nothing like she had mentioned. He was very polite, friendly and funny too. In fact she also mentioned that people in the office have a very positive impression of Satish because of his Work Ethics and dedication. Carina realizes her mistake and apologizes to Satish at the Lunch table in front of others. Satish very politely forgives her and tells her that it is OK and in fact, apologizes to her for being rude. Everyone is happy and life goes on as usual. Both Satish and Carina have learnt a very valuable lesson from these incidents.

Satish learnt that it is important if not critical to socialize, though not at the expense of work undone. Carina on the other hand realized the importance of work ethics and now understands that people respect you at work for what you are and not for your attendance and socializing with others.

Thumb Rules for Socializing at work:

  • You are there to work, so focus on it first, and then socialize
  • When a chatty co-worker comes to chat with you and you are busy, politely excuse yourself and tell her/him that you have a deadline to meet and are not brushing them off. Remember to get back to them as soon as you have some time
  • Accept or decline invitations, for after work outings based on your interest and convenience and not for political reasons
  • Do not talk negatively about any co-workers in their absence. People will start believing that you are a gossipmonger and always talk behind peoples’ backs. No one likes such people.
  • In case you have made a mistake, apologize in public. People will respect you for your openness. Be forthright in your discussions but remember that discretion is a better part of valor. Do not say things that you will intentionally hurt someone else’s feelings
  • Stay away from office politics, as it can only harm you
  • Strive to be the person who always gets his work done on time, is always helpful to others and a pleasure to be around with.
  • Make friends at work that are well respected for their ethics and hard work and not because they are seemingly popular or funny.

More than anything else enjoy your work and let your performance talk for itself. Remember that when you are successful, you will be happy whether or not you are a social animal.