Merge's Blog

Should workplace social celebrations be compulsory?

PeopleAtRestaurantLast week, I advocated the need for a regular schedule for fun social celebrations in the workplace, and I offered up an approach that I have used very successfully over the years in my leadership roles where I had staff directly reporting to me.  That blog post prompted a question from one reader – should attendance at these social celebration events be compulsory?  The short answer is “no”; however it comes with a “but”.  Let me explain.

Attendance at social events should never be compulsory, always voluntary.  There are great employees who choose not to socialize at work, and that’s okay, and there should be no judgment applied if that is their choice.  But … if the social event is being held during working hours (either wholly or partially), then the employee has the choice of attending the event OR working.  That’s it, only two options – they can either join in on the social event, or stay at their desks and continue working.  If the team leaves early one afternoon to go bowling at the local bowlerama, then the employee cannot choose to go home early.  If the team decides to volunteer at the local food bank one morning, then the employee can opt to participate, or come in and work regular hours while the rest of the group is sorting tins at the food bank.  S/he cannot take the morning off and come in at 1 PM to join the rest of the team.  If the group takes an extra-long lunch to celebrate a workplace accomplishment, the employee cannot take an extra-long lunch to run personal errands, only the lunch period s/he was originally entitled to.  My point is that the employee has choices, but taking time off in lieu of the social event is not one of them.

Do you agree?  Appropriate or too strict?  While I likely won’t change my mind on this topic, I am open to a conversation, so would love to hear your thoughts.

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