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Ask Ash

16 May 11

Advice column: should I be expected to attend work social and team bonding events in addition to putting in long hours?

Dear Ash,

I have been spending increasing hours at work recently due to having to cope with additional workloads. I appreciate that I have to put in the hours in order to progress with my career; however I resent the added pressure to then have to spend additional time socialising with work colleagues too. Our manager always seems to be keen for a bunch of us to go out to lunch together and then even suggests after-work drinks too, even though I’m more concerned about getting home to spend time with family and friends. Recently we have been advised that we will also require to attend some team bonding sessions which have been organised over a number of weekends. I don’t mind putting in the hours at work but I am not happy with having to sacrifice my spare time for such events and wonder whether I should speak to my manager about this?

Ash replies:

With the uncertainty and indeed increasing vulnerability evident in today’s job market, employees are increasingly feeling under pressure to undertake additional duties and to demonstrate their commitment to their employers. The issue about non-work time is even more significant in the circumstances.

I can therefore appreciate that as you have been putting in additional hours at work, the last thing you may want to do is to then spend even more time with colleagues socialising. However, from your employers’ perspective, they may be signalling their appreciation for your extra efforts by highlighting the social activities at work. A good employer will always strive to strike a balance of work and social activities in order to try to improve staff morale and satisfaction levels. It would seem however that in your case you may feel that there is too much emphasis on the social activities.

I suggest that perhaps with regard to lunch and after-work drinks sessions, you attempt to politely decline such events if you have other plans or indeed want some time to yourself. By reluctantly agreeing to go along to such events on a regular basis, you are effectively building resentment towards your employer due to feeling forced into such situations. This will not in the long term be any good for you, or indeed for your employer who will be in danger of having to deal with a disgruntled employee.

By not having to attend all the regular lunchtime and after work drinks events, you may then feel more appreciative of the team building sessions organised by your employer. I suggest that you do attend the team building events, if you are able, but if you feel that there are personal issues which prevent you from attending all these sessions then certainly have an informal chat with your manager, explaining your circumstances but emphasising your commitment to the job and highlighting the effort you have put into your work of late. Certain research suggests that we spend more time on average with work colleagues than with our families, and therefore it is vital to build good relations at work. Accordingly social activities are an important tool in building on such relations, but as with anything in life, good in moderation!

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or katiewood@lawscot.org.uk

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