It’s inevitable. Your co-workers have arranged a little celebration for a colleague and have invited you to join them, after work, in a restaurant not far from the office. Whether it is one of your fellow employee’s birthdays, bridal showers, or a small holiday fete, you have qualms about attending. You’ve only been on the job for a month or so and find yourself hopping from one horn of a dilemma to the other and back again. Ouch! While you are grateful to have landed the job, as the economy is particularly tough for older workers, the transition into an environment in which you are the oldest employee has not been easy for you. Just as you are finding your equilibrium, doing your job properly and getting along with everyone within the four walls of the office, a co-worker pops her pretty young head around your cubicle and invites you to this small party.
Your first instinct is to politely decline, explaining that your Thursday nights are devoted to ministering to the prisoners in the county jail, working with the lepers in the colony two towns over, or some other response designed to make her, and the rest of the work crew, steer as far away from you socially as if you were the contents of a suitcase “lost” by a corrupt Russian scientist. Resist this temptation, smile back, thank her for the invitation, and tell her you’ll be there with bells on. Well, scratch the “bells on” comment, as your associate is far too young to understand that old chestnut.
As painful as it may first appear, this little soiree can actually be fun as well as beneficial to your longevity in the company, simply by following a few do’s and don’ts to facilitate your integration into the company even further.
DO…Arrange for someone you trust to call your cell phone approximately an hour into the celebration, citing some emergency. This is your “out,” specifically, an outright lie designed to extricate you from a potentially sticky situation if need be. Ride it out for an hour and you won’t be branded unsociable or an old fuddy-duddy or whatever moniker is in use right now for those of us who remember Woodstock.
DON’T…Whatever else you do, steer clear of alcoholic beverages. It may be tempting to follow that first social drink, which is almost de rigeur, with a second or a third drink. Although this article is will be rife with adages for a very good reason, this one is still true: “Loose lips sink ships.” The very last thing you want is induce your colleagues to huddle around the water cooler the following morning, with your tipsy behavior the butt of innuendo and jokes.
DON’T…Speak ill of management or another employee who is not present to defend himself or herself. To get right down to brass tacks (there goes another tried and true motto!), it is bad office politics. Rest assured, whatever you say will be repeated by someone, sometime, and somewhere within your office. If pressed with remarks such as, “Oh, come on, you know that So-and-So is a snob!” you can counter with something like, “Well, I’ve only been here five weeks; I really haven’t had all that much interaction with her.”
DO…Sidestep all attempts to pin you down to your real age. These include questions along the lines of, “Say, do you remember seeing Elvis live for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show?” Your exact age is your personal business and should remain so. HR will have your complete dossier, including the date of your birth; this is confidential. To keep things on the light side, you might try quipping, with a genuine smile and a little laugh, “Sorry, TV wasn’t invented in those days” or, “Elvis? Rudy Valentino was the guy I was following.”
DO…Try to have a good time. Without prying, try to get to know your co-workers a bit better. They’ve thought enough of you to invite you to their little get- together. If you can strike a balance between being sociable and professional, you will have cleared another hurdle on the course of your new job.