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Imagine yourself working in a company which has a team building tradition of going together to the pub on average two evenings a week and this is almost compulsory. But you do not get any pleasure from drinking alcohol and consider it as unnecessary three hour overtime.

You have tried to avoid some of these events in the past by saying you have a medical appointment or a plumber is visiting your house but your colleagues move their alcoholic events to fit your schedule. You have tried to explain that you do not like alcohol but they say have a soda.

How you would approach them about the fact you do not want to go to these events without offending them or hurting your relationship and without having to make excuses twice a week?

The previously discussed question "How to avoid participating in a team-building trip without causing bad feelings for coworkers?" will not help here, as a one-time excuse method described there will not help me to avoid a recurring event.

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    @Anonymous It can't be answered until it is reopened. I understand that a one-time excuse won't work, but other answers on the "duplicate" suggested "tell the truth", "make an appearance but leave early", "suggest a different type of event". As I asked earlier, can you edit to explain why these solutions also will not work for you? Then it will be clear that this is not a duplicate. – Em C Jun 11 '18 at 20:18
  • What is your goal? Never again participate and everyone being totally fine with it? Cut back to once a month and having some but manageable friction? I don't really see your success criteria described. Cutting back some is probably easier to answer than totally quitting all social events. – Stian Yttervik Jun 11 '18 at 20:21
  • Never again participate and everyone being totally fine with it? - ideally, yes. – Anonymous Jun 12 '18 at 19:23
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    What is your actual reason to avoid these events? It seems your coworkers are OK with you having soda instead of alcohol. Is it that you have other commitments outside work so you want to avoid 6 hours a week of these "mandatory fun events"? Is it just that you find these events are too long? Do you want to avoid socializing so often? These clarifications will be helpful, and depending on your actual issue, this might also be on-topic on The Workplace. – Masked Man Jun 17 '18 at 8:40
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    Why is your question so revolved around the alcohol aspect, while a suggestion to get you soda is rejected as a solution by you? Maybe you can rephrase the question so it is about not spending 2x3 hours on any social activity with colleagues in stead of only focussing on alcohol. – Hans Janssen Jun 22 '18 at 14:12
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You live in a wonderful time to be an 'out' introvert (even if you're not, really).

In some settings, it's traditionally been very difficult to get people to understand that you're truly wired differently than others. Even in my lifetime, it was more frequently assumed that I was shy and needed experience rather than it being a different personality type that would never actively enjoy those activities.

This is a conversation I have frequently, and over the years, it's become easier and easier. It does need to be tailored to your situation but here's what I usually start with:

Hey, I really appreciate that you want me to go out with you, but I have to be honest. I'm pretty introverted and these types of activities are mentally draining to me. Rather than getting to unwind at the end of the day, which these do for you, it actually leaves me even more tired and drained.

It means a lot to me that you want to include me and keep inviting me, but understand that this is something I can't keep doing twice a week. These types of night out are more like a once a month thing for me.

Even if you aren't truly an introvert, this answer has become more and more acceptable as people have learned that this isn't a social skill you just haven't developed.

Take a test to figure out where you fit on the scale. Knowing will help you approach others, and if this is a new revelation for you, it will give you a lot of reading material on how to approach situations you don't get anything out of.

EDIT: For reference, I've been the Executive Vice President of a software development company and I've been asked to speak at NADA and other industry conferences around the world.

I don't want to get too much into a discussion about what introversion is and isn't, but it can have very little, or at great deal, of impact on your career. It's a common belief that introverts are all shy and socially awkward. It's true that plenty of us end up that way because they don't enjoy those interactions, so they either fear them, or never develop them.

That doesn't have to be the case, and it's entirely possible to be an excellent asset to your company without going out and drinking several nights a week. I could (and have) make a strong argument that you're more of an asset for not doing that.

However, if you do get challenged on it, you have a couple of options. First, try and redirect the venue to something you'd enjoy more. Look for a code jam nearby and encourage everyone to go. When they don't want to, give them a hard time (and be merciless about it). Tell them that they invite you all the time to the bar, and you begrudgingly go, and this is more your speed and you expect them to return the favor. If that's not their scene, they'll quickly come around.

Unfortunately, if you work in a very specific (albeit rare) environment where after hours activities truly are a requirement for the job and there's a glass ceiling to anyone who doesn't participate, you might have to move on. I can assure you though, that isn't the norm (speaking with both US and UK experience.)

  • Thank you for the first answer. The difficulty is I cannot be so open about my introvertism as my job spec usually says 'excellent communicator', 'enormous team player' etc. – Anonymous Jun 18 '18 at 13:26
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    @Anonymous You can be an introvert and also be an excellent communicator and team player. They are not mutually exclusive traits. – David K Jun 18 '18 at 13:41
  • Added some additional information in an edit related to this. – AHamilton Jun 18 '18 at 14:06
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    @Anonymous: We had an expert colleague (you know the type, technically your equal but effectively runs and supports the team) who had a knack for clear communication and doing "micro trainings" when he saw someone struggle with an issue. This guy was socially anxious and worked from home (from a hospital bed) for years and he still outshone everyone else. Introversion isn't an excuse for bad social skills, expert communication does not inherently exclude introverts. Introversion refers to how you relax, not how you work. – Flater Jun 20 '18 at 6:26
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You can't do this, and keep your relationship exactly the same

I have friends similar to your co-workers, who enjoy regularly meeting up. It doesn't have to be with alcohol since the point is to spend time together but it is more often than not what the meet ups are centered around. We have had people who want to do something else, and we happily shift to accomodate. We have had people who do not want to meet up with us no matter what we are doing and thats OKAY. Not everyone has to enjoy hanging out with us after work but it will always affect the relationship we all have with that person.

It sounds to me as though by encouraging everyone to get together after work, your company is encouraging their employees to become friends. This is likely what your relationship currently is with these co-workers, more than just work-friends. Choosing to hang out twice a week is something that friends do. So, since you do not enjoy and do not ever want to hang out with them outside of work again, there is simply no way to accomplish this but have them still see you as a personal friend. Relationships go two ways.

Instead, I suggest working on maintaining and improving your professional working relationship which seems to be what your true goal is anyway. You may miss out on some opportunities but so long as you make a clear distinction between your working relationship and personal relationship with these people, not having one should not automatically ruin the other.

So, I suggest you politely but firmly decline any further invitations to these events. Establish and enforce a boundary between your work life and personal life and lastly, to help the transition go smoothly put in some extra effort on your working relationships with these people. This differs between workplaces but I am not talking about buckling down and working harder necessarily. You want to bring emphasise on your work relationship so you need to interact with them in person, for whatever the positive, professional context is for your workplace.

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As I see it you have a few options available to you in order to try and reduce, or stop participation in these after work social events.

The Compromise:

I realise that your question states that you wish to get out of all the events, but I would counter argue that turning up to some of them is beneficial to you and your relationship with your colleagues in the long-run. If you can compromise, it'll reduce the amount of push back that they are likely to give you.

For example you could be relatively honest about not going to one event in any given week by simply telling them that you have some things you want to do at home, and you'd balance this by stating that you will go out with them the next time.

Example:

Sorry guys, I have stuff I want to do at home tonight, so you lot go ahead and I'll come out next time.

Compromising makes you declining their request to join them that night seem less defensive, and is more likely to be better received.

Completely declining:

Honestly this can be difficult, because there a lot of people whose personalities can come across very assertive, almost pushy. If you work with someone like that, then it's difficult to deal with, because all the reasons you come up with are met with a challenge.

The only options available to you here are to be persistent in declining the invitation, or come across firm. Both have the potential to be taken the wrong way. Honesty however is the best policy, but you need to be persistent if you get challenged when discussing it. The other issue is that this isn't necessarily something that's easy to bring up in general conversation with the entire group, your usually limited to declining and giving an explanation when asked about going out so your response is forced to be more concise almost by the very context of their question.

Example:

Them: Hey are you coming out tonight, we are going to the pub.

You: Not tonight thanks, I honestly have so much to do, i'm not really a big drinker, and I can't justify just drinking soda all night.

Them: it'll be fun, you can just hang and chat with us.

etc.

etc.

See what I mean, it's difficult if they challenge you after each time you turn them down, but all you can do is be persistent and stick to your response. This unfortunately is more down to their personality than yours in my opinion.

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