Friday, May 04, 2007

Ms. Theologian suggests bowling

Dear Ms Theologian,

My department, which encompasses techies, operations, sales people,and other people who have client-facing positions, is really into offsite social gatherings such as a biannual party at a bar/restaurant, etc. I just got an invite to a bowling party in celebration of the launch of a new service that I am one of (many) managers for. It is scheduled from 3:30-6 on a workday (I generally leave work at 4:30).

First off, I loathe bowling, but secondly I really do not enjoy socializing with people from work. I did it at my old job because they were like family, but even after a year here I feel no closeness to these people and the thought of actually "hanging out" with them makes me feel surly.

Do I have to go? What are my obligations as a manager for this service? Do I have to "network" if I really have no desire to go any higher up in this company?

Signed,

Coworkerphobic


Dear Coworkerphobic,

What are the obligations of a manager? Ms. Theologian thinks this is the key question.

Your obligations are essentially to manage people, processes, and things. In order to be good at this, you do need to know your employees as human beings in terms of how they work, what they find fun (and not fun), what motivates them, what shames them, etc. This is where the bowling party comes in. For example, if you found out that five of your employees hated bowling and were hiding in the bathroom, this might be useful information to you. If you found out that Julie was quitting, also useful information to you. Perhaps you find out about corporate restructuring, new parking places, or even get to gab with your boss about subsidizing public commuting costs. This is all useful stuff that is often conducted in an informal environment.

Yes, you are not obligated to hang out with them for extended periods of time. But when you're at the bowling party, you are still a manager during work hours, still observing the dynamics among employees, still talking to others about things that are important and not exactly taking off your shirt and dancing on the table. Of course, that's an assumption on Ms. Theologian's part.

Regardless of your hatred of bowling, you should go, not as a moral obligation, but as smart managing. And smart managing has nothing to do with getting ahead in the organization, but being a good manager in the here and now. Ms. Theologian thinks it's perfectly fair to leave early. You do have dinner obligations, after all. And if not, make some.

-Ms. Theologian

P.S. If you'd like to write to Ms. Theologian, send an email to ms dot theologian at gmail dot com.