High on Bill Perry's list of things to do this year is to play golf with his company's chief executive. He has his clubs ready to go at...
High on Bill Perry’s list of things to do this year is to play golf with his company’s chief executive. He has his clubs ready to go at the first call. His father-in-law advised him not to talk about work until at least the fifth hole.
So what if he’s not great at the game? He knows spending those few hours with his boss is critical to his career.
Perry works for Pathlore Software of Columbus, Ohio. Chief Executive Steve Thomas thinks social time with a supervisor is imperative to a good working relationship.
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Thomas spends time outside the office playing golf with employees. He goes to dinner with them or sponsors a night at a sporting event for his workers.
Recently, he was preparing for a trip to Cancún, Mexico, with a sales team and their spouses.
“You have to be able to go to people quickly and be able to deal with them to get a job or contract done. It’s a lot easier if you really know the person,” he said.
“Are there liabilities to getting to know employees, and are there employees who don’t know their bosses? Yes. But [socializing] breaks down lot of barriers … and it lets everyone know that bosses are real people, too.”
Apparently, many people agree with him. Some 55 percent of the respondents in a recent survey said they knew it was good for their career to socialize with the boss.
But 27 percent said it was a necessity they would rather live without.
Spending a few hours with the boss outside work is becoming more common, said Marc Cenedella, president of TheLadders.com, the executive job-search service that did the survey.
“It’s difficult to solely have a 9-to-5 relationship with the boss,” he said. “We have let a lot of our socializing and free and family time get mixed up with our work time. It’s difficult to draw a line where a boss remains a boss or becomes a friend.”
Cenedella’s 40-person company does a lot of socializing, and he joins right in. “It’s fun to see people in another setting and to relax and be able to socialize outside the conference rooms,” Cenedella said. “It makes it a lot easier to get over the hard hurdles and difficult bumps that occur.”
Many companies have social events so employees and employers can get to know one another and, presumably, work together better.
La Quinta Inns has a “highly social environment,” said Christina Parr, head of training and development, with sports teams, a holiday luncheon and group volunteering. Such activities “get beyond the walls and stimulate thinking.”
But those are different from a one-on-one tennis match with a supervisor, and maybe that one-on-one time isn’t always necessary, said Parr’s boss, Noel Ferguson, vice president of human resources.
“It’s not as necessary if the right conversations are being had in the office,” he said. “We try to make it easy to have the conversations here.”
Not everyone has been bitten with the social bug. And many would rather not spend that extra time with the very boss they report to all day.
“People feel pressure in this competitive, shaky world to keep themselves positioned for career success,” said Douglas LaBier, a psychotherapist with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Adult Development. “That requires actions that don’t mesh well with personal behaviors and desires.”
What does one do when boss-mingling sounds like torture? Think of it as just what it is: career advancement.
“I think it’s important to see that social events are work events, and it is important if someone wants to have better relations at work, as well as maybe be on track for a promotion, to be involved with those social events,” said Michael Stadter, a clinical psychologist and associate with BMC Associates.
“But the bottom line is you don’t see them as social events. You look at them as work events,” he said.
If a worker detests the thought of spending time outside of work with a boss, it may be time for a change of mind-set, Stadter said.
“Work goes on at these events,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to be the boss’s friend … but if it seems to be important to your company or business, think of it as a business meeting.”