Socializing vs. Producing: Finding the Balance

“Social” seems to be one of our buzz words of the day. Social media. Social networking. Social security. Ha, well just kidding on that last one…though it is a hot topic among my generation! But seriously, being social is a great advantage in many cases. Outgoing, talkative, friendly people are people we like to work with and hang around…until sometimes our socializing crosses the line and affects our ability to get things done.

So, where’s the line, and how do we avoid crossing it?

Everything in Moderation

A modest amount of socializing on the job is fine. Honestly, if you’re going to spend 40+ hours a week with the same people, it’s only natural to spend a few minutes throughout the day talking about your families or weekend plans. In fact, it’s a good thing! I want my managers to take the time to get to know their people. I always used my morning “coffee walk” as my time to say good morning, chat with teammates, and check on projects.

Avoiding Social Distractions

Socializing crosses the line when it affects our ability to get our work done…even just a little bit. Routinely spending an hour or two in private conversations with colleagues or surfing social networking sites creates a domino effect of issues and frustrations for the company and your teammates, including:

  • Lost productivity – Not working when you should be working. Now you have to find time to get the work done that you could have already completed.
  • Resentful colleagues – It won’t take long for those colleagues with their noses to the grindstone to begin resenting your lack of focus and commitment while on the job.
  • Wasted resources – The bottom line is that your company pays you to do your job, not to visit or goof off.
  • Diminished trust – If you aren’t a good steward of the job you were assigned to do, chances are you won’t be afforded the opportunity to assume more responsibilities in the future.

A Few Tips

So how do those of us “people persons” get our social fill during the workday without going overboard? Here are a few tips:

  • Set up your day – Is your daily agenda a wide, open space that you haphazardly fill up each day with whatever comes up? Chances are you’ll be less prone to distractions if you begin your day with an itinerary of what you’ll work on when or with a checklist of items you want to accomplish before 5 p.m.
  • Set a time limit – Of course you don’t want to go through your day ducking and avoiding coworkers simply because you don’t want to spend too much time socializing, but when you do pause for a quick chat, set a time limit. After five or ten minutes, politely excuse yourself so you can get back to work.
  • Set the example – It isn’t easy to be the one to step away from the fun or stay focused at your desk when everyone else is chatting it up, but it does set an example, and over time your colleagues will take note of your discipline and work ethic.

If you are blessed to work with colleagues who are also your confidants and friends, then you are truly blessed. My most enjoyable and rewarding work environments have been where many of my teammates were also my friends. However, when we work with friends, we have to remember that there are also boundaries we must keep in place to ensure that we also remain productive colleagues on behalf of the companies and customers we serve.

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