It’s very natural to get close to people you work with. You spend most of your time at work, so it makes sense to become friends and start inviting co-workers to gatherings outside the office. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you do have to keep in mind a few things.
Be aware of events with alcohol –Assuming you are at least 21, Happy Hours are a popular activity, particularly after a long week, or during a mid-week break. However, you have to be careful on how you conduct yourself, regardless if you’re not on the clock. People will always judge you, no matter the venue, so make sure you don’t drink too much and act outrageously, blurting regrettable statements like, “isn’t our boss so uptight?” or “geez, I can’t wait to leave this job”. If you are young, you don’t want to give others any reason to not take you seriously. Enjoy your time with co-workers and engage in fun conversation, but be aware of your alcohol consumption. You don’t want to look like a fool.
Try Not to Alienate Others - At times, the workplace can be like High School. Everyone forms their own cliques based on similar interests. However, be careful not to alienate certain co-workers from outside work events. People who aren’t included may feel left out which could cause tension and an uncomfortable environment in the workplace. I’m not suggesting you have to invite everyone all the time. However, I would be conscious of who you are leaving out and under what circumstances. For example, if you are going to a concert you may want to invite your close co-worker friends, but if you are going out to lunch or going for a walk after work, what’s the harm in offering others to join you? It gets a little bit tricky when it’s with a supervisor. They may not be able to objectively reward or punish you and some acts might be seen as favoritism by others. This could create some awkwardness at work too. Also, if two co-workers are of the opposite sex, it’s always a good idea to have a 3rd person join to negate any office gossip of “romantic interests”.
Avoid Office Gossip - You might feel more relaxed and trusting with certain people, but you should always be alert. Don’t indulge in office gossip, since it can only lead to trouble. A good rule of thumb I typically use is any work related topics are off the table. This way, you’ll be focusing on enjoying people’s company rather than discussing the latest gossip in the office. You don’t want to get involved in a “He Said, She Said” battle.
Have Fun! – Bonding with co-workers after-hours is a great way to understand each other and form lasting relationships. As long as you keep the points above in mind, have fun networking! Some of my closest friends I met through work. After we all moved on to other companies we still maintain our friendships. These friends can be great listeners when facing work challenges because they can relate. Former co-workers and supervisors can provide great insight and perspective as well.
At the end of the day try to keep an inclusive mindset, be conscious of your surroundings, and most importantly, have fun!