Hanging out with co-workers is lame. This is a group of people whose friendship began when they all signed an agreement to be paid by the same employer. And most of the time, that's the end of what you all have in common. It's often easier to communicate with a cab driver, or even in a wind tunnel, than the person sitting next to you at work. At least then you can just fall back on the old standards of traffic, politics, and corruption.
With co-workers, there's a complex art to seeming like you care about whatever they're talking about when you really couldn't care less. You can't just use the taxi fallbacks of repeating "yeah" and "oh really?" over and over again without sounding like a dick. And while being branded as the office dick doesn't get in you actual trouble with the bosses, it does make simple day-to-day tasks, like asking to borrow an iPhone charger, a real hassle.
So imagine it's a typical workday, some time in the beginning of the week, far from Friday, and you're dreading the thought of sitting in traffic for 90 minutes just to get home. You just spent the last few hours streaming videos and pretending to work until it's finally time to leave that florescent office behind for a few hours of "actual life." So what do you do when you suddenly notice that everyone is gearing up to hang out after work and you're expected to come along?
How to Craft the Perfect Excuse
There are two ways to handle this situation, but each of them requires specific character traits to make it work. You either need to be an immaculately professional liar or a brutally dominate alpha human being. You need to tell a convincing story or convince others that this post-work outing is actually a terrible idea.
Here's how you lie: Stick to the classics. There's a reason movie studios are stuck in a cycle of continuously pumping out shitty remake after shittier remake. The old stories work. But just like in a successful remake, you need to inject a tiny bit of creativity into the story to keep it interesting. Blaming your family usually works. But remember, it's impossible to claim some imaginary relative has died more than four times a year without making people think you're cursed or something.
It's better to stick with simple excuses like "my mom asked me to meet her, and I can't bail again." Why can't you bail? Doesn't matter. No one is going to ask.
Here's how you don't need to lie: OK, so maybe lying all the time makes you feel guilty. Then all you need to do is take the honest route and explain that whatever preexisting plans you had, whether they were a night on the town with your real friends or a night alone in bed with Netflix, are better than whatever your co-workers want to do. For example, you can just admit that you're trying to binge watch all of Game of Thrones before the new season starts. Go ahead and tell them you keep forgetting the names of the dead characters, and that you still have like five seasons left. They'll understand that you're an important person with important plans.
How to Split the Bill
Alright, so none of that worked, and now you're out at some restaurant with your work friends. In a perfect world, your meal and drinks would be covered by your company. But, alas, we all don't get to work in oil and gas or spend our nights with old white oil tycoons who will pick up the bill.
So that means you need to know how to split a bill. Prepare yourself because few conversations will ever be this awkward.
What are you supposed to do when the majority of the staff agreed to share some appetizer, and you're trying to eat healthy food? You have two choices here, either pitch in regardless of what you really want, or order something different and only pay for that. Pitching in earns you some points as a team player (just like you said you were in your resume). But choosing your own meal preserves your dignity as an individual. Choose whichever option works best for you. Unless you wanted mozzarella sticks all along. Then what are you so worried about? Just eat it.
How to Deal with Seniority
The big question here is a difficult one to answer. Is your boss still your boss after work hours? Yes and no. It's inevitable that one day your boss is going to come out and shave a few years off their lives in order to stay up too late and hang out with their staff. And of course, he or she is going to try to show he or she is still hip with all the latest Instagram filters and Kendrick Lamar songs.
So keep in mind, at that moment, your boss isn't your boss. But in the morning, when all that "fun" is over, there just might be a surprise performance review coming your way if you acted like a total dick. The lesson here? Have fun, but don't go off the rails.
How to Make Small Talk
You've worked with that guy in the IT department for what? Like four years now? Don't worry, it's still pretty normal if you can't remember his wife's name. Your work relationship has been as follows: You two don't talk until something is wrong with your computer. Then he arrives, fixes it, and you say, "Thanks man, I owe you."
Now you both know that promise is about as real as Monopoly money, but no one cares about that. He's not out now looking for you to finally make good on all those promises. No, he just wants to hang out and bullshit.
But there's the problem. You don't really know anything about this guy aside from a strong suspicion that he likes computers. Talking about work is probably the safest route here, but that gets boring pretty quick. You both spent the last seven to eight hours thinking about work. It's time to loosen up a bit. So here some topics to get you started: hobbies, philosophy, religion, and how much more the sales and marketing staff make than you. One of those will definitely get the conversation flowing. Unless you happen to work in sales or marketing. If that's the case, then avoid that topic at all costs.
How to Gossip
Everyone knows the real important conversations happen outside the office. With today's open plan offices, there's really nowhere that's really safe to gossip at work. This is why the post-work gathering is basically the corporate equivalent of the forums of ancient Rome. Except here, no one is actually stabbed in the back 23 times, at least not with an actual knife.
So with or without the presence of a sobriety diminishing substances, a serious post-work hang will likely turn into a bitch session by the end of the night Just let it happen. We spend most of our lives at work, so there are bound to be things that get under people's skin.
But the real test of whether it was a good night out or not is whether it generated new stuff to gossip about. Did someone make a fool of themselves? Hook up? Skip out on the bill? You can judge a post-work outing by the amount of next morning gossip it creates. The more, the better. So loosen up and have some fun. Work is a necessary chore. You might as well make the most of it.