Ah, the annual company picnic… Few events probably fill you with such a mix of excitement and dread. While you finally get to have fun with your boss and co-workers outside of the high-stress office environment, you still have to be on your best possible behavior. How’s one to cope?
According to psychologist Sarah E. Altman, PhD, a clinical assistant professor in the Department Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, it’s a delicate balance. “Overall, you want to be mindful that, although the atmosphere is more casual than your workplace, your role as employee is still the highest priority,” she explains. “When we think of picnics, we think of ‘letting our hair down’—but any picnic hosted by your company or boss, whether you like it or not, you are still being evaluated.”
This isn’t all bad, says Altman, who says it’s a natural opportunity for you “to impress your boss and to show your character.” To do so, just follow this handy-dandy golden rulebook.
It’s hot and sticky, you might be swimming… Is there really a dress code? Yes, but an unwritten one, says Altman. “Although a picnic is more casual, think about wearing something that is comfortable, yet appropriate for work relationships,” she suggests. “Be conscious of lengths and necklines, and overall condition of your clothes.” You still want to be view as a polished professional, even while you’re chilling with a cold drink.
The sack race might not sound like your favorite activity at the picnic, but you may want to consider signing up for games and activities that encourage cooperation and team-building. “If it requires actively volunteering, you’ll want to be one of the first ones to jump in,” says Altman. “This will show you’re a team player and you have initiative.” Consider yourself the unofficial captain, and watch those Active Minutes add up!
If anything prevents you from joining a game or physical activity, “make sure to be a cheerleader,” says Altman. “This will show that you are a supportive co-worker.” You can also show appreciation by pitching in and helping whomever coordinated the picnic. “You could offer to help with preparations or cleanup,” Altman suggests. “If a co-worker or boss is hosting at their own house, you may want to bring something like flowers or a small token of thanks.” Be memorable, and be sincere.
No matter where you would ideally want to be on a summer Saturday, it’s essential that you stay engaged. “Remain interested in being there—don’t adopt the attitude that you are only there because ‘have to be,’” Altman says. “Put your cell phone away, and engage in conversations with your co-workers and supervisors. Show up on time, or let them know you’ll be late ahead of time, and make sure to say goodbye to everyone—the host, especially.” Make it an internal challenge, and set a reasonable number of people to chat with. Try to learn one new tidbit about as many co-workers as you can, which will force you into more conversations. Treat yourself if you beat your goal!
Yes, give yourself freedom to have fun at the company picnic, but show more restraint than you might with your closest pals. “Refrain from gossiping, and drink alcohol in moderation or not at all,” Altman says. “Too much of either can lead to negative perceptions of you and your role as an employee.” Lastly, don’t bust your diet. Picnics and casual gatherings are rife with small bites that add up. Stick to one full plate of food after the host lights up the grill, or five finger foods— remember, you get just one per finger!
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.