The Office "Chip-In's" - Do You Have To? Advice & Tips for the Workplace Social Network
The Truth About Those Starbucks Runs
Gossip. Peer pressure. Cold shoulder. Advancement.
You’d think I’m talking about a high school. But I’m not. I’m talking about the office.
The social setting of many business offices can be like it was in your high school hallways. Only this time, it makes a difference.
Is it true you can just go in to work every day and do your job and keep to yourself? Can you pretty much ignore the office from a social aspect? Is it really OK not to keep a good social standing at work? No, it’s not.
Management sees how you interact with other people. Promotions are often based in part on how well you can lead a team and work with others. When it’s obvious to the higher ups that your officemates don’t respect you, no matter how good your work is, that will definitely affect your career path.
It’s expensive to work in an office. There’s the obvious ones – the dry cleaning, the gas or commuting costs. There’s wardrobe updating. But there’s also the social expectations that can add up on you. There’s the latte runs, the group lunches, the happy hours, the chipping in for gifts and birthday cakes.
If you work in an office, you know what it’s like when someone comes around collecting for Harriet’s retirement gift, or Bob’s birthday cake. You don’t want to be that person that doesn’t contribute. Offices can be as bad as high schools with the whispering and the clicks and the peer pressure.
Kayla was a woman at a former office workplace of mine. We worked in the finance department together. She was with the company 15 years when I got there. She was always quick to refuse to contribute to most of those little funds. She was always making statements about how broke she was. And then once in a while, she would contribute to one of those funds when it was another older long time employee. When we met to discuss a department Chris Cringle, she refused participation. When anyone was selling their kid’s Girlscout cookies or other fundraisers, she always said, “I’m broke, no way,” in a tone that sounded angry you’d even ask. When the department invited her to go out for drinks to celebrate a good quarter, she would either refuse or just completely ignore the invitation. If pressed she would site money or time as the reasons she wasn’t going, and always with an attitude. But when the warehouse had their First Friday Happy Hour, she went, suddenly finding the time and the money, and her ability to RSVP.
Kayla had been passed up for every promotion that could have come her way for the 15 years she had been there. Her immediate supervisor had only been with the company 3 years when she was promoted over Kayla. The department manager, 5 years.
While I was there, I heard the gossip about her. Her office mates speculated about a lot of things. She drives a great car, but couldn’t afford to participate in Chris Cringle? She can afford cigarettes, she takes 10 smoke breaks a day, but couldn’t chip in a buck for Debbie’s birthday cake? She’ll chip in for this one but not for that one. She’ll go to their happy hour, but not our celebration.
She was called everything from a liar, to stuck-up, to full of herself, to cheap. She even overheard these things herself on sad occasion.
I personally don’t think she was any of those. I just think she had no clue how these things reflect.
Passed Over for Promotions
Years after I had left that company, I remained friends with a Human Resource Manager. We talked about Kayla a few times. Management always considered her comments on how she was broke as a serious reflection on her ability to manage money. Other people on her level who made the same money seemed to be doing just fine. She drove the nicest car in the department but said she couldn’t afford to put $2 into the afternoon coffee run. Regarding her ability to supervise, they noted she played favorites. She only contributed to long time employee’s celebratory cakes or lunches. How would she be able to handle new employees? She brought in her kid’s fundraisers but didn’t support others.
Kayla was passed over for promotion after promotion. This of course made her feel slighted, tired, and angry. Her attitude at work became bitter. This fed the gossip. It was a bad cycle that she perpetuated every day.
Look, I’m the first to say, no one knows what goes on in people’s private lives. Maybe the reason she can afford a nice car is because she doesn’t contribute to every stupid cake fund. But even I can clearly see that she created and perpetuated a perception that cost her any upward mobility in her work place. She doomed herself. This could have been easily avoided.
If It Happens At Work, It's WORK.
Even the aspects that seem social like cakes and Happy Hours, are WORK. Think of them that way, and you can’t go wrong. From 9 to 5 when you’re in that office, you’re working. Be even, and level, and professional in all your interactions. Anytime you speak to any one in the office, use the same manner and tone as you would addressing the president of the company.
As far as the “chip in’s” go, be even. It’s better to chip in one or two dollars each time, then to play favorites, or to excommunicate yourself. You need to add this into your work budget just like dry cleaning and commuting costs. These things are remembered. They are a reflection on your ability to participate in team functions.
Here’s a couple of sneaky tips for this topic. If you’re the one taking around the collection, no one else knows how much you’ve contributed if anything. They see that you’ve at least donated your time and effort by running around the office with the smile, the team spirit and the envelope. Another is to smile and show your team spirit by saying something nice about the event, then volunteer to order or go get the cake. Your gas, your time, your effort – it all counts.
The Office is Your Team –
And management sees it that way. When you slight your team, it’s a reflection on your ability to supervise, manage, or grow in the company.
Watch What You Say - Especially About Yourself
Telling everyone that you work in finance and you’re broke is just a dumb move. Look, everyone is cash tight right now. And every one at one time or another has a bad week or a tight patch.
The work place is not where you want to make any blatantly self deprecating statements like that you’re "broke." You have to be able to realize that the next time you have a new purse, or you chip in for something else, you’re likely to make your way into the office gossip as a liar or a drama queen. It’s unprofessional and it will come back to bite you.
Always remember you’re working. Not socializing. And always remember to view your office as a team, the way management does.
Put it in your budget to always have a few bucks tucked in your wallet for those collections. Really having a tight week and can’t do it? Don’t tell the world you’re broke. Behave like a team player. Put a dollar in and say “Oh I wish it could be more, I really like Jan and I’m so glad she’s being promoted!” Or, turn to the officemate next to you and say, “Hey I’m a little embarrassed, I don’t have any cash on me. Can you please put in a few dollars for me, and I’ll get us Starbucks coffees on the way back from lunch to pay you back?” Charging $10 on your American Express card at Starbucks in the long run won’t cost you your office reputation and promotablility. Think of it like any other investment in your career path. Brown bag it the next couple of days, you'll make up the cost in no time.
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All text is original content by Veronica
All photos are used with persmission.
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