Have you ever attended an office party that got out of hand? Most of us could answer yes. It's not a comfortable position to be in, is it? And as a Christian, it can be hard to find the right words and actions for handling such situations. So what should you do? Should you just avoid parties and happy hours altogether? Are you obligated to say something if it seems like things are getting out of control or becoming offensive? What about guidelines when you're traveling for work with a male colleague? How do you establish and keep healthy boundaries?
These are tough questions. The workplace can be fraught with uncomfortable situations in which it's difficult to discern what to do. But there are ways you can socialize without compromising your values, alienating your colleagues, or appearing to be judgmental.
Socializing with coworkers is a good thing. A great way to get to know your colleagues personally and build relationships with them is by spending time with them outside of work. It also establishes trust. Strengthened relationships can improve workplace morale and can greatly impact the quality and efficiency of work being done.
So how can you socialize with your peers while staying true to your faith?
Start by drawing some healthy, non-judgmental boundaries. Real value can be found in joining social activities, but that value can be undermined if you appear to be passing judgment about your coworkers' choices. Commit not to do anything that goes against your morals or integrity, but also determine not to take offense or express surprise or shock if others don't share your standards. (In fact, it's probably safe to assume that many won't.)
You have an opportunity to be a positive example. For example, if you plan to drink alcohol, commit to stop after one drink. If you sense that things are getting out of hand, it's okay to leave early; just be sure to do so in a positive manner instead of in a negative, judgmental cloud.
When traveling alone with male colleagues, end the night early and keep conversation light. It's perfectly appropriate to share a meal in a public restaurant with a male coworker or drop by a group gathering at the hotel bar, but it would be foolish not to establish clear personal boundaries and stick to them. If you're married, it's probably a good idea to share these boundaries with your husband and ask for his input. For me, I make sure that I'm in my own room no later than 10:00 p.m. every night and I don't engage in any deep personal conversations with male colleagues. These simple guidelines help me steer clear of potentially compromising situations, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
Developing strategies and setting boundaries will enable you to navigate tough workplace situations with confidence. You can value relationships and enjoy fun times with colleagues while also being a warm and God-honoring witness to your faith.