The mining industry is a social place to work, and socialising with your work team can be a very effective way to build the team and create bonds which strengthen working relationships. But mixing socially with your direct reports, particularly once the beer starts flowing, can be a minefield for those who are unprepared.
There are so many variables in any discussion about work socialising that there are no definitive answers. But certainly in the mining industry, a leader needs to spend much more time socially with their team than in other, more office-based professions, it is the nature of our industry. And the activities and situations in which these social sessions take place are also far more liberal than in other professions.
On a recent project in China, we witnessed the unique way the Chinese do business over dinner and drinks. Drinking a lot and toasting your business partners is a key to the working dinner, and how much alcohol you can consume is an important sign of respect to your hosts. But a feature of the Chinese business dinner is that at a designated time, usually 2-2.5 hours after is starts, the host of the dinner makes an announcement that the night is complete, and everyone rises from the table as one and heads home - just as the effects of all the drinks are kicking in.
Mining Man is a big socialiser, so here are his eight guidelines for socialising with your work team:
- Ask other staff about previous times the particular function has been held, who attended, and if they are attending.
- Be consistent - attending one team member's Christmas BBQ over another could be seen as playing favourites.
- Make sure you know the company policy (if there is one). A poor interaction with your team is one thing, a disciplinary interaction with your boss is another.
- Alcohol - be aware of your own state, and make sure you drink a little less than everyone else at the function. Be careful of rounds and people buying you drinks, as this makes it hard to control.
- Remember that work functions still count as work as far as sexual harassment and bullying laws are concerned. Never leave the group with a member of the opposite sex, avoid any games or situations that could be misinterpreted, and avoid giving intoxicated work-mates a lift home. If you want to know whether you should be doing it or not, imagine if a photo of what you are doing right now was posted all around the mine tomorrow...
- Know when to leave - if your boss leaves, it's time for you to go 30 minutes later.
- It's always better to leave a little bit early rather than a little bit later. The longer you stay the more chance you have of not leaving at all. And be prepared, if you are liked by the team, they're not going to want you to leave (particularly after a few drinks).
- But please make sure you go. Knowing your team outside work, and having things to talk about besides work makes for a stronger team and better working relationships.
Remember, avoiding all socialising with your team will not only be unhealthy for your own mental state at work, but also risks missing out on great opportunities to improve working relationships. Finding the middle ground and knowing when to hit the road are the keys to success. In the end it is a judgement call based on the circumstances, the team, and the leader's individual style.
- Jamie Ross
Mining Man - Safety, Leadership and Productivity Ideas for the Mining Industry
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