Q: I am a young working professional on a team with others around my age. We get along great! The only problem is that the team is always trying to do happy hours and outings outside the office. I prefer not to mix business with pleasure. I just want to come in to work, do my job and leave. I am in graduate school and already spend eight-plus hours with these people at the office. I have my own friends and don't want to blur the lines between the groups. How do I put it politely that I have other people I'd rather spend my time with and that I want to see a different set of faces at the end of the day? I'd like to avoid team outings altogether without anyone getting offended or thinking I'm not a "team player," as we work so well together.
A: If there's a polite way to say, "Eight hours of your faces every day is quite enough for me, thanks," I haven't heard it. Of course, your grad school course load provides a perfect excuse to beg off. But I can think of worse work-related obligations than having to spend an occasional hour sipping a discounted beer in the company of people I "get along great!" with. Think of it as banking goodwill with folks who might someday be in a position to help you out. If you need more incentive, make dinner plans with your real friends and use happy hour as a way station between work and where you really want to be.
Or you could swap jobs with the next contributor . . .
Q: I work in a smallish office. For some reason, people never ask me to join them for lunch. They don't seem to mind if I come along, but they never invite me, and when I ask, no one ever wants to go. (They're pretty polite about declining.) I know they're co-workers and not friends, but it still stings. Do I just need to get over this, or are there tips for smoothly integrating yourself into a workplace clique?