HR Strategy

Friends in High Places: Is After-Work Socializing Influencing Promotions?

May 29, 2019

Have you ever stopped to look at who is moving up in your organization? Is there a trend that employees in the same social circle typically move up the corporate ladder quicker than everyone else? If so, this may not be a coincidence.

While it may not be intentional, employees who participate in activities together, whether at work or outside of the office, can sometimes have a greater opportunity for advancements than others. Take for example a summer softball league for work, or employees who have a daily lunch ritual of grabbing a coffee together. These situations build those ‘getting to know you’ relationships that can uncover information about hobbies, life events, even career goals. If these interactions are around people of power in the organization, they may also provide additional ‘face time’ with the bosses, where work is likely to come up. The effect of these relationships can be completely harmless, but may unconsciously influence decisions when it’s time for promotions in the workplace.

While participating in activities can be great for building rapport, they can also unintentionally exclude certain segments of the workplace. For example, if bonding with the bosses occurs after work at the local bar, it may unintentionally exclude someone who doesn’t drink, or needs to get home to care for young children. Although the employees with a social advantage may be great workers, this advantage could lead to opportunities being unfairly missed for others who generally fly under the radar but are equally deserving of advancement.

The idea of moving ahead in a company through these informal channels is not new. There was a time when it was said that most business occurred ‘on the golf course’. Although this notion is outdated, some organizations still work in a similar way. When this occurs, employees who may be successful in their own way or bring something new to the table could get overlooked because they don’t necessarily fit in socially.

Ideally, promotions are based solely on qualifications and fit. The best person for the job should move to the next level. However, there are other reasons that employees get promotions, which you may not even be aware are happening. How can you overcome these biases and minimize overlooking qualified employees for promotions? Download our FREE Employee Promotions Guide for questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about advancement within your team.

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