The Social Bully of Retention Plans

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A common retention plan for employers is to have staff lunch, dinners, and nights out. Sounds good right? Actually it’s one of the most harmful retention plans. Not because there’s food involved. As an individual who has been having a torrid affair with delicious food for quite some time, I can honestly say that food is not the culprit. The culprit are the front line extroverts planning the event.

Staff lunch’s and dinners are fabulous ideas for stop in, grab a bite, say hi, if you have time to stick around-great, if not- also great, but the there’s “no pressure” and “no shame”. When a vote was taken on favorite holiday, Christmas and Halloween ranked suspiciously even. When asked why, the voters said that those who chose Christmas did so because they simply wanted their family to be involved; those who chose Halloween said they wanted their family, without obligation of religious, social, or institutional “perfection”. Wouldn’t you know it, similar reasons are used with staff dinners and nights out. The extroverts wanted to get to know everyone and have employee bonding time, while the introverts didn’t want to have to conform to extroverted culture and social pressure when getting to know everyone.

Typically, when Bob or Sally never attend a staff lunch, and dodge all staff parties, they are seen as shy, cold, antisocial, dysfunctional, hidden agenda, weird, and other label types. Go Bob and Sally! You rock! Admittedly I am that employee that dodges anything after work hours in a “you must conform environment”, and I’ll tell you exactly why. Those are my boundaries. And just as I respect you for putting on the event, (heck, I’ll even book, plan, and facilitate the first half) respect my decision to politely say “no thank you”. Believe me, it’s nothing personal.

Introverts are 70% of upper management and executive teams. However, the stats flip for anything other than upper management or executive staff, then it’s primarily extroverts. The detailed stats for this are even more interesting. If you read Psychologies UK, or subscribe to employee stats through Government HR websites, then you can begin to link the common themes between extroverted and introverted characters. The reason why upper management, etc, is composed primarily of introverts is because introverts lead different lifestyles that enable them to observe more, read more, take more educational upgrades and specified training (not necessarily attaining a MA or PhD- those stats are surprisingly parallel- however introverts are more likely to specialize), more inclined to critically think over hot topics, thus have a better employment track record, and be more preferred for promotion etc… The truth is, introverts run the world whether anyone likes it or not. Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Celine Dion, Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg- they are all introverts. This does not mean the extroverted culture is left out- au contraire. The extroverted culture does make up an odd 30%. There is also a false pretense to introverts that they are shy, quiet, bookworms. I am sure that there are people reading this that are thinking, “Bill Clinton? An introvert!? You’ve got to be kidding!” Being shy is a trait that an extrovert can have also. Shy implies you possess some sort of fear or anxiety for crowds. Who’s to say that Obama doesn’t have a fear for crowds and gets nervous, although he may adore the limelight? Being introverted simply means your temperament prefers observation to explosive stimulus, thus you typically recharge when you are not social. And sometimes, people just don’t like other people. I would hardly call that shy.

So when front line extroverts are planning dinners out in swanky restaurants with alcohol, party atmosphere, and BFF attitude, it makes us laugh and cringe. A night out is always nice. Good food is even better. A beer?- don’t mind if I do. But expectation to be Facebook friends and chat it up like we’re some big family…? You’ve got to be kidding. Because believe me if anything, this one thing: the boardroom ain’t no bedroom, and BFF’s don’t run no company; it’s snakes and doves in this game. I have seen in practice that more employees attend outings and dinners when it is a laid back atmosphere, no conformity, no shame, no blame, and honestly-in this setting, you can’t tell the introverts from the extroverts apart if your career depended on it! But when work doesn’t feel like “work”, they are more likely to attend, at least once a year :) Let’s make what could be the world’s best plan, an appeal to everyone please. I promise this year, I’ll drop in and grab a plate to go, at least at one outing!

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2 thoughts on “The Social Bully of Retention Plans

  1. As a hard-core introvert: right on!

    When I first was able to work at home, I discovered just how true it is that being an introvert (even a hard-core one) does not mean you want to be alone all the time. The days I returned to the office after several days at home, I invariably found myself in prolonged chat sessions with my friends in the office. Introverts recharge from their alone time (just as extroverts recharge from social time), but that doesn’t mean we’re not social at all. Some of my favorite memories come from work parties!

    • I would completely agree! I enjoy (especially as HR) checking in with employees, saying hi, getting to know everyone- but really I prefer in smaller doses as opposed to big staff parties all the time. My favorite staff outings have been the spontaneous, laid back ones, where it’s like, “Hey guys, it’s friday, why don’t a bunch of us order pizza for the end of the day, Bill will go pick up a six pack on his break?” For sure, good memories there!

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