Avoiding Social Faux Pas at Work

By Alexis Eades

Being a twenty-something is weird, especially socially.

Through school, we could fairly easily predict social expectations. You knew that connecting on social media with the kid sitting next to you in class was ok. You knew which professors encouraged students to argue dissenting opinions. And of course, that drinking to excess was encouraged by the mainstream culture.

Now, in the “real world”, things are probably different. There are so many unknowns. Your peers at work are not supposed to be the people who become your best friends, right? Or is it good to be friends with your coworkers? Will my boss be offended if we don’t connect on Facebook? I really like her as a person, so maybe I should? But what if she doesn’t agree with my political posts? And how much should I drink at work social events? Or is it not ok to do that at all? Yes, the social scene seems kind of ambiguous.

Social Media

First, I wanted to find out what one should do about the whole social media dilemma. Wanting an expert’s opinion, I went to Communications Specialist Elizabeth Bell.

“First of all, it’s not hard to find you. When I first started working here, the woman I shared my office with told me the first thing she did was look me up on social media,” she started. We’re told all our lives that we need to be careful on social media because our employers will judge us by what we post, but the reality is that it’s not just our employers, it’s our coworkers too. We all know how important first impressions are, and Liz’s coworker had already formed one before she even met her in person. “So, if you have anything you don’t want your coworkers to see, make sure your account is private and be cautious of who you accept as a follower.” she said.

social faux pas cat meme

LinkedIn is a completely different story. “It’s a platform made for connecting with other professionals, so I connect with all of my coworkers.” Because of this, you should refrain from posting anything personal or too silly. “Save your memes for another audience.”

She also noted that if you are on Twitter and using it professionally, that you want your handle to be your name and not something silly like @xXCakeForBreakfastXx. Not only is it more professional, but it makes it easier for your company or other professionals to tag you.

Book Club at Work

The topic of politics made me think of the Maser Women’s Organization’s Book Club. It has read some books like The Handmaid’s Tale, Becoming, and The Immoralists, which could have potentially sparked some uncomfortable conversations at meetings. It’s not exactly clear what topics we need to tiptoe around. Curious, I asked Melissa Bennis, the book club leader, what has happened when the book club read what might be deemed by some as controversial material.

social faux pas book club

She responded, “I think the most important thing here is to be respectful to everyone’s opinion during discussions, and if a conversation is headed too far in the wrong direction or you can see that it is making someone uncomfortable, then steer the conversation elsewhere.”

Happily, she noted, “We’ve been lucky so far to have great volunteers acting as facilitators as well as awesome readers that are open-minded and respectful of each other. While mixing work and social time can be tricky at times, I find it beneficial to employee morale.”

My takeaway? Be respectful when coworkers have differing views as you and do your best to avoid making anyone unnecessarily uncomfortable. Good advice.


One thing which really struck me when I started working here was the number of social events. Just to name a few, there is an annual Christmas party, cruise around Manhattan, baseball games and happy hours.

Alcohol is present at a lot of these outings. My parents had always told me not to drink at work functions, but I found that most people enjoy a libation or two. I started wondering about what the right thing to do is here.

An anonymous Maser employee shared with me a few lessons learned over the years having to do with alcohol.

“First and foremost, know your limits.” Don’t experiment at work events with drinks you aren’t familiar with and that you don’t know your reactions to. Never drink past your limit and risk behaving in ways that could lead to being the topic of gossip the following day or worse, fired.

“Sometimes, the client expects you to drink more than you want to. If you are being pressured by a client to keep up with them, get in cahoots with the bartender –tip early generously. If you know that you can handle just one vodka seltzer, then let the bartender know that after your first one to just fill your glass with seltzer. Another tip for this situation is that if you’ve had enough wine at dinner, you should put your hand over your glass when the waiter comes around to refill it. But leave the glass half full, not empty, so that the client doesn’t notice.” Very wise.

Also important: don’t pretend to be knowledgeable when you aren’t.

“I’ve seen people mispronounce very common things on the menu and say/do things obviously just to appear clever. One guy who worked for me had apparently heard that you are supposed to swirl your wine but didn’t know how to do so. He ended up splattering the wine all over the rest of us… of course I paid for our clients’ dry-cleaning after that incident,” she said and shook her head.

Ok, so, no inappropriate behavior (no duh), stick to drinks you know, come with a plan for how you are going to avoid overdrinking, and no BS-ing. Makes sense.

There will always be certain things that can only be learned through experience, but getting some advice from coworkers who have been around the block sure makes me feel more confident about avoiding these social faux pas… I’ll see you the next time I ask, “Am I Doing This Right?”

Share this:

Leave a Comment