Your office is planning an athletic event, and you want to stay far, far away. Even if you’re worried about feeling awkward, should you go anyway to take advantage of the networking opportunities? How can you say NO to work-related sporting events, like golf and tennis outings, and what are you missing out on if you do? Reader B wonders…
Your recent post about dressing for summer events led me to an older post about how to dress as a golf newbie… and boy, the comments struck a chord with me. Or maybe a nerve. I’d love to see a post, and more discussion, on how to deal with outings of all types — particularly when they’re for expensive and time-consuming sports that you don’t play and don’t want to pick up.
A lesson (or even a few lessons) are absolutely NOT enough to get me through a golf scramble. Can I swing and miss 18 times while joking gracefully? Can I pull off an outright refusal? Is it a bad idea to drive the beer cart (this always sounds like it should come with a costume), or just show up for drinks/dinner afterwards? And what do I do after 17 miserable holes, when my division manager is standing at the 18th with his arms folded to judge my golf game?
For reference, I’m in engineering, not law, with 15+ years of experience.
Interesting question, Reader B! In the past, Kat has recommended participating in athletic work events, even if you don’t think your skills are so hot, but we thought we’d get another opinion as well. We talked to Women on Course founder Donna Hoffman (who also advised us on our recent post on proper golf wear) to get her take on this situation. “Golf is so much more than getting the ball in the hole,” she says. “There are so many more benefits” — including the camaraderie, and the opportunity to build relationships.
Here’s what Hoffman recommends for Reader B:
- Consider the career benefits of taking part. “The informal networking and bonding that goes on, the stories that happen — there’s a disadvantage not going,” says Hoffman. It may be worth it to grin and bear it.
- Know that not everyone will play like a pro. “Women have the perception that everyone’s great,” Hoffman says — but only about 10% of golfers who track their handicap will regularly break 80.
- Not a good golfer? Be a great teammate. When you’re the newbie on the team, offer to go first, says Hoffman. Your colleagues can watch to see how the ball is rolling, which will help them play better when it’s their turn. In addition, look where the ball goes when others are playing; if you can prevent your boss from searching for a ball for several minutes, you can help him save face.
- Know when to JSFAMO: If you’re really struggling on a certain hole, it’s okay to say, “Alright, I’ve had enough fun with this hole,” and then pick up the ball, put it in your pocket, and move on.
- If possible, take a few lessons to prepare — but not with the goal of becoming a brilliant golfer. “Pick one aspect of the game, like putting, and go out and take a couple of lessons so you’ll be really good at it,” Hoffman suggests.
- Even if you don’t play, follow golf etiquette. “It’s absolutely fine to not play on the course” and just meet everyone at the clubhouse afterward, says Hoffman. Like Reader B mentioned, she could drive the cart and serve the beer — but “you absolutely must know the etiquette of where to drive the cart.” For that reason, Hoffman recommends taking a more experienced golfer with you. And even if you’re simply driving the cart or helping out at the registration table, you must still follow the course dress code.
- Nice Girls Who Play Golf Do Get The Corner Office [Forbes]
- How to Survive At-Work Athletic Events (When You’re Not Athletic) [The Muse]
- I’m being penalized for not participating in monthly athletic events at work [Ask a Manager]
Have you been in similar situations at work? What did you do, and would you make the same decision again?
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