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Several of the people I work with recently started going out after work for some socializing that can take up much of the evening. I have family commitments, so I don't join them. Now it seems that all they talk about is what they did the night before. I don't like it, and I'm not sure what to do.

Dealing with a gaggle of fellow employees who have standing reservations on the post-work party barge is never easy. Your feelings are going to be particularly heightened right now because their socializing is a recent phenomenon, which means that the party-pack is still in the infatuation stage where everything is fresh, funny, and exciting.

But, like most other stages, this too shall pass. It is just a matter of time before the happy-hour herd starts to develop some cliques, disagreements, and conflict, all in the context of increasingly repetitious outings. Although these festive federations typically get off to a running start, most either explode, implode, or die of boredom.

In the meantime, your best approach is to continue to do your work as diligently as possible, keeping in mind that your workload demands and responsibilities have not changed as a result of your co-workers' behavior. You still have a job to do, and so do they. Among other things, this means that there is still a need for plenty of communication with them on any number of work-related matters.

You have a unique opportunity to gain a great deal of insight into your fellow employees. They have the choice of banding and bonding with their buddies and totally excluding you, or they can socialize together and still work with you on a friendly, communicative, and businesslike basis -- which coincidentally is exactly what is delineated in their job descriptions. In terms of present and future working relationships with these co-workers, it is nice to know where you stand when the chips are down, even when the chips are potato chips.

Your letter implies that there are other employees besides yourself who are not socializing after work. Do not overlook them. It would not be surprising to find that you have more in common with them than with the inn crowd.

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