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Pau hana with your employees: Yay or nay?

pau hana with your employees

Joining your employees for pau hana seems a classic no-brainer. No harm in enjoying a few after-work drinks with the team, right? As it turns out, socializing with employees after work hours can be more complicated than you’d think.

Decline the invite and you may come off as the unsociable boss who has no interest in bonding with the team. Accept the invite and you could inadvertently obscure the professional boundaries you’ve worked hard to build.

So what’s a boss to do?

The pros and cons of attending pau hana with employees

All managers should weigh the pros and cons before saddling up and heading out with employees to the nearest watering hole. At the very least, ask yourself whether the outing will be used as a catalyst for meaningful team building? Or will it be the setting for careless fraternizing?

PRO: Build team camaraderie

Engaging with your team on neutral ground can remove the pressures and expectations of the workplace; allowing you to get to know your staff outside of their roles at work. Maybe you both frequent the same surf spots, avidly binge watch the same TV shows, or share similar tastes when it comes to food. Whatever the case, finding common ground with your employees helps to build camaraderie which is important in forging strong, lasting relationships.

PRO: Boost employee engagement

When managers have a solid relationship with their team, they’re also reaping the benefits of high employee engagement, such as a high quality of work, increased productivity, and low absenteeism and turnover. Employees who are able to see how their efforts tie into the purpose of the organization work hard to contribute to the success of the company.

CON: Being viewed as buddy, not boss

Some employees might interpret your attendance as a sign you want to be their buddy, not their boss. Problems can arise in the workplace when you’ve lost the hard-earned credibility as a leader and the respect that comes along with it. Though you should have good rapport with your team, it’s important to uphold your professional boundaries at all times–and that includes during pau hana.

CON: Increase the potential for liability 

As a manger, are you ever truly off the clock? An innocent pau hana outing can turn into a breeding ground for company liability–particularly when alcohol is involved. This could range anywhere from revealing of confidential information to a situation between employees that later turns into a sexual harassment claim. As a potential agent of the company, if something becomes an employment issue later on, an argument could be made that the company knew about it (or should have known about it)–even though you were just an innocent bystander. Thus, appropriate reporting and remedial action may need to be taken.

Should you attend pau hana with your employees?

To attend or not attend? That’s the million-dollar question. To help you decide, assess outings on a case-by-case basis. Things to consider:

  • Who is actually attending the after-work gathering–a select group of employees or your entire department?
  • Is this a weekly ritual or an occasional outing?
  • Will you be gathering at a seedy bar in the boonies or the local brewery a few blocks from the office?

While pau hana is a great for team building, it’s not the only way for management to strengthen workplace relationships. Monthly potlucks, volunteering for a local non-profit, or even instituting casual dress days are other fun, social opportunities to increase engagement.


Have a question for one of our HR experts? To learn more about this issue or to schedule a free consultation on the advantages of human resources outsourcing, contact simplicityHR.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.

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