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Do I have to Participate in Corporate Community Service Events?

Q. My company has many community service events for a variety of causes. Some I support and others aren’t that meaningful to me. We are strongly encouraged to attend and they even close the office. I’d rather not go to all of these. Why can’t I just take the time off? Or if I can’t do that, I’d rather just stay at work. How bad is it to let me manager know that I’m not always a “joiner."

A. Being able to speak candidly with your manager is always a good thing; making sure you understand that your manager will speak candidly back to you is just as important to recognize. Before you say anything, look at the implications of what is happening at your company and not just your personal preferences.

When organizations sponsor events, they do so for many reasons. Whether it is a charitable event or a social event, organizations want employees to participate. Many times an invitation is issued so you might think since you are invited, attendance is not mandatory. While that might be the case, think twice about how you respond. First, always respond. Corporate event planners, who may be your colleagues, are counting on you so they can do their job. Senior leaders are reviewing the list to see who is supportive of the organization. If an event is held during work hours, you are expected to attend. It really isn’t about taking time off, or working instead of participating, especially if the office is closed for the occasion,

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Many organizations have incorporated “giving back” as part of their core corporate beliefs and encourage their employees' efforts to support local causes as well. The community benefits, the recipients of services benefit and the organization sees benefit.

Many organizations strive to strengthen the team orientation of their employees as they build morale and share experiences out of the office. Multi-site organizations see community service as a great opportunity for employees who may not get to see each other on a regular basis to engage in person, rather than over email and phone.

Typically companies choose to support agnostic organizations. They are not trying to force a political agenda on you, are not soliciting financial support from you and hope the experience will enrich you personally as well as strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. If there are non denominational organizations you would like to see your company support, where you might feel more inclined to join, thank your manager and company leaders for sponsoring the service events, and see if they would like to consider other organizations to support.