Ahhhh happy hours. The deceiving sanctuary where business meets pleasure. But just when you’ve loosened your tie and bellied up to the bar, you realize you are actually swimming with the sharks. You have entered the “perfect storm” of professional snafus, where delicious libations and unhinged guards can easily tempt us away from our “professional” comfort zone and into uncharted waters. The last thing you want is one of those “out of body” experiences where you feel as if you are watching yourself slur and wildly gesticulate through a conversation with the Director of your division, all the while thinking to yourself, “Am I really saying that?” To avoid being a part of any water cooler chit-chat or cross-cubicle gossip come Monday, it is important you remember that the work day doesn’t end at 5 if you are headed out for a happy hour; you are still on the professional clock. Of course, it is natural and encouraged to lighten up a little at an after hour function; after all, that is typically the point, to be able to get to bond with your colleagues and get to know their personalities outside of the office walls. However, there is a fine line you shouldn’t cross in getting too comfortable when the cocktails are flowing.
Read below for some tips from a Forbes article on how to balance booze and business at happy hours.
1. Stay in professional mode, even though you aren’t in the office. Positively or negatively, your conduct after-hours can impact your career. Happy hour is the perfect storm where you can make a lasting impression—but it can go either way.
2. Know there’s nothing wrong with having a drink.It’s not necessary to shun alcohol altogether to maintain a professional demeanor. In fact, avoiding events where alcohol is served could negatively impact your career. If you consistently skip the office happy hour, you’ll miss out on valuable face-time with colleagues, clients, and your boss, and it can create the stigma of not being part of “the team.”
4. Remember that fun is not your primary objective. Never make the mistake of thinking a work-sponsored happy hour is a chance to “let loose” and “blow off some steam.” Enjoy yourself, but don’t treat it like a get-together with your buddies. Remember that supervisors, bosses, and clients will be there observing your behavior.
5. Learn to sip rather than guzzle your drink. Pace yourself—it’s not a race!
6. Eat before you get there, and then again during happy hour. Peanuts and tapas can be your friend. Nothing is worse than alcohol splashing around in an empty stomach.
7. Drink deceptively. If you’ve reached your limit or don’t want to drink at all, you can still fit in by ordering a club soda with a twist of lime and a splash of cranberry juice, or a glass of sangria where the wine is diluted. Carry a drink around with you as a prop and drink only half (or none) of it. No one will notice if you are making dazzling conversation.
8. Don’t follow the leader. It does not matter how much your boss is drinking or what behavior he or she is displaying, you should be most concerned with your own job and reputation. In this case, don’t “Do as the Romans do.”
9. Know your personal limits. You may not think that you are “drunk” after two drinks, but alcohol lessens inhibitions and you may turn into a Way-Too-Chatty Cathy. Decide how much you’ll drink over a specific time frame and stick to it. And remember, this is not the same limit you’d set for girls’ night out.
10. Don’t push alcohol on others. Believe your client or colleague when they say they’ve had enough, and don’t automatically order another round without asking.
Happy hour provides a great chance for friends, colleagues, and clients to meet on a more relaxed, casual basis. Just remember to keep your wits about you, and use the opportunity wisely. Cheers!