5 Tips to Navigate Any Drinking at Work Situation

Here’s how to unwind with your colleagues without unwinding your entire career.

Is there a line finer than that of drinking at work? On the one hand, gathering around libations after a long day at the office is often the trick to loosening up and creating an unprecedented bond with your coworkers. On the other, it’s a slippery slope to downing one too many and ending up with your foot in your mouth—or maybe worse. (No one wants to be remembered as the person who got too sloppy at last year’s holiday party, right?)

When it comes to drinking with your colleagues, it seems safest to err on the side of caution.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Pouring one out with your coworkers to unwind or celebrate (or both) is a way to promote work team spirit and create stronger bonds. That being said, it’s just as important for us to preserve our professional personas as well. For insight and helpful advice on everything we need to know about popping bottles with our coworkers, we turn to Jeffrey Morgenthaler, author of Drinking Distilled, A User’s Manual.

Go Low-Proof

When in doubt, sip on low-proof cocktails. This way, you don’t have to feel like a party pooper, and you’re also not in the express lane to Margaritaville, if you get what we’re saying. Morgenthaler suggests ordering a drink like the Americano, which is sweet vermouth, Campari, and soda water. No one will know you’re sticking to the DL on alcohol content, except you—and maybe the bartender, but they’ll probably keep your secret.

Stay in Your Lane

If there’s one golden rule to follow, it’s this: only get drunk with those in your caste. Not to get all feudal on you, but Morgenthaler just means that you shouldn’t get seriously drunk with those above or below you, e.g., it might not be the best idea for a professor to get wasted with his or her students. In fact, that kind of “mingling” is pretty much a recipe for disaster.

Follow the Boss

Now and then, our boss will want to take us out for a drink. Who are we to say no? Go ahead and enjoy yourself and your time with your superior. Morgenthaler has just one tip for you to keep in mind: think of your boss as the pace car. Never pass the pace car, and try to stay a drink behind it. This trick will help you keep your composure so you can properly charm your supervisor and remind them of why they hired you.

Client’s Choice

When it’s time for you to impress a potential client and show them a good time, you’re probably going to turn to alcohol for a helping hand. It’s easy to get caught up and want to turn the night into one to be remembered—or more accurately, not remembered—but Morgenthaler insists we be the ones to part ways first and “before you really want to.” The goal is to have the clients think you’re heading home to do more work like the responsible but still easy-going person you are. While the work part might not be true per se, you should definitely head straight home. The last thing you want is to run into those clients at the pub next door an hour later while surrounded by shot glasses.

Office Pours

It’s not unusual for companies to serve drinks in the office. Heck, some offices even have beer on tap. While ending the day early and kicking your feet up with a few libations in hand seems fun, Morgenthaler argues otherwise. It’s tempting, but this kind of mentality can quickly turn our workspace into a “home away from home,” as he puts it—and that can be dangerous. Being so lax might lead us to hooking up with a coworker, embarrassing ourselves in front of our colleagues, and damaging our standing with our boss. Instead, have only one drink and some laughs, and then head to your real home for the next round where you’ll be safe to behave as you please.




Photo Credit: Scott Warman/Unsplash


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