Drinking at Work – The Do’s and Don’ts
While there are a number of things in this life that do not mix well with alcohol, like driving, marriage proposals, texting your ex, and competitive shooting, it would seem at first blush that working might easily have a high ranking place on that list. However, with increasingly “chill” office spaces, remote workplaces, and other less than traditional work environs, it would seem that for some of us the occasional drink actually does have a home at work.
So, whether it’s a workplace where you’re allowed to partake or an office party, we’re going to cover some critical dos and don’t that you must keep in mind in order to drink responsibly, keep your job, and maintain your dignity.
But before getting into the dos and don’ts, we want to consider the type of drink, permissible workplace scenario we’re talking about. Is it the kind of workplace where the occasional beer is acceptable, or is it an office party with cocktails? If it’s the former, then you’re drinking and working on a regular basis. That means no liquor and never drink more than three in an afternoon. If it’s an office party or another special occasion, then you can cut loose a bit more. At an office party or corporate vacation, you aren’t expected to actually do work while drinking. That means you can drink more and harder beverages. The key is to maintain a socially acceptable level of intoxication. Don’t overdo it.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you’re drinking in the workplace, not on a corporate excursion to Sandals.
The Dos of Drinking at Work
1. Know Whether You are Able to Drink Responsibly
Alright, sorry for kicking this off with a joy kill. But the fact is that some people cannot drink. It isn’t necessarily about whether or not you have a thrill-seeking personality or a penchant for addictive behavior. There are plenty of people who are that way and can drink responsibly.
What we’re talking about is the sort of person who cannot metabolize alcohol effectively. Alcohol is a depressant that works on the inhibitory structures of our brains. So it makes you less shy and slows you down at the same time. Those who cannot metabolize alcohol are energized by alcohol, almost as if it contained a strong dose of caffeine.
If you are someone who gets “energized” by drinking, that’s a strong sign that you should not drink at all. Sorry to break it to you, but it’s a fact. It also means you might be better off looking for a workplace where drinking isn’t the norm.
2. Understand that Your Judgment & Reflexes Will Be Impaired
Rule number 1.1: You do not drive better when you drink. If you’re in a workplace where you are in direct competition with your coworkers, drinking will only make you less of a contender. If you’re working on a sales floor, drinking is a really bad idea. There’s always going to be that one hard-charging sales monster who will quit drinking just to get the edge on you.
Or maybe you work in a more cooperative environment, but you’re handling heavy equipment. This is not often terribly wise, but it can be okay if everyone is very competent at the task at hand, and at moderation.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, the moment the team, or anyone on it, starts drinking competitively (either with others or with themselves) they will ruin it for everyone. There’s an old Japanese saying that goes, “The strongest swimmer most often drowns.” This means that the person who can handle drink the best is going to be the least afraid of drinking more… and more. Don’t be that guy. Keep in mind that what you’re doing is inherently a bad idea. Don’t turn the foolishness up to 11.
3. Stick to Beer
Beer is God’s gift to the functioning alcoholic. Wine too, really. With these low alcohol content beverages, it is relatively easy to monitor your level of intoxication. With these kinds of drinks, the buzz comes on more slowly, and more predictably. Once you start taking shots, you’re flirting with the total loss of moderation. Cocktails are the worst thing you can drink at work. With cocktails, it’s so easy to be dishonest with ourselves and others about exactly how much booze is going into the drinks.
We said wine is okay, but it has a tendency to make you sleepy. So it might not be a good idea after all.
4. Keep Your Elbow Straight Before 3:PM (both of them)
If we’re going to do this, we need some ground rules. Aside from sticking to non-liquor drinks, rule numero uno should be to lay off the sauce before 3:PM. We all know that by this time in the afternoon, most of us will have expended the majority of our best energy. Having one or two drinks after 3: o’clock can be a great way to unwind after a productive day. Better still, for those of us with our heads on straight, it could be a safer alternative to going to the bar after work. It’s definitely more economical.
5. Sharing is Caring
Lesson number one when it comes to bringing treats to class is… “Did you bring enough for everyone?” It wouldn’t be very friendly, and it wouldn’t be very fun to be the only one drinking a beer on the job. This is especially true if you work out in the heat. Popping open 1/6th of a pack and not sharing is downright rude.
Also, drinking alone is kind of sad. Don’t be that guy.
6. Get Your Work Done
Okay, so, we’re already breaking rule number one of the workplace by pouring booze down our necks at work. So, if you can’t manage to drink and get your work done, you have no business drinking at work. If drinking is the norm at your place of business, and you’re the only one who can’t take care of business, that’s bad news.
On the flip side, if you’re the only member of a crew of functional alcoholics that can get work done and partake, you may think you have a competitive edge, but those boozehounds will make you pay for it one way or another. It might be time to dust off that resume.
The Don’ts of Drinking at Work
1. Don’t Try to Hide it
Drinking in secret is never a good idea. Doing it at work is madness. Okay, maybe you just want to look less drunk than you are. Bad idea. Unless you want to get roped into being a drunken designated driver, don’t try to be Cool Hand Luke and hide your buzz.
2. Don’t Make it an All Night Thing
You could boil this whole article down to this next statement, Drinking at work is not for drinkers. If you’re going to go straight to the bar after downing the brown at the office, you’re playing with fire. If you’re a veteran drinker, you’re not going to be satisfied with a few brews at your desk. You’re going to want to carry on into the evening. If you are such a person, and you work at a booze-permissive business, you might need to get out of there.
You don’t need another nail in your coffin.
3. Don’t Drink More Than the Boss
If we could put every do and don’t at number one, we would. They are all critical to successful drinking at work.
If you want to lose someone’s respect quickly, get drunker than them. The primary purpose of alcohol is to make boring things or stupid things seem less boring and stupid. It does this by making us stupid. Therefore, drinking more than your boss is a sure way to garner her or his contempt.
4. Don’t Drink at Work in Mixed Company
If you work with members of the opposite sex, drinking at work might be a bad idea. We shouldn’t need to go into why this is the case. Let’s just say it’s a matter of not getting #myselfalso-ed. If you work in a coed office, limit your consumption to three drinks or less. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
5. Don’t Make a Habit Out of It
Drinking every day is a bad idea, even if it is at the coolest, most fruity, and hip workplace on God’s gray Earth. The fact is that alcohol is poison. If you’re imbibing it every danged day, you’re taking years off your life. Keep it unusual, keep it light, and don’t make it a lifestyle.
6. Don’t Be Part of a Culture of Drinking to Excess
Someone wise once said, “Don’t go on trips with anyone you do not love.” If you find yourself in a group of people who drink too much too often, especially at work, you’re on a sinking ship with paddles made of Hennessey. Your best bet, if you’re caught up in a real ride-or-die booze crew, is to get your resume in fighting shape and bust your hush puppies.
7. Don’t Drop Your Guard
(Wouldn’t you just know there would be more “don’ts” than “dos” on this topic?) You are not yourself at work. You are the work version of yourself. Drinking is a good way to drop your seemingly professional veneer and lose the respect of your coworkers and your boss. Remember, the mark of a competent drinker is one who can drink moderately, and drink well within her or his limits.
8. Don’t Drive Home Drunk, Dummy
Are you a daily commuter? Do you drive to work, and drive home every day? There could not be a better reason why drinking alcohol at work regularly is foolish and dangerous. Drinking at work should be planned for ahead of time. It should be on the calendar as a special day when people get to drink. That way, you can take a cab to work, and plan to take one home. Or you can choose a designated driver.
Finally, here’s something that works for us. With every drink, you take, say to yourself “Be MORE careful, not less.” It’s called the B.M.C. technique. With every drink, you take more care, not more chances. And that’s one to grow on.
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