The Appropriate Way to Navigate Office Happy Hours

Maura Mann, Vice President
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The Appropriate Way to Navigate Office Happy Hours

Deciding whether to join your team for office happy hours can be challenging. On the one hand, you may want to stay at the office for another hour and get more work done. On the other hand, you want to maintain credibility as the leader. Since you want to promote camaraderie among your teammates, it’s better that you join them for office happy hour 

Keep these tips in mind, so you enjoy your time out while maintaining professionalism.  

Stay Professional  

As a leader, you need to remain professional. Even though it’s after hours and you’re probably drinking alcohol, your office happy hour is still a business event. Since you set the standard for behavior, have fun within limits. Avoid flirting with coworkers, using bathroom humor, or gossiping. Don’t say anything that can be interpreted as inappropriate. Be your best self.  

Drink Responsibly 

Since it’s happy hour, not happy night, avoid getting intoxicated. Sip your drink rather than downing it. If you don’t want to drink, order tonic water and lime. People probably will think it’s a gin and tonic. Offer to buy a round, but avoid ordering shots. You’re at a company event, not a bachelor party. Don’t push alcohol on anyone. If a team member chooses not to drink, support them. Don’t ask questions or make them feel guilty. Encourage others to drink responsibly. If you see a teammate overindulging, offer to call a cab or drive them home.  

Eat Before You Go 

Have something in your stomach before you head to the office happy hour. You’ll reduce the effects of alcohol and not be tempted to drink more. You also will be less inclined to indulge in bar snacks or order unhealthy foods because you’re hungry. Use your time to talk and network rather than eat.  

 Monitor Your Conversations 

Watch what you talk about with your team. Since alcohol reduces inhibitions, your team members might bring up personal issues that are better discussed with family or friends. You’re not a therapist and don’t need to solve others’ problems. Steer the discussion in another direction. If a teammate brings up a work issue, ask them to discuss it when you’re back in the office.  

Avoid Staying Until the End 

Rather than being the last to leave, make a graceful exit after an hour or two. This lets your team members relax. It also sends a message about being responsible. Wish your team a good evening, then head home. 

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