Happy Hour Etiquette 101: How To Not Be Ratchet When Out Drinking With Co-Workers

March 16, 2012  |  
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Oh, the joys of the co-worker happy hour. It’s a good way to get to know other peers around the office in a relaxed environment that doesn’t involve beating each other to the coffee machine in the morning, exchanging emails and jumping from conference call to conference call without a moment in between.

Even though the office happy hour is an effective, informal way to be at-peace with the people you see every day, it has its limitations and “unwritten” rules. Always be mindful that even though your co-workers are nice and you should be comfortable around them, they are still connected to you FIRST on a professional level, so take heed to your behavior in relaxed surroundings, especially ones that involve alcohol and dim lighting!

As you get prepared for that next happy hour gathering with your fellow employees, keep in mind these important tips to make sure you leave behind a good impression and not a sloppy one.

Happy Hour Requires Preparation

Going out for a drink seems like all fun and games, but you should keep in mind certain things before you go. If you have to ask yourself, “Did I eat lunch today?” then maybe you should consider eating something before you go out drinking. We’ve all learned the “food before booze” lesson in college (some of us the hard way). Also, be prepared by looking forward to expanding your relationship with your co-workers, whether it be professionally or getting to know them a little more personally, not just for the drinks. Don’t go there and stand in the corner while getting tipsy alone. There’s nothing worse than the co-worker who is just looking for a drink or two with no intentions to mingle and connect with their peers, or even worse, the one just looking for a good place to hit on the new hire.

Happy Hour is NOT “Club Wear” Saturdays

If you make plans with co-workers to go out to a bar after work, chances are, your attire is already appropriate for the occasion. But in instances where you have enough time to go home and freshen up or bring clothes with you, try not to act like this is a night out with your girls and reach for the freakum dress. Yes, we all like to let our hair down and leave the blazers and pant suits behind as soon as 5 p.m. hits, but certain clothing should not make it in front of your co-workers.

Happy Hour With Co-Workers is NOT What It Was In College

Although this is self-explanatory, happy hour with co-workers is completely different from your happy hours in college. With your college buddies, your sorority and with your fellow classmates, happy hour had a whole different meaning, which usually included shots, loud music, “pre-gaming” and nights you don’t quite remember. College can change the way you view social gatherings, but getting together with peers after college should be relaxing but also controlled (If you are an intern at a company or just recently graduated from college, take heed). And with this said, our next tip…

Happy Hour Has A Drink Limit

Drinking with anyone could have its “interesting” moments to say the least, especially if you have indulged yourself in one too many drinks. As adults, we should know our limit with alcohol and always be mindful of it. In professional decorum, the usual drink limit while in a professional or first date type of atmosphere should be ar0und two drinks. Any more than that, and you could wind up being the “one who was really, really drunk” that everyone’s talking about at the office come Monday morning. Don’t be the butt of the joke, boo.

Another tip to be mindful of: choose your drinks wisely. If you know you can’t handle that “Henny on the rocks,” then take it light and easy. A cocktail or a glass of wine is a classy drink that isn’t too heavy on the liquor like other drinks.

During (And After) Happy Hour, Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Happy hour etiquette is not as easy to determine, especially while at your first informal gathering with other co-workers. As we are used to letting our hair down after work and going out with friends for a drink (or three) to blabber about a lazy boss or nosy co-workers, you should be mindful of what you say and do in the same setting with co-workers.

Gossiping about the job, unless it is making a positive suggestion, is definitely not a bar conversation with co-workers. Be mindful that possibly everything you say or do at the happy hour might be exposed and questioned back at the office. Also, vulgar and perverse language should never enter the conversation between you and your co-workers. Highly doubt that they want to hear about your sexual experiences (which include everything from your “wild” nights in college to your favorite positions), why you can’t stand Republicans, and your thoughts on and that “weird  and quiet” co-worker who never speaks to anyone (who just so happens to be the VP, but you never asked).

At happy hour, since it is a more comfortable setting, try to expand your intra-office network by meeting new people. Although the friendly secretary from the office seems like a safe person to connect with the whole time, consider talking to other co-workers from other departments and maybe even the CEO or COO (if they are present). Here, you can introduce yourself and strike up more informal conversations to make the discussion match how the atmosphere should feel: relaxed, less work oriented and inviting. However, you’re enabling your self to still make connections.

Happy Hour Has A Time Limit

Happy hour has a time limit for a reason. Don’t bring the party back to your house, or try not to bring the “life of the party” attitude to some other co-worker’s “after party.” A connection between you and your co-workers doesn’t have to stop in the office, but be mindful of how far (and where) you take the friendship. This could possibly compromise your professional relationship by crossing the line (and not to mention, compromise your reputation!).

What other things would you add to the etiquette list?

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