Drinking at a Work Event
As professionals, there are a variety of work events and functions we often attend throughout our careers. These events are great opportunities to network and build relationships both with clients and senior level managers and executives–but only if you make a good impression.
Because alcohol is often served at such work events, I’m often asked by people starting their careers how much is appropriate to drink. Knowing how much to drink, when you are trying to both fit in with the company culture, and enjoy yourself, can be a tricky tightrope to walk.
Know Your Limits
My advice is always, first and foremost, know your limits. The work event might be during happy hour, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to let loose with friends and get drunk. Remember, clients, bosses, and coworkers will be there, and they will be watching your behavior.
Think about the effect alcohol has on you. What types of behaviors have you had in the past after consuming it? I have seen people get so drunk at work events they lost their jobs. How you behave in any type of work setting, whether it is during business hours or not, will affect your career. I have watched coworkers stumble during ceremonies, incapable of making it to their hotel rooms at conferences, and coworkers hook up even though they were married to other people.
Behavior like this will only put you and other coworkers in awkward and damaging situations. After I witnessed the two married coworkers hook up, they both approached me the next morning and asked me to keep quiet. Not only had they behaved inappropriately and put themselves in a bad situation, they had dragged me, a coworker, into their very uncomfortable personal matter. Talk about unprofessional!
Again, be aware of your own limits, and determine before the event how much you can and will drink. Know what you are like after one drink, two, three, and so on, and decide a safe number to draw the line for a professional event. Remember the purpose of the event: to network and build relationships. Your goal should be to remain in control of your behavior so you can effectively communicate and interact with clients and coworkers, and ultimately leave a good impression and perhaps make connections that will advance your career.
Think about it: do you often see CEOs and other supervisors drinking at work events? Probably not, or at least not much. They recognize any work event is an opportunity to network and get ahead in their career, neither of which can be done if you can’t even stand up straight.
If you are unsure of how alcohol may affect you, you have any other health or religious concerns, or you are not yet sure what is acceptable at your particular company, it is ok for you to forgo drinking altogether. Don’t ever feel you have to drink at a work event, and don’t push alcohol on others either. Ask before ordering another round, and if someone declines an offer for a drink, respect their answer.
Follow Company Policy
That being said, don’t feel like you can’t drink at all. If your company allows it, a drink or two is acceptable. Once you know your own limitations, keep an eye on your supervisors and coworkers and follow their lead for how much to drink. Do they have a drink or two and then stop completely? Do they nurse one drink all night? Pay attention; this will tell you how much is permissible for your company.
If you do decide to have a few drinks, keep these tips in mind:
- Set a limit and stick to it
- Follow the lead of your supervisors and coworkers
- Eat before and while you drink
- Alternate between your drink and water
- Do not use alcohol as a way to decrease your anxiety
Whether you decide to drink one glass, two, or none at all, the focus of the event should be your clients, career, and building relationships–not alcohol. If you know you can stay in control after one or two drinks, go for it. If you know your boss is ok with you having a drink, go for it. Enter the event with the intention of growing your network, yourself, and your career. Keep it in moderation, keep it professional, and leave the event knowing you gave everyone in attendance the very best impression of yourself possible.