How To Behave When Mixing Business With Booze

college drinking

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In the professional world, happy hour is much more than tossing back a few cosmos at the end of the work week. After-hours functions, often involving alcohol, can be an important part of moving up the executive career ladder in some corporate climates.The key is figuring out how to handle the alcohol situation at business-related (and non-business-related) social drinking events. Even if you are out with the girls for a quick drink, someone is always looking. A few simple tips and tricks will help you make the most of the after-work social scene, and avoid being stereotyped as “that girl”:

1. Stay in professional mode, even though you aren’t in the office. Positively or negatively, your conduct after-hours can impact your career. Happy hour is the “perfect storm” where you can make a lasting impression—but it can go either way.

2. Know there’s nothing wrong with having a drink. It’s not necessary to shun alcohol altogether to maintain a professional demeanor. In fact, avoiding events where alcohol is served could negatively impact your career. If you consistently skip the office happy hour, you’ll miss out on valuable face-time with colleagues, clients, and your boss, and it can create the stigma of not being part of “the team.”

3. Participate, even if you choose not to drink. You can opt out of drinking for personal, religious, or health reasons. But make every effort to allow those around you to feel comfortable having a drink themselves by saying, “No thanks, I’m not a big wine/beer/liquor drinker, but please, go right ahead.” or “I’ll enjoy my gin and tonic without the gin!”

4. Remember that fun is not your primary objective. Never make the mistake of thinking a work-sponsored happy hour is a chance to “let loose” and “blow off some steam.” Enjoy yourself, but don’t treat it like a get-together with your buddies. Remember that supervisors, bosses, and clients will be there observing your behaviour.

5. Learn to sip rather than guzzle your drink. Pace yourself—it’s not a race!

6. Eat before you get there, and then again during happy hour. Peanuts and tapas can be your friend. Nothing is worse than alcohol splashing around in an empty stomach.

7. Drink deceptively. If you’ve reached your limit or don’t want to drink at all, you can still fit in by ordering a club soda with a twist of lime and a splash of cranberry juice, or a glass of sangria where the wine is diluted. Carry a drink around with you as a prop and drink only half (or none) of it. No one will notice if you are making dazzling conversation.

8. Don’t follow the leader. It does not matter how much your boss is drinking or what behaviour he or she is displaying, you should be most concerned with your own job and reputation. In this case, don’t “Do as the Romans do.”

9. Know your personal limits. You may not think that you are “drunk” after two drinks, but alcohol lessens inhibitions and you may turn into a Way-Too-Chatty Cathy. Decide how much you’ll drink over a specific time frame and stick to it. And remember, this is not the same limit you’d set for girls’ night out.

10. Don’t push alcohol on others. Believe your client or colleague when they say they’ve had enough, and don’t automatically order another round without asking.

Happy hour provides a great chance for friends, colleagues, and clients to meet on a more relaxed, casual basis. Just remember to keep your wits about you, and use the opportunity wisely. Cheers!

Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognised etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in national corporate etiquette training. Visit her website or gain valuable, timely tips from her blog.