• Attending work happy hours can have huge benefits for your career & your happiness at work
  • Use common sense and don’t do anything stupid that can tank your reputation and/or credibility
  • Don’t overthink it too much though, just go have fun!
We spend a third of our lives at work with people we’re forced to spend time with rather than choose to spend time with.

So why does going for happy hour drinks with colleagues seem to be such a thing?

Aren’t we all supposed to be sick of each other by the end of the week?

Aren’t we all supposed to be rushing home to see our real friends?

Besides, going for drinks with work people isn’t the same as just going for drinks. There are all these unspoken rules that have to be followed.

And if anything goes wrong, it’s not a simple case of having to put up with a running joke, like it is with friends. These get-togethers are essentially an extension of work, and what happens at them can affect your reputation and career.

Every office has happy hour stereotypes: the one who always gets bombed, the one who hits on their co-workers, the one who always embarrasses themselves, etc.

But aside from all the things that could go wrong, there’s also a lot that could go right.

There does seem to be a better bond between those who go drinking together regularly, and some of those people are in pretty high places.

And these after-work shenanigans actually appear to be - dare we say it - fun.

Happy hours can be a minefield but as long as the right etiquette is followed, it can be a blast and a boost to your career.

Why Bother Socializing with Colleagues Anyway?

Between the horror stories and the sheer amount of effort, you might be wondering to yourself, why bother?

We get it.

But there are actually a lot of intangible benefits to be gained from hanging out with your coworkers over casual drinks.

1. Work Is More Bearable With Friends

Socializing with colleagues in a more relaxed, informal environment gives you the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level, building closer bonds.

Who knew that Jessica rides motorcycles?

Or, that Bob grows ghost peppers in his backyard?

As explained in the video snippet below, within a few hours you can achieve a level of comfort which can take months if you’re only seeing your coworkers at work.

VIDEO: Drinking With Co-Workers Actually Helps You Get Ahead
YOUTUBE: Complex Hustle
LENGTH: 1:47
Summary points:
  • Spending time with coworkers outside of the office changes the vibe
  • It will help everyone to be more open and honest
  • Happy hour socializing increases camaraderie, which carries over back in the office
Crossing the line from coworker to work friend means that you’ll start to enjoy each other’s company more and have more to talk about.

Having friends at work makes getting through a rough day a little bit more bearable. Not only can you take a break by talking about something other than work, but you’ve also got people to joke and laugh with, which always makes the day go faster.

Once you start building a community of work friends, you might even find one or two that turn into real actual friends that you’d hang out with whenever.

2. Finding & Connecting With A Work BFF

Having a work BFF can truly transform your working life. Being able to turn to a trusted friend during hard times is a lifeline, and having one of those friends in the office can often be a godsend. It’s why everyone needs a work BFF.

But work BFFs aren’t only there for the shitty moments. In the good times, it’s awesome to have a work buddy to celebrate victories with and to bring that extra bit of joy to your working day.

Besides, it’s actually good for your productivity to have a work BFF. This study from Gallup found that workers with a BFF are more engaged and less likely to leave their jobs.

3. Boost Your Profile With Your Colleagues

Going for drinks with your colleagues can boost your career. That statement might sound too good to be true but trust us - it’s true.

Career success is just as much about navigating office politics as it is skill and talent. Spending time at office happy hours can be an excellent way to raise your profile with key people in the company.

Of course, you have to be intentional about things and follow the correct etiquette. Having a beer or sipping a glass of wine with a senior manager can sometimes do more for your career than a year of hard slogging.

4. Show Off Your Leadership Skills

Having drinks with coworkers to show that you’re a good leader may sound counter-intuitive. But a true leader must have social skills and be able to build bonds across the business.

If you’re wanting or planning to move up in the organization, showing that you’re able to build strong relationships across different groups can really help.

Whether it's fair or not, employees who are shy and keep to themselves are less likely to be promoted than the out-going, social types, even if their work is of a higher standard.

Leadership is about motivating teams, getting people on board with your ideas and making things happen. People who work the room at social events - or, even better, organize the happy hour - show themselves to have the charisma of a leader.

5. Never Joining In Looks Bad

This is perhaps the most important reason for making the effort to join at least a few office drinks events - because not joining them seems to make a huge statement.

There are a bunch of things that people might think about you when you never hang out with the team.

Some might think that you think you’re too good to hang out with them. Others might think it’s because you don’t like anyone you work with. Others still might assume you’re totally disengaged with the job.

And even if they’re right about any of these, you don’t want them to know it!

Whatever reasons people come up with, chances are, they won’t be in your favor. So it’s better to show your face at least occasionally and socialize for an hour or two to avoid any creative reasoning from others.

6. It’s Fun To Just Hang Out

Politics, career moves and perceptions aside, blowing off steam with your coworkers can actually be a lot of fun. And, having fun matters!

Our friends and family might indulge us when we complain about work but they don’t really get the whole picture. They can’t relate because they’re not there.

But our coworkers do understand.

So taking some time to chill, have a drink and talk about how you really feel about all the stupid shit going on at work can be a good laugh. This kind of humorous venting can sometimes even be therapeutic.

Aside from that, getting to know our colleagues outside of work might reveal that they’re actually pretty cool people. You never know how much you might have in common with them because in the office there isn’t the same opportunity to get to know each other as people rather than as employees.

So stop being a No-Show Nancy and get ready to start bonding with your coworkers. But first...

10 Rules For Drinking With Coworkers

While drinking with colleagues can be both fun and good for your career, it is something that needs to be handled in the right way.

After all, no matter where you are physically, as long as you’re with colleagues - and especially when you’re enjoying drinks on the company dime - you’re in an extension of the office.

A lot of these rules are simply common sense and nothing too strict - it’s just useful to remind yourself of the right etiquette before you step into that bar.

1. Finish Work First

Perhaps the most important rule is to make sure your work is done for the day.

If you have outstanding work or overdue deadlines, your boss and colleagues aren’t going to be pleased to see you lining up the Margaritas.

Attending work social events after cyberloafing and slacking off all day shows poor professionalism and it will get noticed. Plus, you won’t be able to relax and enjoy yourself if you’re constantly thinking about all the work that’s waiting for you at the office.

So, stay focused and mono-task to get all your shit done for the day then, disconnect from work to make sure you’re free to be fully present and enjoy your evening.

2. Self-Check Your Outfit

Whether your work drinks are taking place in a dingy pub or a high-end cocktail bar, you’re still technically at work, so dress accordingly.

Wearing something that would be inappropriate at the office is a big no-no. Ditto for a work social event.

That said, if the event is a company-wide shindig, or is likely to be attended by influential people, you might want to smarten up your attire. You never know who you might end up speaking to.

In most cases, the happy hour is right after work, so folks will just go straight from work. You just may need to do a quick self-check in the restroom to make sure nothing’s out of place.

3. Buddy Up

Heading into a crowded bar full of rowdy coworkers might seem pretty daunting. Especially if you know there will be people from other departments who you’re not familiar with.

To help ease your anxiety, buddy up with someone from your team and plan to arrive together. In fact, if it makes sense, carpool with your buddy to the event.

That way, you won’t feel so nervous walking into the bar, and you’ll automatically have someone to talk to at least for the first part of the evening. Then, once you’ve settled in and you’re feeling a little more confident, it’s time to...

4. Work The Room

There’s no point going to an after work happy hour and spending the whole time with your two teammates who you spend your whole working day with anyway.

This is an opportunity to network, get to know people from other departments and make new friends. Or at the very least, bridge new working contacts.

It can also be an excellent introduction to more senior and/or influential people within the business. And, these are the folks that you want to connect with on LinkedIn to build up your network.

If you’re feeling shy, ask people you already know to introduce you to people you don’t know. The great thing about these kinds of events is that everyone is a bit more casual after a drink or two, so it should be that bit easier to jump into conversations with relative strangers.

5. Say No To Peer Pressure

Peer pressure sucks. It’s childish, rude and there’s no place for it at a work social event, especially when it comes to alcohol.

There are many reasons why someone might choose not to have a drink, most of them highly personal. So questioning someone on their lack of vino, cocktail or beer, especially in front of colleagues, is uncool.

Some people just don’t enjoy drinking alcohol or maybe, it’s against their religion. You could even end up accidentally outing a colleague’s new pregnancy if you question too hard.

Unfortunately, there’s always someone who doesn’t seem to get the memo. So even if you’re on your best behavior, you might end up having to deal with peer pressure.

Remember not to give in to it and stand your ground. Whether you’re choosing to have one drink because you’re driving or no drinks because you simply don’t want to, decide on your limit before the event and stick to it.

If someone does try to question you or force shots down your throat, simply state “I’m not drinking tonight, maybe next time.” If they keep hassling you, walk away from the situation.

Sometimes, it’s just a hassle to explain why we’re not drinking alcohol, especially if you’ve got boozy colleagues. So, an easier solution is to sip on drinks that look alcoholic but aren’t.

Virgin Mojito, anyone?

6. Don’t Talk About Work The Whole Time

Even though you’re with work people, once you’re out the office and in the bar, the last thing anyone wants to talk about is work.

Don’t be that person.

A little bit of work chat is fine, but why not try to discuss more interesting topics instead?

This is a chance to get to know your colleagues beyond their job title, so bring up personal interests, family, travel, the latest show you’re binging on Netflix. There are tons of things to talk about other than the stupid meetings from the day.

That said, it is important to know where to draw the line.

7. Don’t Get Too Personal

Getting to know your colleagues on a more personal level is definitely a good thing - but, remember, they are still your colleagues.

There are some topics that are best avoided, either because they’re too personal or because they’re likely to cause conflict or both.

Politics, sex and religion are generally best left untouched when hanging out with colleagues.

Of course, there are some exceptions, especially in certain organizations or in situations where you have a tight knit team. You’ll know what’s safe and what’s not but, if in doubt, avoid anything that might trigger strong reactions and opinions.

Another mistake to avoid is getting stuck giving someone free psychotherapy.

If Angie starts going into detail about her divorce and is on the brink of tears, try to be as supportive as possible while also steering the conversation to more positive things to boost her mood. You don’t want to be caught on the hook for the rest of the night being her therapist and talking about depressing things.

On the flip side, don’t be the person seeking therapy either!

If you’re going through a hard time, a few beers or glasses of wine has a tendency to bring out all the pent up emotions inside of you to an unsuspecting colleague you’ve just met.

Avoid this at all costs.

Not only will you probably wish you kept this information to yourself once you sober up but it could also make others keep their distance from you.

8. Avoid The Gossip Trap

Nobody likes a gossip. And gossiping at work can get you in way more trouble than it’s worth.

Don’t let the dim lights and loud music fool you, work drinks are still an extension of work, and what you say here counts and people will remember.

Spreading gossip is just so shallow and it doesn’t feel good either. You might laugh at the time, but imagine how bad you’d feel if the person you were gossipping about heard what you said?

Not a good situation.

Besides, you want to make friends with people who are authentic and don’t bitch about others, because if they talk shit about someone else it’s only a matter of time before they do it to you.

If you feel that the conversation is veering towards negative gossip territory, abort the mission and move on to a new group. Time to work the room again 😉

9. Keep Clear Boundaries 

We’ve said it multiple times and we’re gonna say it again - an office happy hour is an extension of the office. So, it’s important to keep the same boundaries you observe when you’re physically at work.

Don’t insult people, don’t swear at your boss, don’t be inappropriate and don’t get into fights. In other words, don’t do stupid shit.

But what about dipping your pen in the company ink?

Well, we can’t tell you not to do that, but you do have to be careful about it.

Definitely don’t be a creepy creepster, hitting on everyone and making inappropriate jokes. But if there’s mutual attraction with someone, hanging out at happy hour together is the perfect opportunity to get a better feel for how things are playing out.

The important thing is to be smart about it, take things slowly and keep things under wraps until you know what’s actually going on. Then, make sure you take the relevant steps to have a responsible office romance instead of a scandalous affair that becomes a huge company drama.

10. Drink Responsibly

It goes without saying but drinking with coworkers is about socializing not getting shit-faced like a frat-boy. In addition to being inappropriate and embarrassing, it could also seriously tank your credibility and your personal brand.

If you tend to down your drinks when you’re nervous, set out your plan in advance. You could decide to alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Or maybe you want to go completely sober for the night.

Whatever will work for you to help keep you in check, decide beforehand and stick to it. If you have a work BFF, confide in them and ask them to help you stick to your plan.

After all, the only thing worse than a hangover at work is a hangover and the feeling of everyone staring at you as you drag your feet to your desk the next morning.

Following these rules will help to ensure that you make the most of your time drinking with colleagues, and you have a fun time that won’t come back to bite you in the ass.

Happy Hour Provides Career Boost & Fun: 2-for-1!

Work life is a real bitch sometimes. Okay, most of the time!

We have to figure out how to get ahead and plan for career success, all while managing the constant and never-ending stresses, challenges and pressures that come with being at work.

So it’s good to blow off some steam at happy hour with your coworkers. Everyone’s going through the same bullshit. And, socializing with work friends is one of the best ways to manage stress.

Of course, drinking with your colleagues isn’t the career holy grail. But it is an awesome way to help you build your profile, make new friends, expand your network and make work life just a little less shitty.

So, the next time the group is heading out for happy hour drinks, join ‘em and kick back and relax for a while. You deserve it.

Feel Better,

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