Recently, a reporter asked for my thoughts on businesses having
open bars at events and what downsides such offerings can hold.
That line of discussion led to the double standard that exists
for women who conduct business over cocktails with male clients
and colleagues, and from there, we ran into the belly of the beast:
alcohol at work-related functions and all the dangers therein.
Full disclosure: as it does in many families, alcoholism runs
in mine. However, I’m fortunate that long-term sobriety
is also running in my family, one day at a time. This is a topic
near and dear to me, and it appears that it’s time to put
it on the conference room table.
I’m sure most of you can share a story or two about a colleague
who had one too many at a company event and things got out of
hand. A friend told me about an argument that ensued during after-dinner
drinks at a senior management retreat. Seems that one free-wheeling
boozer called the CEO, who was present, “An [expletive]
who doesn’t do any real work.”
Back to the reporter—she called me a day later and told
me that no one would speak candidly about alcohol at work-sponsored
events. She said that while many she talked to acknowledge that
alcohol abuse at firm events exists, aside from handing out cab
vouchers, not much is done to address it.
No doubt it’s easy for people to get a bit sloppy when
celebrating a hard won case or closing a big deal or wishing a
departing colleague well. Now is a good time to evaluate your
own behavior at past events and ask if you need to tone it down.
If you can’t remember what took place the night before,
you’ve got a problem. If you are able to recall everything
you said, but wished you had kept some comments to yourself, heed
my advice and limit yourself to two drinks, max.
New graduates who struggle to fit into their firm’s culture
find it challenging when it comes to navigating firm dinners,
receptions and holiday parties. Remember, new professionals have
just left environments where drinking to excess is often the norm,
so giving them clear guidelines on expected behavior at work events
with alcohol makes sense.
Signs that an organization is having trouble might include a
breakdown in decorum and an increase in bad behavior. When the
bash is in full swing, do your employees still behave in a manner
consistent with the firm’s carefully cultivated reputation?
Here are a few suggestions, in addition to those cab vouchers,
to keep the festivities fun, but far from out of control at your
next firm event:
- To some, an open bar says, “Get hammered here, for free.”
Serve only wine and beer to slow down the feel-no-pain process.
If tradition is such that your firm must have an open bar, limit
it to one hour, but don’t serve shots and by all means,
put the Jägermeister away.
- Have plenty of non-alcoholic options available. Offer mocktails
(alcohol-free cocktails) along with non-alcoholic beer and wine,
iced tea, coffee and soft drinks.
- Provide lots of protein when drinks are served, such as shrimp,
cheese, deviled eggs, smoked fish, chicken skewers, nuts, etc.
Putting icy beers out at the 4 o’clock Friday Happy Hour
with only chips and salsa can send someone who hasn’t
eaten lunch into a tailspin in no time.
- Assign someone to monitor the crowd and intervene before anything
gets ugly—sort of like a designated driver before anyone
hits the road.
There is no question that professionals who work hard sometimes
play hard, and far be it from me to stop the party. However, it’s
worth taking some time to consider how much of a good thing is
sometimes just too much.
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