Joining in the office culture is a must if you want to climb the corporate ladder, but knowing what to do and not to do is just as important. Whether you drink alcohol or not, happy hour is one of those “office events” that build team morale, allow you to socialize, and weave yourself into the office fabric (and not, say, use it as hook-up time). Here’s a list of rules to follow the next time your office hosts a happy hour.
1. Remember that You’re Still on the Clock
You may not be physically in the office or doing your job, but you’re still “at work”. This is especially true if management is there. If you think you can cut back and party like it’s the weekend, think again: you’re being constantly watched, even if it’s a little unfair. Moderate your alcohol consumption, don’t dance on tables, and avoid gossiping. Your uppers are seeing how you behave in a variety of situations, and happy hour is another test.
2. Have a Drink, Regardless of Whether it’s Alcoholic or Not
There’s no law that says you must have a scotch or beer during an office happy hour, but there should be a glass in front of you and it should have a liquid in it. Say you don’t drink for personal, health or religious reasons: order a Coke or bottle of water. Your hesitation in ordering anything tells other people you’re hesitant to get involved with them, so respect your own limits and let others have their fun, too.
3. Don’t Go Overboard
If you are drinking alcoholic drinks, pace yourself. This isn’t a college kegger, and it’s most definitely not the time to go wild with the company expense account. The last thing you want is the head of your department having to squish you into a cab at the end of the night as you’re covered in vomit, so take it easy and pace yourself. What you do on your own time is up to you, and you’re not on your own time during office happy hour.
4. Let Loose, but Not too Loose
By all means, talk about personal matters, like the hot new yoga instructor, your love for Harry Potter movies (but not how you dressed up in costume and lined up at midnight for the books), and which beaches in Thailand are the best. Where you should draw the line, though, is with stuff that can cast you in a poor light when it comes time for a promotion. Think your affair with the intern was hot? It very well might have been, but that’s something best left between you, the intern, and your closest friend.
5. Pick a Time to Leave, and Stick to It
If you’re out with friends on a Saturday night, you’re perfectly entitled to party until you close the bar. But when you’re with your coworkers and managers, the opposite is true. You probably have work the next day, and you definitely don’t want to be seen as the employee who has no boundaries. Give yourself a few hours of fun during office hour, and then go home. It’s always better to leave wanting more than to wring every last bit of fun from the experience, and you’ll be looked on a lot more favorably.
While good behavior at an office happy hour doesn’t automatically put you under consideration for a raise or promotion, bad behavior takes you right off the list. It’s more important than ever before to make sure you’re playing the game right, but can still enjoy office happy hour for what it is: an occasion to get to know your coworkers and managers under more relaxed settings.