Join the conversation on my blog about drinking alcohol at work events.
To drink or not to drink at work related events is a question almost every employee has to ponder for one occasion or another. Whether the business occasion is lunch during an interview, the company holiday party, or a staff networking event on Friday afternoon, alcohol is usually an option. Make your decision about what to drink and how much to drink before you are faced with the choices at an event. Set your limit before the event.
In a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 501 Human Resources professionals were asked how drinking is viewed in their organization at a range of work-related activities. HR professionals reported that drinking is acceptable:
- 70 percent: at a holiday party,
- 40 percent: at a meal with a client or customer,
- 32 percent: at a retirement party,
- 28 percent: at the celebration of a company milestone,
- 22 percent: at a meal with a coworker,
- 4 percent: at a meal during a job interview, and
- 14 percent: never.
The Alcohol Decision
Take these factors into consideration when you make your decision about drinking at a company event or activity.
- Take your first cue from your company culture and the behavior of your coworkers. Do successful employees, managers, and executives drink at company events? If so, having a couple of drinks is fine. At a client company, the weekly happy hour on Friday is deliberately called "2Beer Friday” to send an important message that drinking too much is unacceptable with coworkers and while driving.
- Take your second cue from your knowledge of yourself and the affect of alcohol on your actions. Does one drink make you giggly? Do two drinks make you slur your words or lower your guard and chatter excessively? If so, you may not want to drink at company events.
- If you are uncomfortable attending the event, for any reason, you will not want to use alcohol to decrease your anxiety.
As an individual, consider the affects of drinking too much on your relationships with your coworkers, your professional reputation, your manager’s ongoing regard, the office gossip mill, and your own view of yourself. Set your limit; stick with the limit you set. Don’t risk your professional reputation for a third or fourth drink at a company event.
Tips for Employers That Allow Drinking Alcohol at Company Events
The Wall Street Journal recently cited a survey that found 38% of adults called had attended holiday parties at which alcohol was not served. More business events serve alcohol, however, with the alcohol provided by the business. According to a SHRM survey, because of the positive economic climate nationally, more employers are holding office parties and more of them are serving alcohol. Whether your event is a company milestone or birthday, an employee's retirement party, or a holiday event, use these tips to plan an alcohol safe event.
- Talk about your company culture with employees emphasizing that drinking to excess is unacceptable during company events. Include alcohol usage guidance in your company code of conduct. In my book, it is never okay to drink alcohol during a job interview. Drinking at lunch should be discouraged. And, I would drink with a client, only if the client was drinking, and my limit in a client or customer meeting is one glass of wine.
- Always serve food, such as appetizers, from the start of the party so employees are not drinking on an empty stomach.
- Offer a variety of interesting, non-alcoholic beverages, to remove the emphasis from alcohol.
- Never make drinking, or eating, for that matter, the main focus of any event. Always make entertainment, speeches, presentations, company logo items to purchase with points earned, and activities for employees to participate in the main focus of company events.
- Consider serving just beer and wine, no liquor. Avoid serving drinks such as punch that make employees unable to gauge how much alcohol they are drinking.
- Limit the number of drinks the company provides by using drink tickets or another informal method of tracking the amount of alcohol served.
- Limit the number of hours that the bar is open. Close the bar during dinner and at a reasonable time to signal the drawing to a close and ending of the event.
- Make sure your bartenders are clear that they are not to serve alcohol to any person who appears to be inebriated.
- Recruit your managers and event planning committee members, in advance, to keep their eyes open for employees who may be overindulging. Offer the employee a ride home, call a cab, or make certain that a designated non-drinking driver takes the wheel.
- Take a look at your company insurances to determine whether you have the appropriate coverage.
- You may also want to consider asking employees to review and sign a document that provides company alcoholic beverage guidelines and that informs employees they are liable for their behavior at company sponsored events.
Alcohol can be a festive addition to a company event, but employee guidelines, company culture and customs, appropriate planning, and observation at the event will ensure that employees live to work another day. At company events, as in your workplace, employee safety is your paramount concern.
Interested in learning about substance abuse? See About's site dedicated to Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
More: Make No Excuses.