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Work-Life Balance: After-Work Drinking, Safely
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Work-Life Balance: After-Work Drinking, Safely - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: After-Work Drinking, Safely

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: After-Work Drinking, Safely

In order to maintain work-life balance, many people separate completely their work lives from the rest of their lives, and there’s a reasonable case to be made for this approach. Still, work is part of our whole, just as health, family, and love are part of our whole, and for many of us, healthy relationships with our colleagues contribute to a whole satisfaction.

For this reason, after-work social drinking remains a part of office life. Shared laughs in downtime often mean better cohesion during stressful times at work, not to mention one’s overall improved feeling about work when one genuinely likes his or her co-workers.

Mixing alcohol with anything is a risky proposition, however, so a conscious effort to forestall any problems can go a long way to making it the best experience for everyone in the office.

First, not everyone is interested in hanging out with co-workers outside of work, and this is okay! Nobody should be pressured to participate, ever, and those who do participate should foster a non-judgmental attitude about those who don’t join in. “It’s great if you can come, but please don’t feel you must,” should always be your message, and if inclusion is your goal (as it should be), keep reminding people that the open invitation stands. Not wanting to participate but knowing you’re always welcome to is a good feeling.

This cannot be stressed enough: nobody should ever feel pressured to drink, and non-drinkers should feel safe about either declining an invitation to come along or accepting the invitation and sticking to Cokes or water. Most non-drinkers already have an answer ready in case people ask why, but is there a good reason to ask why? “I don’t drink” or “I’m not going to drink” are all the reason you need. Accept and include non-drinkers and you will likely find the overall vibe of the activity increasingly positive.

There are cultures (such as in Korea and Japan) where after-work drinking is a social and professional expectation. However, expectations have relaxed a bit lately, as more people, especially people in leadership, have expressed a preference not to drink. It was once unacceptable not to drink, but nowadays it is not necessarily professionally risky. One might mention to a superior sometime in advance that one does not drink, just to avoid awkwardness later, but even the awkwardness is navigable.

Different people drink different ways. There are some who, once imbibing, like to keep going until they can barely see. As long as they don’t behave obnoxiously and don’t get behind the wheel, it seems a mostly harmless way to unwind. However, an inebriated co-worker can make things difficult for others, especially if he or she won’t willingly give up the car keys. For this co-worker (or employee), it’s not a bad idea ahead of time to insist that a ride home be arranged before the meet-up.

Obviously, if one has reason to suspect these co-workers have problems with alcoholism, some kind of intervention may be in order, but that’s a topic for another time.

Co-workers who are uncomfortable around drunk people should plan to make graceful exists before it gets to that point in the evening. Everyone will understand, and you don’t even have to cite the real reason. “I need to make sure the kids finish their homework,” or “I need to let the dog out” are good codewords for “I don’t want to be around when you begin the conga line.”

But you know what? You don’t need a reason, and neither does anyone else. Accepting and including everyone’s attitudes about drinking and socializing after work is the whole point. Drop a few bucks for the next basket of garlic fries, thank everyone for the pleasant time, and let the conga dancers do their thing without you!


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Work-Life Balance: After-Work Drinking, Safely - Executive Leadership Articles

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