Business Magazine

How to Survive Office Happy Hours

Posted on the 26 June 2013 by Classycareergirl @classycareer

Today’s is written by Nicola Morton. Nicola has been working as an HR Manager for ten years.

Office happy hour: some people simply hear this phrase and it fills them with dread, while others cannot wait to let their hair down and have a few drinks with their workplace chums. Which one am I? Well, let me share my office happy hour experience with you:

The last office happy hour I attended turned out to help set me up in the company. First, I did my research (something I highly recommend) by checking out our staff intranet and making sure I knew who was who; I’d only started in the company a few months earlier, so I was eager to impress. I chatted with as many colleagues as I could during the days leading up to the event, and made a mental note of all the little personality quirks and idiosyncrasies that defined the big bosses. Even though Janey, who sat near my desk, warned me to never attend one of these events, I knew that I had to go if I wanted to come off as genuinely interested in the company. I’m a girl with drive and ambition, and that is why I had to get there… and impress!

I’d like to share a few pointers on the protocol for an office happy hour:

  • Ensure that you attend. No matter how you feel about these types of events, making a polite appearance for an hour will show that you are a team player. If nothing else, an office happy hour is a way to network and get your name out there. Don’t talk business the entire night, but do mention some aspects of your company’s work. Avoid using the event as a chance to pitch new ideas; however, you can hint at your work-related visions to impress.
  • Do NOT indulge in too much alcohol. Yes, you will be nervous, but you definitely don’t want to end up like my friend, Jim, who vomited all over the CEO’s wife’s shoes at the end of the night. Drinking too much will only help you get your name out there in the wrong way. Your best bet is to avoid strong spirits and drink a spritzer or one glass of wine or beer, if possible. Follow the European model, and have one glass of plain water for every alcoholic beverage you drink.
  • Do NOT get dragged into petty gossip and office politics. Office happy hour is one of those times where sitting on the fence is encouraged. Don’t allow yourself to be anything but positive about your co-workers. You’ll want to be best friends with the very first person you get comfortable with, but always be careful about who you confide in. Gossip is something you will not be able to take back. I learned the hard way by sharing my opinion of a manager with someone I believed would be my friend. But from then on, I could feel my manager’s icy glances as I sat at my desk.
  • Dress like you’re still at the office. It’s one thing to sport your favorite party outfit when you go to the bar with your friends, but that is not the case for the office happy hour. Follow the golden rule of mimicking how your superiors look. I’m not saying to wear exactly what they’re wearing, but copy the general sense of professionalism they put forth. Do not overdo your makeup. Put away the neon lipstick you bought for fun, and apply a nude color to your lips, peaches and pinks to your cheeks, and neutral colors to your eyes for a classic look. Furthermore, a quality primer will help keep your image fresh and neat for extended hours after work.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to meet new people. Have fun getting to know individuals you would not typically find yourself surrounded by. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn about the people you didn’t take much notice of before. You’ve bought all those business cards for a reason: use them!
  • Leave early. It’s tricky, but you do not want to come off as if you don’t care about work in the morning. After a long day in the office, it’s nice to get a few drinks with your co-workers, but you’ve all got to wake up and do it again. Bow out gracefully after a few hours, head home to relax, and greet all your new acquaintances in the A.M.

These golden rules have helped me navigate office happy hours for many successful years. Respecting your co-workers (and having them respect you) outside of the office often leads to a more preferred atmosphere in the office afterwards. Follow these tips and you’ll be the belle of the ball office happy hour!

Share your stories and tips for office happy hour below!

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