I have been getting emails now and then from the folks at CNN.com asking if I would like to do a guest column. I have not been blogging anywhere much because I've been traveling a lot (I did a workshop on design thinking in Singapore a couple weeks back and just got from giving speeches in Brazil on The Knowing-Doing Gap and Good Boss, Bad Boss) and using my available time to focus on the scaling project with Huggy Rao.
As often happens to me, however, I ended-up writing something fun when I was "supposed to" be doing something else. I was thinking about drinking in the workplace because I had been interviewed for Bloomberg about the subject where, although I was quoted as talking about all the evils (and there are nasty evils), I had actually spent much of the conversation with the reporter talking about how sharing a drink with colleagues can sometimes strengthen the social glue in a workplace. This is an experience that many of us have enjoyed. And. more broadly, there is some interesting academic research here as well, notably a charming book called Drunken Comportment by Craig McAndrew and Robert Edgerton, which uses anthropological and other evidence to challenge to notion that drinking always changes things for the worse.
The final motivation to write the column came after I had a lovely time sharing a drink with some colleagues one Friday afternoon a few weeks back. So I wrote this little piece from CNN called "Drinking at Work: Its Not All Bad," which just came out today.
Here is how it opens:
At about 5:30 on a Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, I was running out the door to get home when I ran into several colleagues sitting in a circle and drinking some Scotch. They invited me to celebrate the end of the week with them, and after hesitating a bit, I joined the little group. Yes, I enjoyed the single malt they gave me, but I enjoyed the conversation much more. These are people I see all the time, but nearly all of our interactions are rushed and task-oriented.
We talked about an array of topics -- a sick friend, kids, a cool wireless speaker the IT guy had set up and our preferences for different brands of Scotch. Then we went our separate ways. I was struck by how much the brief interaction affected me. I felt closer to my colleagues, more relaxed from the great conversation and the Scotch, and I felt good about working at a place that allows employees to take a prudent drink now and then.
That little episode illustrates the role that alcohol plays at its best. In addition to its objective physiological effects, anthropologists have long noted that its presence serves as a signal in many societies that a "time-out" has begun, that people are released, at least to a degree, from their usual responsibilities and roles. Its mere presence in our cups signals we have permission to be our "authentic selves" and we are allowed -- at least to a degree -- to reveal personal information about ourselves and gossip about others -- because, after all, the booze loosened our tongues. When used in moderate doses and with proper precautions, participating in a collective round of drinking or two has a professional upside that ought to be acknowledged.
You can read the rest here.
I am curious to hear your reactions to this idea. What are some of the other advantages of drinking at work? What can a company or boss to do maximize the virtues and minimize the dangers? It is one of those complex subjects that, while there are times when it is clearly dead wrong (like when airline pilots drink on the job), there are many other times when complaints about imbibing some more like misguided morality plays than constructive objections.