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Gschaadt

Wish I could be surprised that this post created such a list of comments - unfortunately, I found just what I expected.

Brave man, you, holding that 4 iron up to the sky during the thunderstorm.

We're just not quite ready to break the shackles of our Puritan roots are we?

Jenn W

As a small business owner I have always been reluctant to introduce alcohol to the work place, but I have had similiar experiences where I felt it did relax the group and helped us all bond a bit. I take my staff on an annual planning retreat and this past year we enjoyed a couple of beers at lunch, and the afternoon turned out fun and productive.

Several years ago, one of my employees remarked that her daughter was on Spring Break from her undergrad program and we all laughed about how fun it would be to have a Spring Break again. I agreed, and that week, we all wore shorts and Hawaiin shirts and listened to some beach music. We culminated the week with Margaritas at lunch on Friday (we didn't have clients coming in or appointments that day.) It was the most fun week I have had in 10 years of owning my business. But my employees shifted and until recently, I haven't felt it was appropriate with the personalities I have had in my office. Reading your post made me realize maybe it's about time for another Spring Break week.

Thanks!

Sharon

I think it's an option that would never be extended to the lower classes with scheduled hours of work..another way for the entitled to celebrate their entitlements. Classist.

Alexandra Katharina

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I am a big fan of your work and especially enjoy how you like to push the envelope.
As a German citizen who currently lives and works in the US, there are certain aspects of American culture that are rather peculiar to me .. one of them is the issue of alcohol.
My personal belief is that there is nothing wrong about a drink at lunch or after work when you are out with colleagues or with business partners, as long as it's in moderation and a simple drink, such as a glass of wine or one beer. Europe in general has a very different mindset about this topic, yet I do understand why it is an issue here in the U.S. From a cultural standpoint, there is a negative perception about the word/idea of “alcohol” in the U.S.. Additionally, there also might be some potential legal ramifications. Nevertheless, a lot of corporate retreats or tradeshows/conferences are held in locations such as Vegas, where social corporate group outings will most certainly include some form of alcohol. So all I can say is that here in the US it all depends on where you live and the corporate culture of the company you work for that would determine whether or not this is acceptable.

SteveB

I work in a school- so count me out. But in certain types of businesses I don't think it is really such a problem

Amber Little

I think this is a great post! Having a drink with coworkers is a great way to connect with people on many different levels. When we are in the workplace often times our conversations are always centered around the same issues, day after day. I think wine walks should be a mandatory part of the job :-)

Adam

From a managerial perspective, I completely understand why a supervisor would condone alcohol consumption at 5:30pm on a Friday. It dupes employees into working for free. A Pepsi is not going to get a programmer to jam out code from 5:30pm to 7:00pm on a Friday night, but a single malt scotch will. Even if you are truly just yakking about kids and wireless speaker systems you are still technically AT WORK, which means you are not cycling, fishing, golfing, surfing or spending time with your kids.

But hey, if your personal sacrifice helps the corporation hit its bottom line than it's worth it right?

If a sober person -- whether it be for religious or genetic reasons -- is a LINCHPIN at a company, I doubt very much they would succumb to designated driver detail for co-workers. I think they'd rather be enjoying their life outside of work... no matter how charming the co-workers are.

I feel bad for the Mormon fellow you referenced who perhaps feels like he needs to "joke" about his sobriety and drive a car full of drunks from point A to point B to make sure he doesn't miss out on employee bonding, office gossip, or perhaps even a relevant work discussion.

Get

I work for a US company with a UK subsidiary.

In the US - our work is about the endless pursuit to 'maximize productivity' and often results in people buried in their cubes for long hours with little interpersonal interaction.

On a recent business trip to the UK, I noticed a major difference (same company owns both).

In the UK - there were snacks and drinks offered at the end of a long workday which fostered an impromptu social. I learned more about my UK business partners in that 30 minute (1 drink) break than I have learned about co-workers I have sat amongst and worked with in the US for the past 5 years. That 30 minute break granted me insight into my UK partners, insights that have made me more successul in the work I do with them.

I appreciated their attitude of taking a break and additionally welcomed their sense of personal responsibility. I was responsible for not drinking excessively and making a fool of myself - not my employer. I find US employers (due to liability issues) are forced to think for their employees and protect us from ourselves during working hours. It was refreshing to be somewhere where I was responsible for myself and my choices no matter the time of day.

bcd

Dear Bob: I am a great fan of your blog, and I just happened on this post after not checking in for a few days. I am American, but I live and work in Paris (that would be France, not Texas). I am in a leadership position. I had an extremely positive reaction to your post, and I feel much as Jerry and the Danish post.
I think it’s great to have an occasional drink (beer, soda, scotch –pick yr poison)with coworkers. However I am struck by the inflexibilty of many of these comments. I took your post as an observation on how a chill moment with your colleagues outside of the work environment can in fact help solidify a team. I also have to note (sorry if it seems the merely obvious) that the workplace attitude towards this here is totally the opposite of the US. Wine at lunch is a completely normal everyday thing here – no one thinks it is odd or inappropriate, the culture just expects all adults to behave as such. The other comments have noted some simple guidelines…
1- don’t have more than one or two (no one remains unaffected after that), yr still in a work environment.
2- Don’t overshare (as one person noted), and if you follow no 1, that helps.
3- Enjoy!Take advantage of the opportunity to know people in more than a one dimensional way. I think its great to know a little more about people, they like to travel, how many kids they have…I have been invited to take a ride in a plane with a colleague that has just gotten her pilot’s license.
The attitude here is be responsible and if you are where is the problem.. it wouldn’t occur to anyone here to pass judgment -this is one of my favorite things about living here. I am always grateful to be American, but I wonder if this is one thing we can learn from Europe – relax, be responsible, enjoy! And I’ll permit myself to add one last thought, I hope it makes me a more complete manager to know them a little better. I think this reflects the reason you left your unanticipated after work moment with your colleagues feeling good, and that can’t help but be something that filters back positively into our working relationships.
Thank you for an interesting post.

Me

I've worked for three Danish companies where the tradition has been for a Friday afternoon drink and snacks (the so-called "fredagsbar"). It's an incredibly relaxing and informal way to chat about the week, and what problems, successes etc arose, and because it's part of the Danish way of life, it hardly ever gets abused. Also, the Danes tend to meet on Monday and Friday mornings for joint breakfast, and were sticklers for celebrating birthdays with cakes ... That kind of social cohesion makes a big difference in a company, alcohol or no alcohol.

davidburkus

I attended a university that required students to sign a pledge not to drink. I vividly remember being at training for my first real job and sitting at a table with a manager who paid for our drinks with her corporate card. I remember thinking "we can expense alcohol?" To this day, many of my good friends in that company are the ones I shared that first drink with.

Jerry Reynolds

Hi Bob,

Just saw this piece and thought it was on target. This has had a positive effect in military leadership when two important rules were followed: 1) keep the group small so that interaction does take place and 2) you should drink with your men(soldiers) but don't get drunk with them. Your drink with colleagues met these guidelines, although "leadership presence" wasn't involved. It works - and like most principals - do it in moderation.

Jerry

Bob Sutton

I want to thank everyone for the remarkably thoughtful comments about the nuances of this issue. Indeed, I am heartened to see that the quality of the 12 comments here are, in my biased opinion, much higher than at CNN.

There are, however, two points I would like to emphasize just in case I did not make them clear enough in the article. I agree fully with the numerous comments that emphasize the care with which drinking needs to be introduced and managed in the workplace -- my suggestion that it must be done in moderate doses and with proper precautions was meant to make this point, but I fear it was lost.

Second, a comment was made that one fellow would have felt excluded because he dislikes Scotch was made. As I emphasize in the full article, people who feel excluded or uncomfortable with the drinking need to be considered in part of the equation. But I would add that this is always an issue. I, for example, honestly have no interest in the NCAA basketball championships, so I feel excluded when people talk about that. There are always different interests in the workplace everyone needs to be sensitive to them.

On the Scotch front, however, I would add two things. The folks in the group that asked me if I wanted a Scotch also offered beer, so there was an option. And I too despised Scotch until I was about 54 years old, but I learned to love when we took a vacation in Northern Scotland, where it is very cold and very windy. Have a dram of Scotch after braving those elements warmed my soul, and in the process, I developed a taste for it!

Jenny

Sharing a drink with co-workers can have a positive effect on a work environment. I think this idea really depends on the situation and those involved: sometimes the consequences of drinking with those you work with can be disastrous: http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201104048365/Headline-News/Associate-sues-Mathews-Dinsdale-for-$13M

wafflesnfalafel

I agree with the article in principle and Jared's comment regarding it's successful use as a way to express trust. But I am confident that the ability to use alcohol in a work place is nearly entirely dependent on the particular group of folks involved. If you have a group of reasonably responsible people that all enjoy and consider it a positive experience then perfect - it will be a net sum gain. If, on the other hand, you have even only a few folks that can't handle booze, or have strong enough negative feelings about it then it's not worth the risk.

Mike Chen

I would love to be able to have a drink at work and be able to take a quick breather during those stressful days, but I think that moment can definitely wait until after work. I believe alcohol and work just do not mix, and should only be consumed during off-work hours. This allows you to completely relax without having to worry about the side effects of alcohol during work. You can always drink and get to know your co-workers after work, away from work.

Adam Searcy

Bob –

Unfortunately, I feel strongly that this suggestion is a terrible idea. While you may have had a pleasant and positive experience this once, I can assure you that it is an inevitability that repeated forays of this nature would ultimately result in an altered working dynamic for the worse. This is the lure of alcohol in general and that fleeting experiences of enjoyment are associated as the norm. To say nothing of the clique forming that you are encouraging by essentially forming a club within the office that many staff may not be invited to join. Your club will also deteriorate over time as members begin to show their true colors and you will be unable to separate this from your professional relationship.

If you want to relax with your co-workers, go golfing, turn up some fun music in the office, or invite them over for a BBQ. You are playing with fire drinking with your co-workers in any setting, we all have enough landmines to negotiate without inviting this poison into the mix.

I hate scotch. Does that mean I’m not part of the club? Does that mean that those who enjoy it are jerks or that I am less of a man? Think about it. Don’t go there with your Team. Period.

CareerAnnie

I went to a few after-work happy hours that got Christmas-party-crazy where things were said that definitely changed the atmosphere in the office (granted, these people said similar things while not under the influence, but the alcohol made it worse).

It worked best when the following conditions were met: 1) the supply of alcohol was limited, 2) there was still some expectation that we behave in a civil manner (usually indicated by the fact that we were all still in the office, not across the street at a bar), and 3) after the in-office happy hour, everyone was going home to go do other things with their families.

It's something about lingering that makes things go south. It has to be a "one beer" type of event. If it goes much more than that, it becomes more for the sake of the beer than for the conversation.

Also, I'll note that the informality of going to a bar (as opposed to in-office) made it harder to communicate with coworkers. We were such vastly different people that, once the conversation left work matters, it was difficult to find things to talk about. That might not be the case in other work environments, but it was definitely the case in mine.

Kenneth

Hi Bob,

I am totally against drinking at work or even having a martini at lunch. My experience has been that drinking causes a loss in productivity and tension in the work place. I have had a drink at lunch before and the rest of my afternoon was shot. I wouldn't do it again. And after a group has had drinks at lunch and comes back to the office loud and boisterous is not conducive to a good working environment. I have never worked in a Silicon Valley environment where people work atrocious hours, but here again I cannot see where drinking would help the work along. A drink after work with your colleagues in my opinion is fine and provides the same social interaction that a drink at work would provide.

Mary

I get the point, and it makes sense. The danger is excluding people. What if the person cannot/doesn't like to drink, for whatever reason? Assuming that one needs alcohol to "loosen their tongue" can really work against such people.

One of my workplaces had "happy hours" with beer every Friday. They worked well for socializing, but there was always Coke for people who didn't want alcohol, and the assumption was that yes, our normal tasks and roles are loosened because it's a social hour, and there are drinks to make people comfortable. I think it is much better to do it that way rather than set up assumptions about the specific role that alcohol plays, so that people don't get accidentally excluded.

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