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Deborah Fisher

This works, I use it. But I find that it's a double-edged sword.

I am newish at both leadership and management, and find that my achilles heel is talking too much. It works to be personal and personable, and to give employees all the information they need... but sometimes it's more effective to shield my team from things they don't really need to know.

On more than one occasion I have taken my team out for drinks and inadvertently gotten them all worked up about something that doesn't directly affect them and that I should have kept to myself.

LB

Great post! I agree that drinking with co-workers can have enormous advantages for group cohesiveness and affect, but it’s so damn tricky because there are many moderators (e.g., social/ emotional intelligence, discussion content) that can make the lasting impact positive or negative. I think drinking creates a complex social situation with ambiguous norms that changes the dichotomy between professional work behavior and “authentic” personal behavior into a continuum. For the socially astute, this blurring isn’t much of an issue to navigate and successfully. However, for those who need stronger cues for appropriate behavior, the experience can be disastrous. I’ve seen colleagues “loosen” up to reveal things about themselves that cause me never be able to look at them in a positive light again (e.g., their sexism, crazy-passionate political ideologies, or awkward references their dating/sexual life). I’ve also experienced the worst case scenario: After attending a few newly formed happy hours, a colleague saw the ‘bonding’ as a green light for abandoning professional constraint more often at work, leading to an ever-escalating trickle of inappropriate comments and gossip about his personal issues (and boy was he going through some stuff!) until we were awash in a toxic and unproductive work environment. We are still trying to reign in the behavior, but the long-term damage is irreparable.

The same caveat goes for discussion content. Fun debate and sharing positive personal experiences can be especially rewarding, but it doesn’t take much for one person to take things off course and expose others to negative emotion contagion. This may range from sharing awkward negative personal experiences to starting a “bitch-fest” about work colleagues or the workplace in general...which only makes everyone else feel crappier. Note that recent research even shows that sharing negative information can facilitate (false) feelings of closeness more than positive information, so there’s an obvious (though possibly unconscious) incentive for people to delve into the negative and stay there: http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/02/04/0146167211398364.abstract

Bill

We have a wine "cellar" in the server room.

christy

I started something called "the Kentucky process" at a former job, which worked really well. We had been working all day, working hard on a project, and were stuck with coming up with the final piece. I took the team to the local pub, where we sat down over a couple of drinks (mine was bourbon) and almost instantly came up with a great solution to the issue. The Kentucky process- when a little bourbon helps move things along.

Jared Cosulich

Personally I think having beer/wine/scotch on hand at the office is a great thing. For one it's a sign of trust and responsibility (we trust you can manage having alcohol on hand in a responsible manner) and it tells people that it's ok to have a drink and unwind if they want to.

Like you said it's probably not a good idea in some circumstances (hospital, school, etc), but I think it's a great thing and a sign of trust in most businesses.

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