Should You Go for After-Work Drinks With Your Coworkers?

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If you’ve been to any of the bars and restaurants around Bay Street in Toronto, you know that they are popular gathering places for the after-work crowd. It’s not just the people in suits who enjoy this custom. People in bars all over Toronto and the GTA are meeting up after work and getting to know their coworkers in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Whether you should go for drinks or avoid this scene is an important career decision. A couple years ago, Forbes magazine published an article titled Is Skipping After-Work Drinks Harmful Or Helpful To Your Career?

When you start a new job, you probably wait for that invitation because it means you’ve been accepted by your peers. Sometimes the boss will take people out for drinks. In that case, it’s difficult to say no, even if you just want to get home after work.

Hanging out with work friends in a bar may be fun, but it can easily go wrong. Alcohol loosens our inhibitions, and there are many people who’ve found that drinking can be a career killer.

Whether to drink with your workmates or skip the bar is a decision you have to make based on a number of factors. Here are some things to think about before you order that beer.

Networking

Having a cocktail or beer after work is a great way to bond with your colleagues and do a bit of networking. It’s a time to let the stress of the day go and talk about something other than work.

Know yourself

If you are someone who can’t handle your liquor and you become belligerent or too talkative after a few drinks, you could be causing major problems for your career, especially if your supervisor is part of the group.

How many is too many?

One drink, maybe two, but after that, get out of there. There are always a few who will close down the bar. Even if your boss is one of those people, you need to be able to function at work the next day. The drunker you get, the more likely you will do or say something stupid. Remember that everyone carries smartphones, and what you do may end up online (or worse, in the hands of all your coworkers and managers).

Family time

Some people have families and can’t afford the time to go out for drinks after work when they have children to attend to and dinner to make. That’s a good reason to say no, although if you have a chance to meet with the group on one of their regular Friday after-work get-togethers, it’s nice to attend the odd time if you have the means.

Don’t form a habit

Don’t let this social time become a habit. Plenty of people meet for a drink on Friday when the week is done, but going to the bar every evening may mean you have a problem. Even if you don’t, it will look like you have one. Develop a life outside of your work clique.

Sobriety

If you’re sober, or struggling with an alcohol problem, the last thing you need is that temptation. You can order a non-alcoholic drink, if you feel that being around people drinking isn’t a problem for you, but why put yourself through that? If you feel comfortable talking about your sobriety, let people know you are a recovering alcoholic. If you feel spreading that knowledge around is detrimental to your career, just say you don’t drink and leave it at that. Those that don’t respect your decision aren’t worth hanging out with anyway.

Potential side effects

Because alcohol reduces inhibitions, women are more likely to be the target of sexual harassment or worse. If you are a woman, use the same caution you would if you were out drinking with anyone. Don’t leave drinks unattended with people you don’t know well. For both men and women: don’t accept a ride home from a coworker if you feel uneasy, and don’t allow any colleague to make you feel uncomfortable.

It’s fine to go out for drinks in a group, but remember that office gossip can ruin reputations. Don’t feel pressured If you really don’t want to go, don’t let the office partiers pressure you. If you don’t want to be perceived as a stick in the mud, it’s okay to say you have other plans.

Employers are more impressed with people who come to work on time and are clear-headed. The guy in the next cubicle with the hangover isn’t going to be as on the ball as you are the next day.

Getting home

Don’t go to the bar if you don’t have a way to get home. A drunk driving charge isn’t going to help your career when you lose your licence and have no way to get to work. Plus, you could harm yourself or others. Many companies conduct criminal background checks on new employees, and a DUI doesn’t look good to potential employers.

As long as you are in control, you can enjoy social time with your colleagues, but staying in control is the key. There are many places in Toronto where you can enjoy your after-work drink and raise a toast to your future – remember what is most important, and you’ll do fine.

Pamela Stewart is a Toronto area freelance writer. She is a former private investigator and investigations manager. She also managed a pre-employment background screening division and currently works part-time with a Human Resources company conducting pre-employment interviews. You can follow her at pamelamariestewart.com.

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