6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Office Happy Hour

Whether you’re the gregarious sort who looks forward to every social gathering like a kid looks forward to Christmas or more the wallflower type who finds small talk intolerable, hitting the occasional happy hour with the work crew can help you climb the career ladder. After-work professional gatherings provide the perfect opportunity to get to know those you see daily as more than the title on their nametag.

Making the right impression after hours may not seem as important as grinding hard on the daily, but there’s a reason for the saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In corporate America, those who establish a reputation for their character, as well as their production ability, get promoted more quickly. Here’s how to work your next office happy hour like the boss you hope to become someday.

1. Say Hi to the New Guy

Remember how awkward you felt the first day on the job? Everyone, no matter how confident they appear, suffers the jitters when new to the crew. Make a point to introduce yourself to that new girl two cubicles over. Better yet, take her around to meet others as well. She’ll appreciate the inclusion, and you’ll gain a solid office ally.

2. Plan Discussion Topics in Advance

Introverted types often stammer while trying to think of things to say. Before the gathering, jot down some icebreaker questions to have something appropriate to discuss in advance. You can’t go wrong by asking someone in another department what challenges their position entails.

Steer away from conversations that turn overly personal. It’s great to know Bob in accounting enjoys jet skiing on the weekend, but less pleasant to learn he’s going through a nasty divorce due to his spouses’ infidelity.

Save political, religious or overly personal chats for a time when the whole gang isn’t gathered.

3. Offer a Listening Ear

That said, practicing active listening scores you major points without having to say much yourself at all. People enjoy talking about themselves when their audience proves receptive. Nod, smile at appropriate times and ask open-ended questions to prompt co-workers to open up more.

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4. Lend the Hostess a Hand

Some work happy hours take place in pubs and eateries where hopping behind the bar to help hoist a keg would be deemed inappropriate. However, when functions take place in the office potluck style, offering to help out whoever won the coveted position of event organizer earns brownie points. Even when off the clock, employers and co-workers value those who go the extra mile to help when needed.

5. Hobnob With the Head Honchos

During busy workdays, simply catching the boss’s eye long enough to ask a pressing question proves challenging. Higher-ups in any organization maintain hectic schedules that leave little time for more than the occasional nod while passing in the hallway. After hours the bonds of superiority fall away, making this the perfect time to improve your relationships with your supervisors.

Make sure you don’t overstay your welcome or dominate your boss’s time. Those in managerial positions shoulder the expectation of giving everyone equal ear time, so exchange your pleasantries and let them converse with others.

6. Make a Gracious Exit

Everyone’s familiar with the saying “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” This principle goes double or more when attending work-related functions, especially those held at the office.

Just as no server appreciates diners who enter five minutes before closing and order a complete soup-to-nuts meal, the receptionist or co-worker responsible for turning off the lights doesn’t enjoy glancing at their watches and sighing while you linger over the punch bowl with your new cubicle bestie.

Stay long enough to make pleasantries with most folks, but resist the temptation to shut the place down. Besides, staying longer ups the possibility of having one drink too many — and few people hoping to keep their jobs want that.

Mixing Work and Play

The office happy hour presents the opportunity for all staff members to let their hair down a bit and get to know their team members as unique individuals, not mere workplace drones. Such events foster a spirit of camaraderie and cohesiveness in an organization. Make a winning impression at your next office meet-and-greet, and prepare to climb the corporate ladder.

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Originally published at Productivity Theory.