Why I choose not to drink with workmates

I’ve been in the tech industry since I was a wee lass, starting with my first job at Google, right out of finishing my MS in Computer Science. I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with many ways of interacting with workmates since then, and after seeing enough of those experiments go awry, I’ve now made the decision that I will not drink alcohol in work situations.

You can likely guess why, but let me first provide you with far too much information on how alcohol affects my mindstate. As soon as I drink alcohol, my mind gets consumed with only one goal: making out. It stops looking at people’s eyes and looks only at their mouths. It doesn’t care whatsoever what they’re saying, solely that they’re the owners of a mouth.

This mindstate works just fine and dandy if I’m on a date, but it doesn’t work out so well when I’m in a work context. At the minimum, it results in me being a completely inattentive conversational partner. At the maximum, it results in forever damaged work relationships and sometimes even (!) adultery.

Now, I find myself objecting to this argument, thinking “well, sometimes workmates make out and then get married and then live happily ever after!” And that is very true, many people find their life partners at work. However, in my experience, the most lasting relationships result when two people are mutually attracted and compatible enough to not need alcohol as the catalyst. When I run the stats on my own track record, alcohol-induced beginnings are more highly correlated with short-term, unsuccessful relationships.

I am also in a much different position in the hierarchy than when I first started out in the industry. As a youngin’, I was an individual contributor, not managing anyone. It didn’t matter too much if something happened with someone on my team, because we were all peers of each other.

Nowadays, I tend to also be a manager of people, and my most recent position was a CTO with a team of young interns. Managing is tricky enough, why add any unnecessary awkwardness to the mix? So I avoided the work situations that possibly involved drinking.

But I knew it was important for me to find some way to socialize with workmates, so I came up with different ways to bond socially that didn’t involve drinking. For example, we had Crafty Hour instead of Happy Hour, and every day at 2pm, we had our daily “Shake-Off”, a bunch of group improv games and stretches. It’s possible some teammates thought those were lame, and if so, I apologize. I’m glad that I found a way that worked for me, though.

I also think that it’s now much riskier to be drinking in the tech industry, given that drinking tends to lead to bad decisions, and that bad decisions can easily be broadcasted far and wide on social media. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from my bad decisions in an earlier time, as I don’t know how well I’d recover from internet-scale scandal. Bad decisions are bad enough on their own.

So I choose to no longer drink in work situations. It’s not worth it, for me. I expect everyone else to make their own decision about what works for them, and I am simply sharing my perspective in case it is interesting.