Why Margarita Ice Luges Don’t Belong in the Workplace
Sorry to rain on your Patrón parade, but a company that relies heavily on a corporate drinking culture is seriously jeopardizing its productivity and diminishing its professionalism.
I’ve worked in many places, from a large New York City ad agency to suburban communications firms. With the exception of one company that held a holiday party in which everyone spoke civilly over chicken cacciatore and yes, a bit of wine, most places focused on boozing it up. Big time.
When any reason is a reason to drink up
As such, I’ve observed drooling higher-ups, received sloppy hugs from people in departments I rarely associated with and observed plenty of next-day absences — and this at an occasional company happy hour.
So you can imagine an all-out booze fest, AKA, The Holiday Party. Although the Summer Party, the Retirement Party, the “We Just Won an Account” Party or the “Holy Crap, I Can’t Believe They Let Him Go, of All People” Party are not too far behind in their ability to turn company presidents and staff members into speech-slurring strategists.
While some may enjoy teetering on the edge of the professional/wild-college-days wire and encourage staff to follow suit, it’s not a good idea.
The problems a company faces when it focuses on a drinking culture
According to a Washington Post article, a work environment that’s heavily focused on drinking can be detrimental to a company on many levels. From lost costs associated with absenteeism and slowed productivity to dealing with potential on-the-job accidents that could occur from having one too many during a lunch meeting or another drink-related outing, a company can suffer.
So, whether it’s attempting to lure new clients over shots at the trendy local restaurant or placing an emphasis on happy hour brainstorming sessions, problems can arise.
The article notes that finding a balance is essential and that doing so involves asking questions such as “if we had a social event that didn’t involve alcohol, would employees attend?” If they’re often motivated solely based on whether or not alcohol will be served, it’s likely that the corporate culture is one that tries too hard to “win” clients and employees over by dangling the “aren’t we just a thrill-a-minute-company?”carrot in front of them.
Here are some carrot-dangling doozies I’ve heard along the way:
1. “We Have Great Holiday Parties with Lots of Drinks”
During an interview a few years back, I was told the company had great holiday parties where “lots of drinks” were served. Somehow I doubted the drinks were sodas and hot chocolates spiked with candy canes. The holiday season was indeed in full swing during the interview, which made the comment somewhat relevant. Still, this was mentioned prior to other “benefits” such as their matching 401K and insurance plans. I was reminded of this outstanding drink-filled event two more times before the interview ended.
I wanted to work at a company that emphasized values, not vodka, thank you very much.
2. “Oh, C’mon.” (Pause) “I Heard They’ll be Serving Alcohol”
Sometimes the mention of alcohol is tossed in a conversation in an attempt to get someone to change their mind.
C’mon, go to that non-mandatory after-work “meeting” in the conference room. Don’t want to? What if I said there will be …wait for it … alcohol!
Well, then, by all means, let me cancel my plans for an evening at home with my husband so I can partake in a slobbering drama-fest disguised as a team-building event. Cheers!
3. “You Won’t Want to Miss Betty Getting Sh*tfaced with the Boss. It’s Hilarious!”
Um, no. I’m pretty sure I will want to miss out on this thrilling, must-see event.
4. “Wow.” (Pitiful tone) “He Doesn’t Drink Much, Does He?”
Yes, there are people who are perfectly fine not getting wasted with the boss (or anyone else for that matter). They actually enjoy having a drink or two for the sheer fact that they like the flavor and the state of relaxation it can evoke rather than doing so to demonstrate to co-workers that they’re buttoned up by day, Jell-O-shot enthusiasts by night. Perhaps they don’t even drink alcohol at all (oh, the horror!). That’s fine too.
Boozy bets and next-day absences: is this really professionalism at its best?
Ladies and gentlemen, fun and success in the corporate world need not be synonymous with drinking like it’s going out of style. Not only can it lead to the aforementioned problems, but it can create issues for those in the throes of their own personal drinking or emotional struggles. Sure, there are silly comments floating around about how drinking is amazing because nothing interesting ever started with someone eating a salad, but that doesn’t mean a company should adopt it as part of their unspoken corporate policy.
Yet it continues to happen.
In my experiences, a significant emphasis on drinking in the workplace creates a culture that focuses more on non-work-related efforts than anything else. Time is wasted talking about how much fun was had the night before or how so-and-so can “really hold her own” more than how a company can find balance and thrive. Bets are placed on who will get plastered first at the company picnic or who will call out “sick” the next day. All of this sends the message that a corporation embraces a culture of belonging based on one’s ability to hold liquor instead of, say, the client’s attention.
Additionally, there’s even more of a tolerance, if not a downright preference, for those who are deeply entrenched in the corporate drinking culture. For example, people are often all right with someone who frequently misses deadlines or is always late to work because, annoying as it is, they sure are a ton of fun when it comes time to enjoying a round of shots — so, case dismissed.
Have I attended happy hours and enjoyed company parties before? Of course. But I didn’t latch on to them like the be-all-end-all events that some places suggested doing; when the chaos started to unfold, that’s when you’d see me heading off, the martini ice luges fading away — right along with a good chunk of previously-held company admiration.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com.