If you’re not already enjoying happy hour with your colleagues, you may want to reconsider. Not only is it a wonderful way to build friendships, but a casual drink or appetizer after normal working hours can often be just what your team needs to finish a deal or brainstorm the perfect idea for a project. Something about that relaxed atmosphere and change of scenery fosters creativity in ways a conference room does not. But after 8 hours in your pumps, it can be hard to transition from work mode to fun, especially where conversation is concerned. Just what do you talk about with your boss and team at happy hour?!
Carson Griffith, a New York-based writer and girl-about-town, should know. She covers nightlife, society and social mores for Town & Country, the Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair, and in her tenure she’s sipped tons of cocktails with colleagues. Below are her dos and don’ts for a successful corporate happy hour, crafted just for us—and you.
DO make sure to include everyone. Being inclusionary in activities and conversation goes a long way in business, as in life. Invite everyone from accounting—not just your friends—and don’t stand in a corner with your work bestie the whole night, gabbing about the hot guy in accounting or your holiday plans. You might be pleasantly surprised by how interesting the quieter coworkers are, but you’ll never know if you don’t engage with them.
DON’T talk about your (very) personal life. Or ask about your coworkers’ most private moments. No one needs to imagine each other unclothed at the vending machine the next day.
DO stick to neutral topics. If you can’t bring up politics, money, religion or anything else controversial, stick to lighter subjects. Even if an election-fueled feud doesn’t escalate at the table, your coworkers may remember the tension tomorrow at the office. A no-fail topic is style, of course. Drop a compliment on a coworker’s sandals, and you’ll make a friend for life.
DO say thank you. Twice. Did your boss (or a superior) pick up the tab? Did a colleague go out of her way to organize the gathering in the first place? Make sure to say thanks at the end of the night and follow up with a quick note the next day. Such small, polite gestures will go a long way.
DON’T order the last drink. Do you really want to be known as the employee who can’t handle her liquor? Or sang a karaoke song out of tune? Professionalism is not a thing that’s reserved for the office when in the presence of your colleagues, so save yourself the embarrassment (or worse) and sip a non-alcoholic nightcap instead.