I’m So Sick of Happy Hours

I’m so sick of happy hour being the universally acceptable way to socialize with your co-workers. I’ve had more than my share of experiences with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde over the years and I’m so tired of being a spectator of this transformation. Alcohol (even the tiniest bit) can change a person’s personality and for the most part, I don’t want to see that side of you. As a person that can’t drink because of medical reasons, standing around holding a glass of water or iced tea just to fit in while listening to you ramble on in your inebriated state about why your job sucks and what everyone else should do about it isn’t as fun as it sounds.

How about building camaraderie during business hours when we’re required to be around each other? As much as I like my job, I work to live not live to work. And as much as I like my co-workers, 8 hours is really enough. After a busy day at work, I want to go home not hang out with my co-workers more! I understand having a drink may be some people’s way of winding down. My way is by chasing a little white ball, but I don’t invite all my co-workers for an after-work outing at the nearest municipal golf course mostly because you’ll likely just bring your liquid vice with you anyways.

I’m not ranting about Happy Hour per-se. I’m ranting about people’s inability to control themselves. Since the regulation of the amount of alcohol you consume can’t be guaranteed to ruin my working relationship with you and since I can’t go down that road with you and be mutually culpable, I’d rather avoid the potential complication. The sad thing is that people see an observation of drunkenness to improve the working relationship. My sober observation is that even when you think it does, it does not. I’m all for breaking down formalities but maybe we should draw the line at substance abuse.

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Stephen Peteritas

Great post. Honestly I went running with a co worker yesterday and the conversation was better than it would have been over drinks.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

I like Jerry and Stephen’s ideas. My favorite way to get to know my co-workers/team is to volunteer together to serve others (rather than serving ourselves). Exercising together works too, or just working together on a project team. I’m not a fan of happy hours either, but I was working under the (false) assumption that this is the preferred venue for up and coming young professionals.

Corey McCarren

I like that idea of volunteering, Terry. Constructive activities like running or volunteering is a great way to team-build and I’ve found that through things that take dedication and effort you can relate better. The biggest problem for me with the happy hour would be “different strokes for different folks”, and if the team only ever wants to do happy hours, then that can isolate team members. I think variety is key.

Peter Sperry

Other than some sales and marketing or fundraising events, I’ve never heard of happy hours outside of work being mandatory, certainly not in the Federal government. If you don’t like them, don’t go. As for your coworkers’ alcohol consumption, unless it is being done on the job or impacts job performance, it really is none of your business. And most people who have an eye on career advancement make a point of NOT getting drunk at happy hours. I am sure you are not the only one drinking ice tea, although I usually go for Diet Coke.

Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci

I always use happy hours as a way to meet new people … or catch up with someone I haven’t seen in a long time. I have never heard of mandatory happy hours — that doesn’t sound fun at all!

Jeff Chao

This rant was more focused on the HH thing specifically but presumably the reason for HH is intended to be a team building exercise. And I suppose the more constructive discussion ๐Ÿ™‚ would be about getting better about having fun at work. The point being that team building shouldn’t be about what you do outside of work.

Justin Kerr-Stevens

In the UK we have a regular meet-up called ‘Tea Camp’. As it says on the tin:

Teacamps are informal gatherings for digital people who work in and around government. They are usually two hours long including a slot for a speaker and chatting over a cup of tea, hence the name ‘teacamp’.

They’ve been going since the first UKGov barcamp so the format seems to be popular. They’re intentionally informal so I’m not sure you could count attendance as an ‘official’ activity… having said that, it seems to be where a lot of ‘official’ business seems to get done!

Joe Flood

I like happy hours but not necessarily with coworkers. You’re right – eight hours is enough. I’ve worked where they’ve done alternative social activities, like chili cookoffs or baking contests or birthday celebrations. That seems more palatable. Tea Camp sounds brilliant. It’s a lot like a “brown bag lunch” where everyone brings their food and there’s a speaker.

Candace Riddle

I was always a fan of lunch and learns. Did this in the private sector when I was at an investment company. Generally we would have a mutual fund rep buy the office lunch and tell us something fantastic about why we should invest our clients in their funds…

Turn that around to government and you could pick one person out of the office to give an update on a project they are working on….order in lunch…or brown bag it. Either way its a nice informal way to get together. And great things happen over food too…not just beer.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Jeff – I was also thinking about the fact that hackathons or wikithons (don’t necessarily need to be technical for either) are another great way to get together in a social context with colleagues or like-minded others without all the drinking. GovLoop is toying with the idea of hosting “wonkathons” as well – get together for 2-3 hours and tackle a core problem in government with a report or document that can be presented to key stakeholders. A mind meld…again, without any alcohol involved…

Jack Shipley

I am totally with you on the Jekyll and Hyde issue. And I like lunch Brown Bag sessions a whole lot better. Thanks for posting this.

Kevin Lanahan

Jeff, I’m not sure I understand what the problem is. If the boss is taking everyone to a happy hour every week, that’s one thing, but a bunch of people meeting for a drink after work is just socializing. There’s no “team-building exercise” going on other than being friends. If you don’t drink for whatever reason, you can choose not to go or can have an alternative beverage.

If your coworkers are obnoxious drunks, I wouldn’t want to hang out with them, either.

Team-building exercises belong at work.

I like the idea of doing other activities. I’ve got a guy at work I ride bicycles with, and others that go ice skating over lunch. A few of us go to lunch for no reason at all except to socialize. And when we go to a happy hour, we have several non-drinkers who join us. We’re glad for their company and wouldn’t dream of being rude enough to comment on their sober status.

Is there someone at your work that likes golf? Go golfing with them if you think you’d enjoy their company.

Jo Youngblood

I’m with you on this one. I have two kids and another on the way. Happy hour is not even on my list of things to attend nor would it be appropriate. During work hours team building would be far more beneficial and better suited towards that work/life balance mentioned in today’s other highlighted post about how to keep talent around in your agency. Lets network at work, during work hours, in our work attire. Lets break down barriers in the office not outside of the office. Breaking down barriers outside of the office does not generalize to better working environment in the office.

Jeff Chao

So awesome to see both sides being represented here! Just to be clear, I was never “forced” to go to HH. I’d say it’s more so somewhere between “peer pressure” and “feeling left out.” HH is sometimes treated like that extra meeting people couldn’t fit in to the “regular” work day and decisions get made (or at least influenced) without your participation. And it’s often hard to not feel like that guy that missed the meeting who’s making everyone rehash everything that was discussed.

Peter Sperry

My obeservation over time has been that HH and most other socializing outside the office is dominated by younger staff who have the time for it. People with families or homes in the suburbs may be up for an annual office party or picnic but are less inclined to devote 1-3 nights week to socializing with anyone other than family and close friends. Consequently, socializing outside the office tends to consist of activities that appeal to younger people, drinking, softball, running as a group, spectator sports etc. While a most of the conversation is about business at first, as people get to know each other, the topics broaden. Also, probably 3/4 of the males are primaril interested in merger opportunities with the females that have little to do with business.

BTW, if you are working in or around government in DC and are under the age of 30, softball is much more of a required extracuricular activity than HH. I’ve known of Hill offices that hired junior legislative assistants based purely on their ability to help the office win the annual tournament. More than a few successful careers have been launched that way.

Julie Chase

Happy Hours with the “boss” buying drinks,….eh, no thanks. I thought it was common knowledge that gov employees not HH with the boss as it will construed, as “oh, now she/he has her/his pets.”

I have a few co workers I hang out with and we usually meet once a month for dinner out and bring our spouses. No team building and no discussion of WORK, period. We are out to have a good time. The door at work closes promptly at 4 pm, not to opened again until 7 am the next morning. Lunch during the day is only 30 minutes for some of us, so it’s difficult to meet with other have of the group for lunch, unless of course you want to take leave. There is a saying here, “do your 8 and out the gate.”

I guess the rules are different in DC, or on the Hill as some of you say. We aren’t tethered to our work after work.

Andrew Krzmarzick

I was just listening to a podcast on energy management and it suggested that one manager invites folks to go work out – walks, gym, team sports. How do you feel about that for a bonding alternative?

Julie Chase

Brent, really now. I am still stunned about drinking with the boss….that is a no no. As much I would like to have my boss over for a summer bbq, I know, and he knows that can’t happen. As for the OP, we have a guy in our office who doesn’t socialize. No big deal, he just prefers it that way. He business and cordial like during work hours, but after work, he doesn’t care to be our shrink.

Brent Bushey

I tend to enjoy office happy hours as I find them to be useful in networking and enjoyable. I do agree with Jeff that we do need to have more general fun around the office. For whatever reason, just having fun in the office in a federal setting seems to be frowned upon. I’m not talking about planned events (baby showers etc) as I don’t generally find those to be enjoyable events. Rather, I think Jeff’s post was trying to say that we should have a more enjoyable culture every day. I wholeheartedly agree with that concept… just don’t need Chao attacking my drinking to make his point. ๐Ÿ™‚ (btw– I work very closely with Jeff and have a lot of fun poking fun at him and vice versa)

Kevin Lanahan

Julie, I like your “do your eight and out the gate” motto. I fall into that school of thought.

I guess I don’t see happy hour as an extension of work. If I did, I wouldn’t go. But having a drink with my friends, I can do that. And it’s definitely optional, and it beats the pants off of office holiday parties.

And the first rule of happy hour: What happens at happy hour stays at happy hour.