I’m not in the habit of turning down a happy hour, but extra face time with coworkers is not always the answer to unwinding. A work happy hour is a category all its own, and now that companies are working on making their employees “more engaged,” sponsored happy hours are coming around more often than ever.
So, that begs the question: how many office happy hours are you obliged to attend?
I’m lucky enough to love the people I work with, but even so, after all day with them sometimes you just want to go home. And a lot of people hate their coworkers, so a happy hour or holiday party could just be someone’s eighth circle of hell.
Free drinks and bad company are not a good combination, especially if you’ve just spent all day with the aforementioned bad company.
But aren’t you a team player? Isn’t this a great opportunity to make sure your boss knows your name? And what a great time to talk to that person whose team you’re trying to get on!
You may not like this, but the answer is: it’s valuable to go most of the time.
(If you’re the boss, the rules are a little different.)
Even if it feels like pulling teeth, and you have to wear your work clothes (and bra) for a little longer, office happy hours are a great opportunity in a lot of different ways. It does make you seem like a team player, and it gives you the chance to corner your boss to impress them among other things.
Other than the more obvious and concrete pro’s, an office happy hour is great networking practice. But, it’s also great practice relating to people who you may not want to be with. Honestly, mastering that skill may get you farther than any master’s degree.
And just like networking, when you’re chatting with someone at the bar, make it a worthwhile experience for you and them. This isn’t just any old drink, it’s an opportunity to make a connection and be valuable to someone. And itsn’t that the kind of reputation you want to have around the office?
Just like people remember your last day at the office more than the years you spent working in the cubicle next to them, people are more likely to remember the impression you make out of the office when they don’t have their entire to-do list looming in the back of their mind.
And if you need to set a goal for each happy hour, you can focus on that instead of your annoying coworkers story about her blog for the hundredth time. It’s a success if you come away caring at least a little bit about someone there.
So, think of your happy hour obligations more as a duty to yourself and your work experience. If you can find one new way to relate to someone, not only will your happy hour be more bearable, but your coworkers and your days at the office will probably become more bearable as well.
Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).