Just in time for this Sunday's season premiere of Mad Men, the New York Post has an article which celebrates that most professional of traditions—office drinking. The Post notes that "the office cocktail is alive and well in New York’s tech and marketing industries" and reports on one woman who mixes a drink for her co-workers that consists of rye, an orange slice, and "spoonfuls of powdered sugar," which sounds like the worst Old Fashioned ever. "Spoonfuls of powdered sugar"? That couldn't be more wrong.
Anyway, the Post reports that "drinking in the office isn’t just good for employee morale—it also might boost the bottom line" and references a study done by "researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago [who] found that slightly intoxicated participants were better and faster at creative problem-solving tasks compared to their sober counterparts." So, what's the problem then? If drinking boosts both office camaraderie and productivity, how can there possibly be any downside? Well, over on The Atlantic Wire, Jen Doll offers a counterpoint to the idea that imbibing at work is a foolproof plan to achieve professional glory. In fact, Doll thinks that "drinking in the office sort of sucks" and that it leads to things like "in-office hangovers" and that it's actually a trick devised to get you to stay at work longer, thus robbing you of a chance to "head off into the quivering moonlight to meet some friends down the block," which is a thing some people do. Let's pause for a moment to think about the words "quivering moonlight" before continuing. Done? Ok, then.
Doll does have a point. Drinking in the office is not all fun and games. Just like drinking in real life is not necessarily all fun and games, although most of the time it is. But as someone who works in a somewhat non-traditional workplace, where drinking occasionally (frequently) occurs, I think it's worthwhile to consider both sides of the drinking in the office coin. The most important thing to remember, in all of this, is that you never want to be your office's Roger Sterling. I mean, is Roger Sterling charming and fun? Sometimes! But he also renders himself obsolete by only drinking and never actually working. And so, he is therefore the saddest character by far, worse even than Pete Campbell. Because one day, Roger will disappear and no one will even notice, except that everything at the office will suddenly be more efficient and productive. Plus, there'll be more bourbon for everyone else, because he won't be keeping it all for himself. Anyway, here are the pros and cons of office drinking.
Pro: Building Professional Relationships
So, offices. They're for being professional, right? And that's all well and good, but because so much work and inter-office communicating happens solely on screens it can be important to spend face time with your co-workers outside of the actual office. Maybe even at a bar? Yes! Maybe. Are you thinking that this isn't necessary? That your work should speak for itself and that you shouldn't feel obligated to socialize with your colleagues? Well, go right ahead and think that, but you are not going to go very far in your career. Responsibly building personal relationships with the people you work with is very important to professional success. Bosses like to enjoy spending time with the people they are, you know, going to have to spend a lot of time around, and one way to prove that you're not a boring killjoy is to go out and have a drink or two with colleagues and show them your winning personality. You don't have a winning personality? Don't worry! That's why alcohol is so great. It instantly makes you more charming. It's magical that way.
Con: Ruining Professional Relationships
The flip-side to building a professional relationship through drinking, is that this is also the quickest way to ruin one, thus turning you into a kind of office cliché. Just as easily as you can turn colleagues into friends after having a couple of beers together, you can turn colleagues into enemies by having more than a couple of beers together. The thing is, you have to know your limit and stick to it. Do NOT be tempted to partake in that extra round because everyone else is. This could lead to a situation where your co-workers have to drag you to a cab and trust that you'll wake up in time to give the driver accurate directions because they don't know exactly where you live and can only tell the driver a general neighborhood. You really don't want to be that person. It will be hard to ever show your face in the office again, and nobody wants that.
Pro: Increased Productivity
This is especially true in a creative field where a lot of brainstorming can take place over a few rounds of whiskey sodas. Ideas start flowing and people feed off each other's energy and it's all just a really positive thing. As Andrew Jarosz, one of the author's of that University of Illinois at Chicago points out, "In general, being able to focus or control your attention is a good thing for most cognitive tasks. But sometimes too much focus may not be the best thing.” And if anything can help you lose focus, it's drinking. It's really good that way.
Con:Your Ideas When Drunk Might Not Be Entirely Useful
So, speaking from personal experience, sometimes the brilliant ideas that get scribbled down after your third or fourth drink are not actually that brilliant when you look at them the next day. In fact, sometimes, the "work" that you do when you're drinking needs to get completely redone when you're totally sober. So while it might feel like you are getting things accomplished, you are really just wasting time.
Pro: It Saves You Money/You Will Probably Drink Nicer Booze than Usual
The nice thing about office drinking—perhaps the nicest?—is that you usually are not buying your own drinks. It's usually put on a company card or something and so you can, as Virginia Smith mentions, "pre-game" by drinking at work before going out, thus saving you a lot of money. Virginia also notes that when your boss is buying drinks, he or she usually buys much nicer stuff than you could usually afford to buy. The benefits of this do not need to be explained.
Con: Beer Does Not Taste As Good As Chocolate Milk
This is debatable. Personally, I prefer beer to chocolate milk. But some people, like L Mag editor Lauren Beck, do not. So, if you don't like to drink alcohol and instead like to take in all your daily calories through sugar and dairy consumption, office drinking might not be for you.
Pro: It's a Fun Way to Spend Time
Drinking can be so fun. It's something so many people enjoy. And so if you manage to incorporate something you really love into your work, what could go wrong? I mean, isn't that the point of loving things? To turn them into work? I'm pretty sure that's how it goes.
Con: It Might Ruin the Rest of Your Life
This is a real thing that could happen. If you're spending all your time drinking with your co-workers, the rest of your life might suffer. For example, maybe you have a dog. If you're always at a bar "brainstorming," that dog will get lonely and sad and maybe act passive-aggressively toward you by, I don't know, shitting on your rug or biting you. Poor dog. So, whatever you do, don't forget about your dog as you're out having fun with your co-workers. As long as you keep that in mind, bottoms up.
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