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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

5 Situations to Avoid at Office Happy Hour

Spring’s in full swing, patio bars abound, and your managers are calling for cocktails after work for some out-of-office bonding. Sounds like the perfect way to blow off some steam—especially when your boss is picking up the tab. But before you start throwing back those margaritas, beware. Here are five situations you want to avoid at office happy hour so you can come in the next morning feeling refreshed—and not awkward.

1. The Gossiping Gabbys

It’s always a good feeling to be a part of a group, especially when that group is the office in-crowd. But, if the price you have to pay to hang out with them at happy hour is dishing dirt about your other colleagues, run the other way. The last thing you want is to get caught playing telephone about someone in the office. Plus, chances are, the Gabbys have worked together for years, and while they probably keep each other’s secrets, that doesn’t mean they’ll be so loyal to you, the newbie.

If you find you’ve wound up with this crowd, it doesn’t mean you have to be rude or make some dramatic, self-righteous exit—just politely excuse yourself to the ladies’ room and choose another group to mingle with.

2. One-on-One with the Office Flirt

He’s cute, charismatic, funny, and suave. You’ve seen him in the office a dozen times before but could never quite get his attention—wasn’t he was dating that redhead on the 14th floor? Never mind that now—tonight, he’s all about you, ordering you drinks, asking about your family, interested in your roommate’s upcoming art show, and hanging on your every word.

Snap out of it. He’s smooth because he’s a career wooer, and you don’t want to end up being his flavor of the week, or worse—the talk of the office. Those Gossiping Gabbys would have a field day if they caught you crying in your cubicle over this guy or got the inside scoop on some action behind closed doors. My advice: As soon as he tries to pull you into personal convo, laugh, make it light, and turn that pretty little head of yours right back around to the larger group.

3. The Therapy Session

As we were all told in those mandatory substance-abuse informational videos in middle school, alcohol is a depressant. (Maybe you’ve already experienced this, when you found yourself rambling about your ex in a bathroom of strangers during your best friend’s bachelorette party). And that means, if your boss (or anyone else, for that matter) starts slurring about his or her personal problems after one too many Chardonnays—it’s your cue to leave.

I know it may seem a little harsh not to provide a listening ear, but trust me, if you’re on the receiving end of divorce drama, your over-sharer will likely distance herself from you back in the office tomorrow out of utter embarrassment. You’re trying to get on your boss’s good side—not be a reminder of her personal issues.

4. Cheers with the Interns

This not only applies to interns, but also to any junior staff working under you: Do not, under any circumstance, raise your glass when they yell for shots. (Actually, for the record, you shouldn’t be considering shots at any office function.)

I understand that you may only be a few years older than some of them, or you may want to be seen as the cool boss, the one who can still hang. Still, don’t do it. Once you do, you’ve put yourself on their level, and your authority come Monday morning will be slipping out of your fingers as fast as you downed that glass.

5. College Humor

Those four years were great. And, those sorority house stories and embarrassing party moments are legendary. But they’re better left with those who witnessed them first-hand.

I know—when you’ve run out of things to talk about, and it seems like the only things you have in common with your co-workers are college and the drinks in front of you, it’s easy to fall back on those tipsy tales. But, the name Wet Pants Pam you acquired after taking a dare to dive off the roof is not exactly how you want to be remembered in the office. Sure, you might soak up the applause initially, but you’ll soon resent being known for your great college story rather than your performance. You’re better off not going there.

Believe it or not, happy hours can be fun even when abiding by these rules. It’s a time where you can get to know your co-workers, network, and make a lasting impression on managers, all while getting that well-deserved break and delightfully fruity drink. It’s all about speaking and sipping in moderation, and steering clear of those compromising situations. Cheers to your next office happy hour!

Photos courtesy of Smoobs, Lucy Boynton, John O'Nolan, gothopotam, Raelene Gutierrez, and Lorena Cupcake.