Whether you got so intoxicated that you threw up outside the bar where happy hour took place, or you came on too strong to a co-worker, or chatted your boss’ ear off about your latest dating escapades, you don’t need me to tell you that getting too drunk comes with a whole host of issues.
Not only do you risk embarrassing yourself and the people you have to see every day, but you’re also forced to deal with the morning after, a morning in which you may not even fully remember the sequence of events. Why did you send that text? Post that picture? Did you really suggest that your team do a wet T-shirt contest at the next retreat? As you take inventory of the hours, you feel sick all over again.
Was it worth it?
Of course not. But you don’t need a lecture on that or a rundown of the best workplace behavior in social situations; you need advice on fixing things fast when you drink too much at a work event.
1. Make Amends or Apologies
When you wake up regretting things you said or did (even if you can’t quite remember any or all of it), the smartest course of action is to own up to it. Get ahead of it before the offended or freaked out party has time to be annoyed at you for sweeping whatever happened under the rug. Try this to a work pal or teammate:
“Oof, last night started out so great. I can’t believe I ruined a perfectly good time by failing to pace myself. I’m really sorry if I said anything not cool or was rude in any way. I definitely need to practice limiting myself in those situations. I hope you can accept my apology and that we can move past this.”
And if you suspect that you made a scene in front of your boss and are concerned that she finds your behavior questionable or, worse, unacceptable, reach out before she does:
“I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night. It was so great getting the team together, and I regret having too much to drink. Lesson learned.”
Since it can be an awkward topic of conversation, addressing it head on is helpful in getting the elephant in the room out in the open. Unless this is a regular occurrence, your co-worker or manager is probably not going to feel the need to keep talking about it; they’ll just be relieved that you acknowledged it and are committed to acting more appropriately going forward.
2. Stay Sober
Unfortunately, some people have long memories that tend not to easily forget the negative stuff. Assuming your vague or specific apology (depending on your own recollection of the night) was accepted and things are back to normal, use the next outing as an opportunity to prove that you’re not about to make a habit of that infamous evening.
It’s not necessarily super fun to sip club soda while your colleagues are drinking the hard stuff, but it can make the difference in salvaging your reputation in case it’s truly being questioned by anyone.
Plus, you’ll see how nice it feels to wake up and head to work the next morning without a headache or concern over what might’ve gone down. If anyone gives you a hard time for skipping the champagne toast in favor of water, pull out a white lie if you need to: “I’ve got an early morning, but I didn’t want to miss the team celebration. It’s so awesome to get everyone out of the office. Cheers!”
Mingle, make small talk, get to know new co-workers. After an hour or two of showing off your sober self, head home.
No matter what kind of night you’re trying to live down, try not to let it consume you. If it’s a weeknight happy hour or networking function, force yourself to get into the office freshly showered in clean clothing. How you present yourself the day after will help you deal with how terrible you feel. And taking ownership will help earn you some of the responsibility points you lost while you were bragging about your college keg stand record.
Oh, and in the future, figure out how many drinks you can handle on a night out with the crew—and stick to that every time. If you respect your professional self, everyone else will too.
Photo of woman looking concerned courtesy of People Images/Getty Images.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author