Drinking at Work Events

Today's myth for Myth Monday is one that troubled me for a while:

Stick to 1 drink at work events where alcohol is present

This is a big one.  I first heard this myth when I was a junior in college with no experience in Corporate America.  To me, I was thinking: "this makes complete sense."  Your career is priority # 1 and you wouldn't want to have too many drinks and jeopardize your career.  While you obviously do not want to do anything to jeopardize your career, having 1 drink at a work event is not a firm rule.

Realities of Work Social Events

I'll caveat this next section by saying my experience is limited to the marketing department.

The first work social event I attended was as an intern.  Everyone that was there was having a great time and socializing over drinks.  I did not notice a single person saying "I've had my one drink, time to switch to water."  Rather, they did what they felt comfortable with.  People, of course, have different levels of comfort with drinking, especially at company events.  A lot of people prefer to let loose and let their guard down a bit and consume their fair share of beverages.

I have seen and heard of many employees and friends that have gone to a happy hour and had far too much to drink (myself included).  They were not fired nor was their reputation permanently tarnished.  Very few things are permanent.  While others will remember that time they had too many drinks and were acting out of the ordinary, they remember it, likely, as a memory to look back on and laugh with other employees.  Just make sure you don't go up to the VP of your department and say something regrettable after having a few drinks.

A positive of these types of events is people let their guard down.  What a perfect time to network and meet other people!  There are likely a lot of people at these types of events that you haven't met.  Take advantage of that and any liquid courage you have to introduce yourself to someone new.

Comparison to Undergrad

While drinking at work events is significantly tamer than social drinking events as an undergrad, there are still similarities to note.  In undergrad, you look forward to going to happy hour with your friends.  Corporate America is the same.  These types of events are the ones that people get excited for and can't wait to experience.  It is funny to see people in an environment outside of the office - especially something for which they are excited.

As an undergrad, you are likely caught up in the binge drinking culture (not judging).  Corporate America, while not exactly the same, does enjoy participating in the drinking culture.  The mentality that I have found very true is:

Work hard, play hard

As cliche as it sounds, you are rewarded for pushing to better yourself and the company.  The same is true as an undergrad - you work hard to get good grades, so you should celebrate.

What if I don't drink at all?

Not to fear!  I know people that do not drink at all.  They are not looked down upon in the social circles at these events as a result of their active choice to pass on alcohol.  If you do choose not to drink, you definitely still need to go to these social work events.  They are still a great opportunity for you to: 

  1. Have a good time in a social setting with colleagues
  2. Meet new people 

It's fine that you don't drink - people will respect your choice and, frankly, don't invest too much thought into it.


If you are an intern, these thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt.  You do not yet have a job and are still trying to impress people.  One step out of line could be the difference between getting a job offer or not.

If you are not of legal drinking age, but have other means to drink at a bar (you know what I'm talking about), do so at your own risk.  I know people that have done this and nothing happened to them, luckily.  This could be incredibly dicey if others know how old you really are.  Or worse - the bouncer doesn't let you in.  That would be embarrassing and will reflect terribly on your judgement.

Do not over-consume to the point where you pass out or endanger yourself.  It is impossible to make a good impression if you are passed out at the bar.  Even if people laugh it off the next day, not a great way to present yourself.

My Experiences with Drinking at Work Events

While I am certainly not going to share specific stories about my own personal consumption at work events, I will say I have experienced some interesting, and fun, happenings.  I have seen an all you can drink booze cruise lead to a 3+ hour bar crawl.  I have seen a baseball game that turned into a 6+ hour open bar.  There are certainly interesting scenarios as a result of drinking at work events.  I view drinking at work events as an opportunity to let loose a bit and get to know my colleagues in casual environment.  And, as I mentioned above, I am still employed and live to tell the tale.

Thought Starters

  • What is your perception of drinking at work events?
  • How would you approach a work event where you know there is an open bar?