Office Drinking Etiquette

Before you bring alcohol to the in-office party, make sure you won't tank your career in the process.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #350

Whether you drink on a regular basis or just on special occasions, the manner in which you drink takes on an entirely different connotation when you involve colleagues. There is nothing wrong with kicking some back with your coworkers at a happy hour, but what happens when alcohol is brought INTO the office?

I’ve spoken about “unhappy hours” in the past and how to properly handle yourself while drinking around colleagues. However, when alcohol makes its way into cubicles and conference rooms, things can take a rather uncomfortable turn. So before you tip a few back with Bill in Accounting, check out my top three quick and dirty tips for in-office drinking etiquette.

Tip #1: For Special Occasions Only

As cool as it was to watch Don and Roger drink like marathon runners dousing themselves with Dixie cups of water during a race, Mad Men was just a shownot reality. I mean, maybe it was the way of office life a few decades ago but today we have a bit “healthier” attitude in the office about drinking. And because we saw how it was back in the day, drinking in the office isn’t exactly proper corporate protocol anymore. However, there are some occasions when bringing alcohol into the office shouldn't be such a big deal, and actually a way to increase the celebration ... just as long as it’s done properly.

Last month, Modern Manners Guy Twitter follower Mike received an email at 9 AM about a promotion he was awarded. He was thrilled and feeling like a million bucks, as he should, so he went to the liquor store down the street, picked up a bottle of Champagne and brought it back to the office to toast his new position with his buddies. However, Mike’s office does not allow alcohol on the premises. After apologizing for not understanding the rules, and admitting his excitment got the best of him, the CEO allowed it this one time.

Here we have a perfect example of a situation where bringing some bubbly into the office is totally fine because of a special occassion that warranted more celebration, and alcohol was used as essentially a "prop." Yet with that, Mike did not (and should not) get totally wasted in his excitement. It’s not a music video with drinks flowing and everyone dancing—it’s a proper toast with colleagues to say, “Congratulations." So if you do bring alcohol into the office, I recommend it’s only for those very particular occasions and in small doses. Stick to just one glass and skip seconds. You don’t want have to ask someone to assist you back to your desk because you “celebrated” too hard.

Tip #2: Know Your Industry

For my book, REPLY ALL… And Other Ways To Tank Your Career, I interviewed many top level entrepreneurs and CEOs about their climb to the top of the corporate ladder. Two people I spoke with, Rob Samuels of Maker’s Mark and Ken Austin of Tequila Avion, make their livings in the spirits industry. So naturally alcohol is a major part of their daily business in and out of the office. I mean, if you don’t like drinking or can’t appreciate the craftsmanship of their work, then you better find another gig.  Even though I have never been in their offices, I would imagine that their rule on drinking is a bit more relaxed than, say, the National Parent Teacher Association. I’m NOT saying that Maker’s Mark and Avion welcome drinking like the ship is going down, but if you look at the Mike situation in Tip #1, I would imagine that there wouldn’t be much fuss about toasting to a promotion with alcohol. And this is because certain industries allow for more alcohol in the office than others—simply because of their culture.