Emma Barlow | Contributing Writer | Friday, 12 June 2015

How To Survive Your First Work Drinks

How To Survive Your First Work Drinks

The Debrief: Mixing alcohol and colleagues for the first time? Don't say we didn't warn you

Illustration by Amrita Marino

Your first social outing with work can be a nerve-wracking affair. Even those of us who have been to many a work ‘do’ sometimes get it wrong. Like at a recent awards ceremony where I was papped by the event photographer with my eyes literally pointing in different directions and swigging straight from a bottle of wine. I then – so I’m told – went on to ask him to ‘ssssnap my shoes… they’rrre brrrriliant.’ Classy.

To make sure you don’t make this kind of gaff when you’re out on the lash with your new workmates, we asked some girls in the know to share their do’s and don’ts…

Do – work out how boozy your colleagues are

If you’re lucky, your workplace will be full of people who are laid back and quite up for a drink – the sort of people you would happily hang out with outside of work. If, for instance, you’ve only been there for a couple of months and already you’ve hit the pub at lunchtime SEVERAL times, or enjoyed a cheeky 4 o’clock beer in the office because, you know, it’s Tuesday, then you probably don’t have to worry about getting a little tipsy on your first proper work outing. 

However, if your company is a little more uptight, it might be worth asking your fellow workmates what usually goes down at work events. If this is the first social outing that’s happened in years and it’s all due to take place at the local bistro then this might not be the right setting for unleashing your drunken alter ego. 

Don’t – be sick in your boss’s handbag

Vomming after drinking too much is an unfortunate and yet inevitable fact of life – like getting a spot on the end of your nose on school photograph day. Obviously, the ideal setting for a bit of spewing is the bathroom, but in desperate times you can probably get away with a hedge, bin bag or storm drain… I know I have. Your new boss’s handbag, however? That rates pretty low on the list of acceptable back-ups. 

Kate had been an intern at a major publication for some months when she got the good news that she was being offered a job and her team took her out to celebrate.

‘To cut a long story short, I drank a whole bottle of wine after eating no food all day,’ Kate says. ‘We had just jumped in a taxi on our way to the next location when I felt that awful burning sensation at the back of my throat.

‘I think my eyes must have said it all because before I knew it my boss had dumped the contents of her bag on her lap and shoved her extremely nice handbag under my chin. The worst part was that no one ever mentioned it… until my leaving party.’

Do – watch out for practical jokers

It’s great when you get on with your boss, isn’t it? When he or she is really on your level and prepared to have a drink and a laugh with you… so much so they might pull horrible David Brent-style pranks on you? That’s what happened to Millie who works in events. 

‘I’d only been at my job for a couple of months when the work summer party came around. I was really looking forward to it because we were a young team and I was hoping for a bit of drinking and group bonding,’ she explains.

‘Fast forward to about 10pm and I’m on the dance floor giving my boss Dan a jokey headlock. I would have totally forgotten about this if I hadn’t turned up to work the next day and spotted Dan wearing a neck brace. I was called into his office and was told our bit of wrestling had set off an old back injury. I felt absolutely terrible all day and seriously thought I might get the sack. Turns out it was a massive prank and he’d ordered the neck brace in the taxi on the way home. Dick.’

Do – watch who you go home with

*Extremely obvious warning about not sleeping with the intern/manager/receptionist’s girlfriend, etc.*

Don’t – steal

OK, this is an obvious one but, as with all these points, work drinks tend to involve drinking alcohol (work drinks, see, it’s all there in the name) and alcohol can often lead us to do some very silly things…

‘I was an intern at an advertising agency and along with an employee drunkenly stole a bottle of Champagne that was meant for a client meeting,’ says Meme. ‘The next day I had to take the heat so the guy wouldn’t get fired, but only after an email went round the WHOLE COMPANY asking the perpetrators to own up. It still makes me cringe when I think about it now.’

Do – take care of each other

If you were an episode of Friends would you be called The Sensible One? Or perhaps you’re a Tee Totaller? You could find the skills you’ve honed being a grown-up while everyone else around you turns into a drunken mess quite useful in a work drinks situation. Like Becky, who hadn’t been in her job at a research organisation long but soon found herself babysitting her boss. 

‘It was my first work social and my manager got off his face and ended up getting into a fight,’ says Becky. ‘Luckily, it all calmed down before the CEO noticed, but a couple of minutes later the bar owner came up to us and threatened to throw the whole party out.

‘I begged and begged (explaining the part where my boss’s boss’s boss was with us) and eventually he agreed to let us stay… as long as I took personal responsibility for my manager. It was kind of embarrassing, but it certainly won me some brownie points.’

And if it does all go wrong? Well, no one ever got the sack for waking up on someone’s sofa wearing what appears to be a toga made from a tablecloth... Right?

Like this? You may also be interested in:

What To Do If You Massively Screw Up At Work

The Best And Worst Places In The UK To Get A Job

How To Win An Argument At Work

Follow Emma on Twitter: @emmabarlow

Illustration by Amrita Marino

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