A nonentity named Eileen Zimmerman has a “Career Couch” column in yesterday's New
York Times advising people new to the corporate world how to behave at
“after-hour gatherings where alcohol is served.”
Zimmerman talks to "career experts," and so gets expertly careerist advice.
“Don’t be fooled,” warns one such person, whose paranoia and teetotaling ways have rocketed her to the head of "cooperative education and career services" at a place called Pace University. “You are always
being scrutinized by colleagues, so professionalism at all times is a must.”
The Times column continues: “Cy Wakeman, president of a human resources consulting firm
bearing her name in Sioux City, Iowa, says that when it comes to drinking with
colleagues, ‘the risk is very high that something negative will come out of
A human resources consulting firm bearing her name, eh? Well then!
Look, I’ve seen work-boozing go bad; a colleague became so
ripped at a company Christmas party that he grabbed a steak knife and cut the
CO2 tube on a beer keg and started sucking on it.
As the president of a freelance writing firm bearing my
name, let me advise: Don’t do that.
I’m also not arguing that people must drink at work to get ahead. If you don't drink a lot with your friends, don't drink a lot with your colleagues. You’re not good at it, and it’s
not you. (And actually, Hitler isn't the only teetotaler who ever got a head. Here's a long list.)
But if you're one of us lucky ones who can handle a few drinks without eyeballing the
silverware drawer, here’s a counterpoint: When it comes to some colleagues (and even
some bosses), drinking offers the only chance
of having something positive happen. Many times, alcohol has helped me and my
colleagues get real about a tense problem, share
personal feelings that made us more sympathetic to one another, communicate in
eureka moments: “I’m so glad you said that. I thought I was the only one who
felt that way.”
A business psychologist and the president of prestigious
institution Manhattan Business Coaching told the Times’ writer, “If you can relax at professional events only by
having a drink, that could indicate a problem.”
Let’s see: You’ve painted the workplace as somewhere where
your colleagues are always scrutinizing you, looking for any careless glimpse
you give of your soft underbelly so they can slice it open at the first opportunity.
“Everyone you interact with while drinking has the potential
to affect your career,” Zimmerman writes. “A colleague today may be your
manager six months from now and will likely recall any indecorous behavior.”
And you’re supposed to “relax” around these people while
I don’t think so.
Here’s my advice: At corporate gatherings, drink as much as
you possibly can without making an asshole out of yourself. Err on the side of “without
making an asshole out of yourself,” yes. But don’t forget to drink.
Boots backers, do you drink at company parties? If so, how much? If not, for the love of God, why not?
It’s interesting how people try to come up with hard-and-fast rules, when life isn’t lived that way. I would point out, however, that you don’t have to end up with a lampshade on your head to make a fool of yourself. I (who generally don’t drink much anywhere although I can handle it) have run into enough co-workers who were just drunk enough to be ever so slightly into that “annoying” territory where I think, “Quit now while you’re ahead.” The problem is not everyone’s at the same place at the same time, and you look like an idiot if you’re ahead of everyone else—even if you haven’t done anything particularly idiotic.
Of course, if you have to completely anesthetize yourself at a company gathering just to get through (and I have felt like that), you’re probably with the wrong people.
As for Zimmerman, appearing decorous and stiff isn’t going to get you anywhere, either.
Sorry, me again. The list is a little deceptive. “Richard Harris, an Irish actor.” Perhaps in the end, but that’s because he spent much of his life as a raging alcoholic, which he freely admitted—not really quite the same as being a teetotaller by choice, like Susan B. Anthony.
David Murray says
Great points, all, Diane. For a mostly sober person, you sure are perceptive!
Yossi Mandel says
It’s the slippery slope rule of drinking. If you have one drink, you must become drunk, because the slippery slope says so.
First rule of drinking: Be a decent human being, so decent, humane thoughts emerge from your drink.
Sip a drink, nurse a drink, loosen up. Don’t knock back entire drinks one after the other, or you may end up married to Zimmerman.
David Murray says
“First rule of drinking: Be a decent human being, so decent, humane thoughts emerge from your drink.”
OK Yossi, let’s add: “At corporate gatherings, drink as much as you possibly can without making an asshole out of yourself. IF YOU ARE ALREADY AN ASSHOLE, DON’T DRINK.”
Yossi Mandel says
Kate Zimmerman says
Nobody sheems to want to admit that working CAUSHES drinking. I’m with youse guysh. You’re all great, by the way — I love you … It’sh a pleashure working with you. Jusht one more drink for me — a teenshy, tiny one. A teenshy, tiny triple. Thanksh.
michael clendenin says
I’m not half so think as you might drunk I am…though think’ll peep I is. Say, Kate, are you Zimmerman with your sister Eileen? Er, wait, are you Eileen with your Zimmersister. Oh crap, Beertender, give me the bar.