It's JUST Drinks: Navigating After Hours Networking with Male Colleagues
Work + Life Balance

It's JUST Drinks: Navigating After Hours Networking with Male Colleagues

by Career Contessa
October 15, 2015

WHY WOULDN'T YOU WANT TO BEFRIEND THE PEOPLE YOU SEE EVERY DAY? BUT WHEN DOUBLE STANDARDS MEAN DRINKS WITH MALE COLLEAGUES CAN CAUSE TENSION, TREAD CAREFULLY. 

You want to get to know your coworkers better. It’s nice to see a friendly face around the office, to have someone to grab coffee or lunch with or, after a long week, to co-plan happy hour drinks.

After hours networking with your colleagues can lead to great new connections both professionally and personally, but you’ve got to play it smart when it comes balancing your at-work and after-work conduct. That’s already a tricky business, especially if alcohol’s involved, but add to that mixed company and resulting gender dynamics (sororities had their perks!) and navigating becomes much more complex. {Click to Tweet}

Making sure you’re never the subject of the next morning’s water cooler gossip doesn’t mean you’re stuck talking with coworkers only about what’s on your desk. We’ve laid out some ground rules to keep nights out with your male (and female) colleagues free of awkwardness.

If you’re new to the after-hours game, drinks are involved, and you don’t know the guy that well, ask another colleague to play tagalong. 

REVISIT THE BUDDY SYSTEM 

If you want to chat up the guys in your office, we’re all for it. Your working world isn’t a middle school dance so don’t hesitate to befriend a coworker of the opposite sex. Maybe he can even help you with your fantasy baseball bracket. But if you’re new to the after-hours game, drinks are involved, and you don’t know the guy all that well, ask another colleague to play tagalong. It’ll stifle any chance of office gossip and will help avoid any awkward jokes or uncomfortable situations that can occur when two strangers are just getting to know each other. 

GO FOR WHAT YOU WANT

Let’s face it, our male counterparts are known for their ambition and going after what they want without skirting the issue. Take note and don’t be shy. Go into the conversation with a clear goal in mind—do you want to make a new professional connection, or are you looking more for a lunch buddy? Don’t feel you need to make awkward small talk to break the ice: explain your intentions upfront, and you’ll get a clear response without wasting anyone’s time.

KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL 

You’re out of the office (and hopefully those uncomfortable heels), off company time, and have a glass of wine in hand. Yes, you can let your hair down, but don’t let the evening informality affect your conversation. Pick topics carefully. Even if you’re just talking football, it’s very different to discuss next week’s game than the latest sex scandal with one of the players. Keep the topics relevant and safe for everyone. You’ll avoid making others uncomfortable and any comments people might later regret.

Don’t feel you need to make awkward small talk: explain your intentions upfront, and you’ll get a clear response without wasting anyone’s time.

UBER IS YOUR BFF

No need to get in an unfamiliar coworker’s car when Uber is right there on your phone. This rule goes for most situations, not just after hours networking, and it’s easy to remember: never get in a car with someone you don’t trust 100 percent. Even though you see the guy Monday through Friday, 8 hours a day, doesn’t mean you know his intentions, social history, or–worst of all–how much he’s had to drink. If it’s late, things can be misinterpreted, and you don’t want to spend the ride home translating Pete from Accounting’s post-three-cocktails signals.

ALWAYS PLAY THE D.D.

Even if you’re not driving, never have more than two alcoholic beverages with coworkers. {Click to Tweet} You want to keep your job and your unblighted record of professional integrity, and they both ride on your ability to have fun in a responsible manner. Keep a clear head and a good sense of judgment. Who do you want your colleagues to remember tomorrow morning?

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Have you ever experienced a tense co-ed coworker dynamic? What did you do to clear up the issue?