How should you act during after work events with coworkers?

How should you act during after work events with coworkers?

If you’ve been in the workforce, you’ve probably been invited to spend time with coworkers after hours in some form or other.

The most common theme of these after-work outings are grabbing drinks, but can constitute a number of scenarios.

So let’s break it down:

Q: Should you accept this invitation?

A: Yes! If you are willing, have the time, want to pick someones brain about something in the office, you should definitely make time to hang out with your coworkers.

When hanging out with coworkers after hours, you should keep it at a business casual type of level. These are still your peers and you want to remain professional towards them but still be able to thrive with them outside of the office.

When I went to my first after-hours soiree, I was able to learn a lot about the people I worked with and build a connection with them in other areas of their lives. I learned more about where they went to school, about the city I had just moved to, and more about the ambitions and goals that many of them were planning for in the near, and not so near, future. It was a great way to connect, network, and build trust with my colleagues in an unstructured environment.


Q: What do we talk about?

A: So. Many. Things. But again, professional is the name of the game here.

As I previously mentioned, my first after-hours party was filled with learning and networking possibilities. I was able to learn more about my coworkers lives and backstories. Some safe topics, I’ve discovered:

  • Schooling - This provides an element of locations, professional interests, sport-side loyalties and level of education.

  • Hobbies - What do they like to do and what can you do in this new environment? Maybe you can bond over your love of running and learn new places and routines to try.

  • Community events - Farmer’s markets and festivals are a great way to bond. This doesn’t matter if your town is small or metropolitan, there’s always something to do and talk about.

  • Advice - I needed a lot of advice when I moved as a fresh college graduate after moving to a new city. Ask for advice on living arrangements, workplace etiquette, or anything else you might need to know.

  • Food - Whether you are cooking, baking, or eating-out, it’s a safe bet everyone is looking to improve or expand their palette.

You might be wondering about topics you should avoid or be wary of. Here are a few that I’ve heard and understand:

  • Partying - No one wants to hear about you drinking excessively and making a fool of yourself. It’s just not professional or as funny as you think.

  • Family/Partner(s) - I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss this topic, but it does tend to lean towards the sexist side of things. Many women get asked this more so than men, so I would be wary about this topic unless you know your coworkers well and have built some trust with them.

  • Other coworkers - This would just be considered gossip and poor taste. It’s not helpful to anyone when you’re complaining about someone to another coworker when you should be dealing with it in a more direct and professional manner.

Q: If there is food and/or alcohol present, should I eat/drink it?

A: I’d say yes to this question with a few asterisks next it.

  • No one wants to see their coworkers hammered. If you are drinking, stick with lighter alcohols, like beer, or, if they’re harder drinks, ones that you’re familiar with. On top of that, try to keep it to a one to two drink maximum.

  • If you are uncomfortable drinking, don’t drink, or otherwise abstain from alcohol, feel free to keep doing so without feeling like you need to divulge why. Your business is your business and no one should pressure you to do anything different.

  • When concerning food, my best advice is not to exuberant or gluttonous about your food choices.

    • Try not to overfill your plate if you are attending a buffet. It’s better to remain on the smaller side of portions, as most people tend to overestimate their portions at a buffet.

    • Don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu when attending lunch on the company’s dime. Try to order something in the mid-range portion of the menu.

    • Try to order neat meals. What I mean by this, is you want to still remain fairly orderly, so having something that can lead to a mess or being hard to contain should be avoided. For me, pasta, dripping burgers, and some salads can cause concern, so I tend to avoid them, if circumstances allow.


Q: How should I dress?

A: Business Casual. Unless the event is structured or sanctioned by the company try to remain slightly professional, even if that means jeans or khakis, dresses, or polo or button-down shirts.

It’s easier to keep a business casual decorum compared to arriving in leggings, shorts, or a regular shirt. This maintains a professional aesthetic to your coworkers without trying too hard. You still want to remain relaxed in this environment but still put-together.

Some after-work events will allow or encourage you to wear something different, such as outdoor activities or business dinners at fancier restaurants. It’s acceptable to play these events by ear and follow the discretion of other colleagues or your boss.

Q: How long should I stay?

A: This answer depends on what you are doing and what you have going on after, if anything.

If you have no pressing engagements after the event or the following morning. You can stay a bit longer. I would try not to be the last person there and holding anyone from going home themselves. I’d usually try to stay with my coworkers maybe an hour or two, depending on the event. You mainly want to make sure you are not overstaying your welcome.

If you have arrangements or engagements following the event, keep track to make sure you don’t miss the event. If you are running close with the following event, try to see if you are able to catch the next outing or duck out early. Most coworkers will be aware that lives happen outside the workplace, and will be fine with extraneous circumstances permitting you to attend.

Each after hours work event is tailored to the work environment. Going out for drinks after work is a common theme in today’s 9-to-5 economy.

If you have any suggestions concerning after work events for new professionals, leave a comment below.

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