drinking at workWith St Patrick’s Day around the corner and sunny afternoons making an appearance, how can you avoid the potential pitfalls of beer or cocktail o’clock?

A swift half or two has its charms (namely helping things along with clients), but is fraught with social and professional complications. A survey by CareerBuilder/CNN revealed that, on average, about 1 in 5 employees attended happy hour drinking nights out with colleagues at least once a month. Of those, a staggering (no pun intended) 82% said they wanted to bond with colleagues, with 11% wanting to bond with their boss.

Not necessarily a bad thing at all, but such work socials could backfire with a vengeance: 16% admitted to verbally ‘backstabbing’ a colleague, 10% even shared confidential office secrets, and 8% confessed to kissing another colleague while under the influence. And according to the Independent, Lloyds of London have imposed an all-time ban on liquid lunches, favoured by City and media schmoozers – all because of colleague complaints over alcohol-related incidents.

Keep happy hours happy

Keep your private life private, and keep your professional grievances private too. Talking shop is inevitable at work dos, but keep your end of the conversation positive and light. Deflect any probing questions or negative statements with humour – keep easily misread snark to a minimum and release your inner bon vivant.

Carry cash. You’re not the Queen

Nights out always require having a bob or two in your pocket, but make sure you cover yourself for drinks and not be the annoying one that says ‘do you take cards?’. You might come off as unintentionally inconsiderate if you cannot show up with cash, especially for costs such as paying for a shared cab fare at the end of the night!

If you don’t like having jangly pockets or a purse, you could offer to shoulder the cost of a shared Uber/your regular cabbies on account, too.

Know when to hold ‘em… and when to fold ‘em

A drink or two is fine – just know your limits. Sadly, as much as people say they’ll drink up to their limit, the reality is that they’ll keep going right past it.

Like the 16% we mentioned earlier, drunken antics can easily cross the ‘banter’ line, and the damage is done. Before you get drunk and do something you might regret, or even before other colleagues get rowdy, know when to quit ahead of time!

It’s better to gracefully bow out of an evening with your head in check than stumble in the next day regretting all the drunken things you’ve said. It’s never much fun being the subject of a ‘hilarious drunken antics’ video or gossip.

Also, top tip: pick your tipple for the night and don’t mix things up. Beer, wine and cocktails are nice to have, but not all on the same evening. You’re not obligated to battle with a hangover, even if it helps you justify a fry-up in the morning.

Just turn up anyway and enjoy

Even if you’re not a heavy drinker or one of those who hardly touches a drop, going out for a social with colleagues can be a pleasant ice breaker.

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day and beyond!