Bonding over a beer - alcohol in the workplace

Jul 19, 2022

Bonding over a beer – alcohol in the workplace


Booze has been centre-stage in the shenanigans in Downing St in the last couple of years. Bottle-laden tables at ‘work events’ in the garden; juniors being despatched to Tesco to fill suitcases with wine and spirits; the wonderfully-named Mr Pincher explaining that his reprehensible behaviour was due to him being “very, very drunk”.

Some have called it a ‘shit-show’, and alcohol has played a HUGE part in it.


Workplace drinking culture

I absolutely loved the workplace drinking culture that characterised advertising agencies in the 1980‘s. Every Board Director had their own office complete with well- stocked booze fridges. My first performance review was with the Head of Department over a couple of bottles of Chablis. I can’t remember how that evening ended, but I probably went to the pub with colleagues - that was how things worked. It was how we all got to know each other. It was how we bonded. It all seemed pretty normal.


Normalising drinking can trigger alcohol dependency

And that’s the point – it all seemed pretty normal.  I’m sure that those in and around Boris Johnson’s Downing St thought it was normal to drink as much as they were. When everyone around you is doing something, that becomes the norm. We’re influenced by others around us and normalisation happens at a subconscious level.


The science behind our drinking behaviour

 Scientific experiments show that we eat more when we are with other people than when we eat alone, and that we are influenced by what others choose to eat (more likely to opt for pizza if someone else does as well, but much less likely if everyone else is choosing salads). The same thing happens with booze.

Our behaviour is strongly influenced by those around us with rituals in place like taking turns to buy a round. Even if we wanted to, we know that it is not the ‘done thing’ to say “I’m tired and I’ve had enough, I’m heading home” before you’ve bought your round. Although things are gradually changing, there are still many situations where someone risks ridicule for asking for a non-alcoholic drink.


Addiction to alcohol is a gradual and progressive process

As a coach working to help people redefine their relationship with alcohol, I know that addiction to alcohol is a gradual, progressive process. No-one has just one drink and is addicted. It happens slowly, with alcohol becoming part of their routine, and so many of my clients say they don’t understand how it happened and they can’t work out when things changed. Anyone who drinks a lot of alcohol is running the risk of becoming addicted.


Employers and employees can start to change workplace drinking cultures

If you’re keen to be the progressive boss or proactive employee who makes positive changes to the drinking culture in your working environment read on…

Employers; What are you doing to make your social events less boozy and more inclusive for those who either don’t drink, or only drink moderately?

Respect to the agency who decided that at their delayed Christmas party this year, everyone’s first alcoholic drink was free, but thereafter, alcohol had to be purchased whereas non-alcoholic drinks were free all night. Another company decided to replace the party with a sports day. Both events were hugely appreciated by their employees with no embarrassing drunken stories the next day.

What are you doing to help change the culture of your organisation?

What are you to doing to bring your teams together in ways that don’t involve going to the pub?


Employees; Don’t under-estimate your power to bring about change in your organisation.

If you see people being pressurised to drink alcohol, speak up.

If you see someone else struggling with dependence on alcohol, do whatever you can to help them.

If you yourself are struggling with dependence on alcohol, don’t be ashamed (it’s not your fault!), but do seek help as soon as you can.


If reading this has made you want to find out a bit more, why not get in touch? I am a certified This Naked Mind Coach and I am passionate about changing the boozy culture in so many workplaces. Book a free one-hour call and we can talk about how I can help, either at a corporate or personal level.


If you have got this far, chances are that you are concerned that you may have a problem with alcohol. Let's talk - you have absolutely nothing to lose and so much to gain!



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