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Workplace happy hours can be bad for workers and their employers

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2022 | Employment Law

Companies want to foster a sense of loyalty in employees and make their business an attractive place to work. Good pay and benefits can go a long way, but so can a positive company culture. Business happy hours have long been considered a valuable addition to company culture, with employers investing in catering or even facilities to help their staff unwind.

Encouraging your workers to socialize and have a good time at the office can make them much more positive about their jobs and potentially improve performance. However, there is a dark underside to the idea of company-wide happy hours. They can be dangerous for workers and for the companies as well. 

Employees don’t all like drinking or group socialization

Every large team will have a few introverts on it, and these people deserve the same consideration and respect as the rest of the team. They will likely feel anxious and uncomfortable about what they perceive as compulsory socialization. Introverts bring excellent skills to companies and can round out existing teams, so policies that alienate these workers won’t benefit the company in the long run.

Other workers who are comfortable drinking with the team could engage in inappropriate behavior while doing so. Someone who has a couple of beers after skipping lunch may make racially insensitive comments to one of their teammates or try to hit on their direct subordinate.

Alcohol-related behavior can damage employee relations

Whether a manager becomes abrasive toward workers after drinking or people experience what they consider harassment during office happy hour, there are many things that can go wrong when a group of co-workers starts drinking together.

The company will ultimately have the responsibility to sort out the tensions that flare up and the allegations that result because of the company’s happy hour. If they ignore the situation, they could find themselves facing a harassment or discrimination lawsuit. Finally, there’s always the risk that intoxicated workers will commit crimes or hurt themselves, possibly by falling down the stairs. The business could have liability for those issues as well.