Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Unhappy Hour

Cathy started a new job a couple of months ago. One Friday afternoon, she and her colleagues gathered for drinks after work. She was quite looking forward to the happy hour, for she had developed a great deal of respect for her coworkers and, in particular, her boss. The boss’s wife would join them, which made Cathy even happier as she’d never met the wife before.

One drink led to another that afternoon. Bemusement turned to genuine concern as Cathy witnessed many of colleagues behaving in a less-than-professional manner. Sure, she’d joined in happy hours at other jobs she’d worked, but she’d never seen anything like this. Raucous conversation permeated the room. Voices grew louder. Soon, Cathy felt a bit embarrassed to be seen in such company. Pub patrons gave her table dirty looks, and one gentleman even approached them to ask if they might hold it down. Cathy’s boss quite loudly – and quite explicitly, told the guy what he could do with his request.

Then the boss turned to Cathy and proceeded to tell her everything that was right – and wrong – with her body. Shock overcame her and she excused herself to the ladies’ room. There, she ran into the boss’s wife, who was barely able to stand after so many martinis. Hoping to sneak out of the pub, Cathy now felt a responsibility for getting the boss’s wife back to the table. I’ll just take her back and make a quick exit, Cathy thought. And that’s just what she did. Once the wife was more or less settled, Cathy grabbed her purse and said goodbye. No one heard her, though. They were laughing at the boss’s joke – one that poked fun at a colleague’s religion. Yes, the colleague was sitting right there with the same expression Cathy imagined she’d had earlier in the evening.

Cathy had to do some serious soul-searching that night. Could she continue to work for a man who, after a few drinks, became, in essence, a bully? Should she confront him about his derogatory comments to her? Would she have the courage to avoid colleagues on a social basis?

Cathy’s no prude, nor am I. I love social gatherings just as much as anyone, but when it comes to office ‘do’s, there are definitely some don’ts involved:

Don’t treat it as your college keg parties. You’re an adult now; behave like one.

Don’t linger longer than an hour, and keep it to one or two drinks. (Besides, leaving early lends an element of mystique about you, especially if you don’t tell your colleagues where you’re going)

Don’t allow a colleague – even your boss – to get away with inappropriate comments. A simple, “I really don’t appreciate that,” will hopefully suffice. Mentioning an attorney might do the trick, too. If not, seek employment elsewhere – immediately.

It takes years to build a good reputation, and only moments to tear one down. Never compromise your integrity. Professionally or personally.

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