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6 Tips for Socializing With Your Colleagues After Hours

By Kelsey Mulvey

You’re probably a pro at striking up friendly office banter with just about anyone, but after hours, it’s a whole new world. Whether it’s your office’s holiday party or an impromptu happy hour, hanging out with your team with a drink in your hand requires a little bit of strategy.

“When you attend a holiday party or a large happy hour, you step into an opportunity to present the approachable, personable, and social side of yourself,” says Jordan Catapano, author of  This Girl Minds Her Ps & Qs: An Etiquette Handbook for Dinner Parties, Restaurants, and Bars.

While keeping things professional is must, this is also a great time to network and get to know your coworkers on a personal level.

Read on for our six dos and don’ts for mastering happy hour like a boss.

Do Expand Your Office Social Circle

You’re not doing yourself any favors by sticking with one or two other entry-level buds.

Take this staff event as an opportunity to get to know someone you don’t work with (or lunch with) on the regular.

In order to pick out the contacts you’d like to hang with, you’ve got to be a detective, says Shances-Frances Moore, founder of the etiquette training programs at Shances Business Etiquette Co. By having a game plan, you’ll know who to talk to and what to talk to them about.

And no, we don’t mean learning all about their toddler on Instagram (though we wouldn’t hold it against you if you secretly scrolled through). Check out your coworkers’ LinkedIn profiles: you may be amazed to learn that your editor in chief helped launch one of your favorite tween magazines (RIP, Cosmo Girl!) and expand your professional circle.

Don’t Change Your Personality for the Outing

Let’s be real, you act differently in the office. After all, your bosses probably wouldn’t appreciate it if you treated them like your BFFs.

But once the drinks are flowin’ and you’re far from your desk, you may feel inclined to showcase your fun, after-hours personality. But, that’s not a great idea, says Catapano.

By keeping your composure, you’ll never have to worry about putting your game face back on come Monday.

Your friends may love you for your weird sense of humor and encyclopedic knowledge of all things #BachelorNation, but we doubt that’s how you want your bosses to view you.

Do Monitor Your Alcohol Intake

Wasn’t a lesson in booze control inevitable here? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine alongside your boss, but etiquette author and coach Barbara Pachter does have some suggestions.

Keeping your attitude professional is key, plus nobody will look down upon you if you forgo a cocktail and opt for a glass of ice water. But if that frozen margarita is really calling your name try limiting your intake to one or two drinks, says Pachter.

Don’t Participate in Gossip 

During your average work week, it’s easy to toss your headphones in and tune out corporate cattiness. But when you’re in a social setting, ignoring gossip is harder to avoid. So what are you supposed to do?

“Listen politely, do not participate in the gossip, and excuse yourself or change the topic of conversation as soon as possible,” says Moore.

We get it, when you spend most of your waking hours with your colleagues, eye roll-worthy moments are bound to occur. But instead of venting to your coworkers, save your rants for your family and friends who are far removed from office drama.

Do Keep the Conversation Light (and Non-Controversial)

Since things like your recent Tinder date should be off limits, scheming up some appropriate conversation starters prior to the hangout is ideal. But first, here are a few pointers on what not say.

“Don’t complain about your health issues, bring up politics, fish for compliments or mention your insecurities,” says Catapano. “These topics can turn sour quickly, and you don’t want to be associated with negativity.”

Instead of venting about your roommate, bring some good energy into the conversation by telling your colleague about that amazing restaurant you tried last weekend. It’s relatable and creates an opportunity to grow the chat with no pauses.

6. Don’t Spring for a Round of Drinks

If you’re attending an office-wide happy hour after work, don’t be surprised if one of your supervisors buys you a drink. Think of it as her way of thanking you for all your hard work. It’s a kind gesture, but that doesn’t mean you should reciprocate. Though you may have good intentions, our experts opt against buying your boss a cocktail.
“Get noticed because you’re kicking ass at work, not because you have the courage to foot the cocktail bill,” says Catapano.
Instead of feeling pressured to pick up the tab for the next round, graciously thank whoever bought you the bevie and take time out of  your socializing schedule to chat with him or her.
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