Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wine or Beer? A harmless little bit of social lubrication?

Scouring the vast knowledge bank of Twitter yesterday morning I stumbled across an extremely interesting article via @DanHowe. A new bit of research entitled “Drinking Your Way Up the Ladder : Expectations for After-Hours Drinking Among Professionals.” ( See:

And, in the style of Carrie Bradshaw “It got me thinking...” Would I be able to function in PR as a tee-totaller? Would networking and work-bonding inhibit me by the fact I was clutching a glass of orange juice rather than Merlot? Or, more importantly, without a glass or two - would I be as confident in social situations?

Jennifer Halpern, the author of the paper, uses the statistic that female non-drinkers earn 25.5% less than drinkers. And whilst this seems like a huge differential you can, at some level, see how those opportunities and moments could be lost if you were a no show, or went home early at events.

For me personally – two events immediately sprang to mind.

Firstly, on my second day doing work experience at Willoughby I was invited to a leaving-do night out. Far from being dressed for it, and not knowing many people’s names, I knew that it would be a great opportunity to get to know the team and... by 3am was singing karaoke with the best of them! ‘Sweet Home Allaaabaaama!” (You get the drift.)

By the time the bacon sandwiches were doing the rounds the next day I’d had a chance to speak to people in the next office, share some embarrassing stories – even crash a few cigarettes. By getting to know the team and listen to client stories I got a real feel for the agency that general office duties would have never given me – and who knows, a job offer may have never happened?

But just as importantly, as the report comments, “alcohol lubricates friendship as well as business.” And it is on this basis that I have my second example - the classic journalist liquid late -lunch. Swapping a coffee for the favoured Expresso Martini, it not only gave us a chance to talk about our favourite cocktail (please say you’ve tried it?) but also a means to both let our guard down. Talking holidays, hometowns and beauty horror stories led to a nice piece of coverage for our client and a positive outcome for both of us.

But the most interesting part of Halpern’s study for me, was the role of women and drinking.

“If a woman drinks a little too much, tells off colour jokes, or is a bit loud, she risks being seen inappropriately as a woman....

The woman most likely to succeed in navigating this gauntlet is the one who can drink enough to be seen as willing to drink, but who keeps her wits about her enough to figure out how to act with different people.”

And, surely, this is key. Yes the odd glass of wine can give you an extra spring in your step, a bit of gumption, and a bit more balls. But no-one wants to be the person sliding down the walls, throwing up in the toilets, or going into work in the same clothes the next day. (Cue raised eyebrows)

As to the level of difference in genders – do I really think it is more acceptable for men to do the above, maybe? But in my experience the only drinking difference for gender is age. For women, you reach a point where balancing your children and work life is enough of a drama – and adding a hangover into this mix on regular occasions is definitely not going to be appealing.

But for the other sex, I know a fair few male professionals who can give the most spirited exec a run for his money.

What is clear is it’s up for debate - fancy a bottle why we talk this over?


Post a Comment