The 5 Unspoken Rules of Office Happy Hour

Don't head out to the office happy hour without following these five rules first.

Women at happy hour


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Deborah Sweeney102 CEO

Ah, the post-work happy hour! Who doesn’t look forward to attending one? Whether you’re toasting to TGIF or grabbing a brew after a busy Wednesday as a hump day treat, happy hour is the time to unwind and relax with your coworkers. Cheers to the first round!

But flash forward 30 minutes. Maybe you’re on to round two — or three — of drinks. You’re feeling pretty good and cutting loose, but there’s a fine line coming up quickly that you’ll need to tread carefully. This is the line that separates you from slowing your roll and sobering up to busting out the bar’s karaoke machine to show off your singing abilities. Naturally, one should try to do more of the former and none of the latter. However, sometimes the latter wins out — and the next thing you know, you’re waking up hungover and unsure of what happened the night before.

It’s time to nip this kind of behavior in the bud before it tarnishes your professional reputation. Before you attend any office happy hour event, follow these five unspoken rules for better drinking events in the future. 

1. Eat, eat, eat.

Attending a happy hour event on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Studies have shown that when you drink on an empty stomach, alcohol absorbs into your stomach and intestines much faster than it would with a full stomach. Eat before you arrive to happy hour or order an appetizer (or dinner!) during it. You might even consider doing both, just to be on the safe side.

2. Order a simple drink.

Now is not the time to order an AMF — if you don’t know what that stands for, look it up — or any other beverage that teeters on the jungle juice end of the alcohol spectrum. For example, a drink that can only be consumed in fishbowl sizes should not be your happy hour go-to. 

If you’re not sure what to order, career experts advise that you choose a Moscow Mule. It’s simple to make, pairs nicely with most appetizers, and is uniquely presented in a copper cup with a handle. That handle comes in handy to avoid spills, too.

3. Know thy inebriated self.

At this point in your life, you probably have a good sense of what you’re like when you’re a little tipsy. Maybe you’re prone to gossiping, texting an ex, flirting, or crying in the bathroom after a few too many drinks. If you’re concerned that going to happy hour will allow your coworkers to see a side of you that you’d rather they did not, you may choose to opt out of attending altogether. It’s not always easy to decline, and it might even keep you from being invited to future happy hours. However, it’s absolutely for the best if you worry that you will accidentally show off a less than flattering side of yourself to your bosses and coworkers.

4. Dress carefully.

You don’t have to show up in the same suit you wore to work earlier that day, but you also shouldn’t arrive in crazy heels you're sure to fall in or a dress that keeps falling down. Dress it down from the typical workday attire by wearing nice jeans, a blouse and some cute shoes that you can walk around in easily without stumbling. 

5. Don’t forget about the next day at the office.

Whether that next day in the office is Monday or bright and early tomorrow (if your happy hour falls on a weeknight), don’t forget that you will be returning to the office again and working with everyone. Treat your happy hour as professionally as possible. Enjoy it and have fun, but don’t turn it into a series of post-happy hour afterparties. 


Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation and Deborah at @deborahsweeney.