Employee Boozing: Is there a right way?

Whenever I engage with new clients one of the issues I always probe them on is alcohol.  Startups, their employees, and management tend to have a love/hate relationship with alcohol.  Everyone knows that tech startups operate lean and fast with young employees working long, stressful hours.  Companies should think about the following when it comes to their Company’s alcohol culture:

  • Do you make alcohol available in the office?  Does you have beer in your company refrigerator?  Do you have a separate refrigerator for beer – or even a separate refrigerator for a keg? Does your company have a stocked liquor cabinet?  Are there any rules – written or unwritten – as to when alcohol can be consumed?
  • Do your employees have a regular happy hour? If so, what is your Company’s contribution to that happy hour? Do you pay for booze for an hour? The whole night? Do you make sure that food is provided with the alcohol?
  • If you do have a regular happy hour, is it in your office, your office building, or at a nearby bar/restaurant?
  • Does your Company, employees in your company, or a subset of your employee population have “culture of alcohol”.  Do they buy each other beers for a job well done in the office or do they offer to buy shots for one another when they close deals?

Answering these questions should give you a better idea of what your Company’s alcohol culture looks like and how your company “uses” alcohol.  Asking your employees these questions will paint you an even better picture of how alcohol fits in to your Company’s culture.  In startups (free) alcohol can be a fun part of the culture, but can put the company at risk.  Knowing where your corporate insurance ends, and your bank account begins is always good practice when it comes to company risk.

We advise Owners, Founders, and C-Suite executives to periodically check in on their company’s alcohol culture so that they can understand whether it is excessive, whether it adds or detracts from the Company’s culture, and what risks it presents to the Company.

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