What comes to mind when you think of “Corporate America”? Chances are the following images pop into your head: suits, briefcases, handshakes, and all sorts of formality. But guess what? This isn’t your father’s workplace environment anymore. Today’s cutting edge companies are marked by jeans, sweatshirts, headphones, break rooms, and happy hours galore. All of this sounds ideal, right? Break down the stuffy barriers and let the creative juices (& alcohol) flow.
I’ve spent the past year at one of these companies. We work hard, but play harder. Complete with an office dog and ping-pong room, sometimes work feels more like summer camp than a place of business. Mostly members of the under-30 crowd, employees here are often friends, roommates, and significant others.
Recently, at a company happy hour, I was talking to a fellow coworker of mine while slightly inebriated. We got into a conversation about being friends with people outside of work and I proceeded to tell him that I consider him a “half-friend”. If that wasn’t an embarrassing enough comment, I continued to elaborate about how there are boundaries, things I would never do with coworkers that I would with my “real-life friends”.
Would I have had this same conversation sober? Certainly not. Do I stand by what I said? 100%. If given the opportunity to do it over, I wouldn’t have said this to him. This probably falls into the category of “things people think in their head but never say out loud”. The downside to office environments like this is the line is sometimes blurry between friend and coworker. While we may spend our working time in comfortable clothes and enjoy the occasional “WFH” day, genY yuppies face a whole different set of workplace challenges. It’s an all-too difficult task to try and remember that our coworkers are people you interact with professionally, and no matter how fun or friendly they might be, they’re not the same as your other friends. The worst that will happen when out with your “real-life friends” is that your embarrassing texts may end up on TFLN or there may even be a few less-than-flattering photos on Facebook. Pull the same stunts in front of your coworkers? It could cost you your next promotion, or even your job.
So next time you’re at that company happy hour, before you down your third (or fourth) gin & tonic, remember to hold back a little. No matter how casual your company may seem, you should still maintain some sort of guard. At least half-way.
Byline: Randi Charles is a Web Marketing Analyst at TIG Global, an interactive marketing company specializing in the hospitality industry, based in Washington, DC.