image of a coffee cupJust say “No” to the post-work invite from the team to join them for a beer. While you’ll feel torn because you enjoy social time as much as the next person, pay attention to that little voice in your mind trying to get your attention with, “You shouldn’t, you’re the boss.”

No moralizing here. I’ve simply known too many who shut this voice out and paid with their credibility and on a few occasions, their jobs.

I understand  that this philosophy is likely to result in my winning “Curmudgeon of the Year,” in the leadership blogger category, however, I’ll wear that label with honor if it helps keep a few more of you from showing your team what you’re really like when you let your hair down.

Six Reasons Why You Should Skip the Post-Work Happy Hour:

1. No one really wants you there. Harsh, I know, but the truth hurts. Some dumb [email protected]@ do-gooder suck up employee thought it would be OK to invite you, against the entire team’s better judgment. They want downtime and your presence changes the situation.

2. People get stupid when they drink. You don’t need to see and hear that. The images WILL impact your perception of people and that’s not fair to you or your employees.

3. You’re not one of the gang anymore. Yeah, you were one of the gang a few months ago, but that relationship changed when you took the promotion. There’s no going back.

4. You’ll pay if you cross the wrong line. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen a manager cross the line of “one too many” and proceed to cross some line that offended one or more.  Do that just once in front of the troops and your talk of accountability and values will fall on deaf ears forever.

5. Your legacy requires that no one see you drunk. Get drunk in front of the team just once and the primary image the team will retain is one that involves you spilling drinks all over yourself while slurring your words and hitting on one of your employees. Whether you make CEO (unlikely if you frequent too many Happy Hours), or go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, there’s no flossing this view of you out of their minds.

6. You’re always on the clock. In spite of the common sentiment that what you do on your own time is your business, if you’re doing it around direct reports, you’re never off the clock.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Bonding with your team is critical. The best way to do this is by fighting ferociously every day to help them succeed as individuals and as a group.  Create workplace social opportunities…bring in lunch, sponsor some creative field trips and do everything you can to be accessible and approachable. However, when it comes to the spontaneous post-work gatherings at a local watering hole, thank them for the invite and make certain you have something else to do.

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Art Petty is a Chicago-based management consultant focusing on strategy and leadership development. Art regularly speaks on innovation in management and leadership, and his work is reflected in two books, including the recent, Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.  Art publishes regularly at The Management Excellence blog at

Prior to his solo career, Art spent 20+ years leading marketing sales and business units in systems and software organizations around the globe. You can follow Art on twitter: @artpetty and he can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]