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Four surefire ways to turn Happy Hour, into a false narrative!



When our second child was born, we had her arrive with a present for her older brother, a tradition we continued with subsequent births. At some point, the older children were old enough to realize that a newborn baby didn’t leave the hospital to actually buy them a present, but they were still touched upon receiving a gift and thus the narrative held some value.


Today being Thursday, I want to write about a popular work narrative, “Happy Hour”! Many companies have a tradition of taking some time off before the weekend to have an informal gathering of the troops along with some food and drink.


This too can be a nice narrative for employees and prospective employees. “We mingle with co-workers and senior managers, we care about our employees, and we’re a hip office which provides beer”. But let’s be honest, most employees realize it’s a “fake” narrative in some respects done to keep up with other companies, trying to look cool, and for the sake of nice LinkedIn posts to lure in recruits. But they don’t really care because at the end of the day, its free beer! Thus, the narrative still holds water.


However, all too often I have heard and or seen how this "fraudulent" narrative can also quickly become a false narrative!


Here are four ways to turn Happy Hour, into a false narrative!


1. Senior management is invisible. If the junior level employees take a break while the senior management keeps working, it sends a terrible message on multiple levels. Firstly, many mid-level managers will walk away confused. “Should I stay, or should I go?!” Also, the junior level employees lose the ability to informally interact with their senior managers.


2. Employees are forced to attend. If your company needs to send around a police task force to round up employees and force them to attend a company happy hour, you had better re-think your strategy. Happiness is usually unforced!


3. The time gets hijacked. Two months ago, I was giving a talk at a company which invited me to attend their happy hour. Suddenly, an HR rep got up and started lecturing for 20 minutes about new company protocols. No amount of beer could ever fix that situation! (Okay, maybe some amount) So let your employees mingle, relax, and enjoy. If you have important messages to get across, do it at another time.


4. Management complains about it. “What a waste of time!” Narratives only work if they are synchronized. If HR is promoting Happy Hour but management is crying about productivity, it doesn’t look good.


Like a baby buying a gift, a narrative can be impactful even if people can see through it. Most companies aren’t offering up Happy Hour simply for altruistic reasons, but when it all said and done, it doesn’t really matter. However, when fake turns to false, the narrative completely blows up losing all impact.


Have you ever worked at a company with a Happy Hour? What was it like? How did you feel?

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