I don’t drink much, and more often that not I don’t take up invites at work to go out for a beer, but on the rare occasion when I do accept and quaff a cold one with colleagues, good things tend to happen.
I’m going to give you four different examples, some recent, some from the past.
1. A sprint retrospective in the pub led to someone leaving the team.
No – there wasn’t a punch up, but the team felt relaxed enough to reveal the tension and undercurrent that had been affecting our overall productivity.
And yes this was a good thing for both us (there was no longer an elephant in the room) and for the individual (they were not enjoying the job and had given up some personal integrity for the sake of a decent day rate – they were lingering).
2. I discovered suicide tequilas.
I can describe these in 2 words. Flipping horrendous.
The standard ingredients are the same but the consumption is different in that you snort the salt, down the tequila then squeeze the lemon on your eye ball. The stories of that night and the guy that did this not once, but twice (one in each eye) have gone down in history.
3. I got to know about a serious personal issue my project manager had.
For a number of weeks I’d been struggling to get time with him, and when I did he was distracted and lacked focus. Being a human I thought this was about me. Actually it was entirely about him and his situation outside work. Once I knew I was more compassionate towards him, I could offer help and our relationship became stronger because of this.
4. 5 colleagues (including me) agreed to work on a start-up project in our own time.
One guy was bold enough to express a desire to experiment with something different, and it turns out a few of us had the same feelings. Three months later we have a brand name, domain name, logo, designs, business plan and an initial prototype we are presenting to potential clients.
In all of the above examples something about being away from the office and having a couple of beers broke down barriers.
It led to more open, honest communication between fellow humans.
People let their guard down when you share personal things together. People soften and open up.
Deep down most of us have the same concerns and worries but we are pretty good at putting up a front.
For a variety of reasons we bottle things up, and hesitate before expressing how we really feel.
It’s a shame that alcohol is often the thing that causes the change here, because it would be truly wonderful if we were this honest during the day, but if the opportunity comes up to have a drink with some colleagues – consider the above before saying no.
Even if you don’t drink yourself, there’s just something about being out of the office where we don’t have a desk, outlook or a phone to hide behind that makes us see each other more as human beings.
Now – pass the salt and lemon…