Booze Banter

How Do You Behave At An After Work Happy Hour?

In the June 6, 2011 edition of Bloomsberg Businessweek, there was yet another “Business and Drinking” related article in the Etc. section of the magazine that caught my eye. The title of this article is “The Slosh Pit”, and it deals with co-worker behavior at an after work happy hour. After observing the behavior and body language of 100 people that attended happy hours in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, a panel of experts reviewed the observations and came up with ten distinct happy hour behavior categories. The panel of experts included George Wendt (Norm from Cheers), David Givens (author of Your Body at Work), Joe Navarro (author of What Every Body Is Saying), Patti Wood (co-author of Paid to Speak), and Patrick Lydon (bartender at Old Town Bar in NYC). Here is what they came up with:

  • Bar Belly-Uppers (12% of people observed): Guys sitting elbow to elbow at the bar, glued to a game “may not think they’re interacting, but they feel they’re on the same team,” says Givens. Adds Navarro: “Their bodies are echoing each other in perfect synchrony as friends.” Wood: “Guys touch side to side. It’s relaxed camaraderie,” especially if they’ve been in battle mode at work.
  • Bro-Tastic Touchers (15%): Men who give copious high-fives, backslaps, and the occasional fist bump are engaging in “a dominance display,” says Navarro. “It’s intended to get them noticed—to show who’s the biggest silver?back ape.” Adds Wood: “This is acceptable touching for heterosexual men.” Wendt: “These are stages of relaxation.”
  • Nervous Munchers (3%): Women who nibble minutely on nachos are “starving but trying to look feminine,” Wood says. “If she’s doing something repetitively, like creasing her oyster crackers packet, it means she needs to control the situation.” Givens says, “Crunching snack food harkens back to primates eating nuts and berries.”
  • Impromptu Boogiers (13%): Sudden, brief eruptions of dancing to old Wham! or Guns N’ Roses songs expresses “joy bubbling up without sanctions,” Wood says. Givens says people are “seeking attention by moving,” while Navarro notes, “smooth movements are psychologically attractive.” Lydon: “They’re either ready to go home with somebody or they’re drunk. Or both.”
  • Device Bonders (8%): Intense, fetishistic sharing of photos, texts, or new apps on each other’s handhelds is “bonding, sharing your artifacts,” Givens says. Wood: “Sharing photos [on a smartphone] has replaced sharing stories. People get physically intimate, shoulder to shoulder. When you hand over your device, you’re sharing a part of yourself.”
  • Disrobers (6%): “You’re saying, ‘I can relax and don’t have to be alpha anymore,’?” says Woods of the men who untuck their shirts and women who take off their heels and jackets at the bar. “It’s a display of freedom and unconventionality,” says Navarro. Givens: “It’s the new taking off your tie.” Lydon: “They’re one step closer to going home together.”
  • David Hasselhoffs (4%): “They’ve had one too many,” Lydon says of people who stumble, slur, weave across the bar, hang on to colleagues for dear life, or spend 15 minutes trying to unlock a bathroom stall with no lock. Navarro says: “Some people have to self-medicate. Bars are a safe place for this behavior.” Notes Wood: “You can always just say, ‘I was sooo drunk.’?” Wendt: “I don’t judge.”
  • Sloppy Power Huggers (17%): “You don’t have to be as PC as at the office,” says Wood of cocktailing colleagues who engage in excessive, extravagant hugs and kisses and rejoice in simply being co-workers. “You’re out of the office but with your tribe,” says Navarro. Wendt adds: “I guess that’s alcohol doing its thing.”
  • Attention Lusters (19%): Women who flip their hair and bob their legs “are flirting,” says Navarro. “Bouncing feet and dangling shoes mean she’s really into you.” Lydon agrees: “She’s hoping someone pays her some attention.” Givens has a different take: “A bobbing foot could mean some social anxiety.”
  • Solo Drinkers (2%): “They’re alone in a crowd, finding comfort in a noisy environment,” says Navarro of people who idle to the side as their co-workers have a rip-roaring good time. Givens thinks, “You’re secondhand socializing, like [inhaling] secondhand smoke.” Says Wendt: “I try to fly under the radar, but someone always yells out: ‘Norm!’”

If I had to classify myself, I would say that I am equal parts “Bar Belly-Upper” and “Device Bonder” (a recent phenomenon since I discovered the joy of smartphones), but if I don’t like the company, then I can also qualify as a “Solo Drinker”.

How about you? What would someone say about your body language when you’re out with co-workers? We want to know!

15 replies »

  1. Hmm… Given the circumstances, company and draft list, i can morph from Bar Belly-Upper to Device Bonder to Solo Drinker (though I get plenty of practice at that when I’m truly solo) as well.

    However, I don’t see the behavior profile description that best suits my Happy Hour nature: “The Bourne”. Fortunately, I’m rarely armed when I go to happy hours these days (but you should see what I can do in a doctor’s waiting room with a rolled up copy of Travel & Leisure Magazine).



  2. What about the Eagle-Eye Observer? Different form the Solo Drinkers – the EEO sits (often on a high bar stool) on the edge of the group taking in all of the shenanigans. Armed with a knowing smile and a quick wit (& maybe a camera phone!) she uses the office happy hour as a way to gain intel on those she thinks stands in the way of her next promotion.

    Great post!


    • Thanks TWW! I wish I could take credit for writing it, but I merely recirculated it.

      As far as the Eagle Eye Observer, this is a dangerous one for sure. Also, this is one that had better be careful or they will miss out on many a happy hour due to pissing people off and never being invited out again. As we would say back in the day, “Whatever happens at Happy Hour, stays at Happy Hour.”. 😉


  3. Haha, too true! This would make a great cast of characters for a new tv show … I’d def tune in (especially if their drink de jour was whisky!)

    Although, perhaps it’s better to stick to the classics – ah Norm. Cheers 😉


    • Perhaps you should pitch it to the people at HBO. Kind of like a mash-up between The Office, Sex and the City, Cheers, and Entourage.

      A tribute to Norm…


      • Brilliant …. “What’s shaken Norm?” “All 4 cheeks and a couple of chins” Ha! G-Lo – if you can get the Cheers writers behind it, I’ll get us the pitch meeting 🙂


        • And I know a lawyer or two that will make sure that we get all the royalty income. For a price of course. Find me a lawyer that works for free.


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