Momentum Podcast: 157

Unhappy Hour

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

At many large corporations “happy hours” are seen as a team building tool. Employees are encouraged to go out and hang out together at a bar, drinking, in hopes that they will build relationships that will somehow help the company. 

I have never understood the logic in this. When I was a consulting with multiple Fortune 500 companies, every month at least one of the companies I worked with had something happen during a happy hour. 

When you work at one company, you may only see something happen every once in a while. But when you work with a lot of companies, you realize just how damaging happy hours are. 

There is more than one reason we don't support happy hours in our organization. If you want to build a world changing company, you may not want to support them either.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen and this is the momentum podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trail blazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off, and don't know why anyone would want to.

We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.

Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how.

While the rest of the world strives for average, and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. And instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it really. We, are the evolutionary hunters. Clearly, the most important people in the world. Because, entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent positive human evolution, and we always will be.

Unhappy hour. This is a sensitive topic, and it's also a very polarizing one. So I apologize in advance if this frustrates you or upsets you or turns you off in any way. But, I think it's an important topic, especially for entrepreneurs. And I was going to call this podcast, why we don't do happy hour, but I was afraid that too many people wouldn't click on it and listen to it, and I think this is a crucial message for any entrepreneur building a company to hear.

Cadey and I have run businesses together since we got together 5 years ago. And, prior to that, I've run teams and corporations since I was 18 years old. I'm not very good at a lot of things on my own, but I'm good at building teams, putting people in the right place and figuring out who fits together to make things happen and actually have a company grow.

And in my early career, I would have told you that happy hour was one of the best things you could do for a business. People get together, they feel like they're building a relationship, they have fun together. In fact, I used to have them all the time. I was a consultant, and in the business I was in, we went to happy hours constantly. We entertained constantly, we took people out constantly, and it was that business that I started when I was ... Starting in when I was 21 years old, and it was in for over 10 years, that convinced me, that one of the most damaging things you can do in your company is encourage routine happy hours.

You get into this crazy work hard, play hard type mentality with happy hours that will tear your company apart, and let me tell you why. I want to give you details because I don't want you to just take the face value.

So first, here's the problem with happy hour. When you drink, people think that they get more socially acceptable, they think that it's easier to get along with people. We think that we have an easier time talking to people, we build relationships faster. But here's the reality of drinking, we're creating fake momentum. The alcohol that we take in, gives us this temporary ability to be other than ourselves. What does that really do?

If we're sponsoring happy hours and that's where our team's getting to know each other and they're spending time together, if we're condoning happy hours, and this is where people are building relationships, what happens is, the time your team spends together becomes about drinking, not about achievement. That is just ... That right there is one reason that happy hours should be completely abolished in your company and you shouldn't allow it. You shouldn't sponsor it, you shouldn't ... You know, it's hard for you to tell people they can't go. But you don't have to encourage it. You don't have to tell people that that's what you want them to do. You don't have to make it a company sponsored event.

For all intents and purposes, Cadey and I run a dry company and here's why. When I was 21 and I started watching the effect of happy hours, I started realizing what happens when people go on out drinking. I started seeing what was really going on with the companies and corporations that I worked with, and seen the devastating effect of getting team members together to go out drinking.

I realized it was one of the most damaging things going on in any one of my client companies. Because here's what happens sooner or later. Everyone goes out to a happy hour, and someone says something they shouldn't have. Everyone goes out in their happy hour, and someone does something they shouldn't have. Everyone goes out to a happy hour and somebody hooks up with someone they shouldn't have.

And when that happens, it is incredibly destructive in a company. And if it's your event, if you're telling people to go, if you're creating the happy hour, you are the source of that pain.

When I was younger, I remember being at an event, and this is just one of so many stories I could tell you about issues with drinking, where someone's life was dramatically shifted. I was working with a major memory company, we were at a show called Retail Vision in California, and it was an event where the buyers from every major retailer all came to one place. So everybody back then, Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples. I'm naming a lot of stores some of you guys have never heard of, this was the retail climate back then. Radio Shack, Wal-Mart.

Everyone comes to one place, and then manufacturers who have products to go into retail, come to that place, and everybody gets together at Retail Vision. And I can remember one show, the memory company we were working with had a new VP of Sales, he was really good guy. I liked him. He he was funny, he was good in meetings, he helped us get a few deals closed. And we were at that show, and we went out to a happy hour a one night, and everybody had a really good time.

In fact, we drank a lot. This was back when I drank, I haven't had a drink in over 15 years. This was back when I drank. Back when I felt like it was part of business, like you had to. Which is funny because, I used to think you had to drink in order to be successful in business.

And every company Cadey and I have ever run has essentially been a dry company. We don't have alcohol at our company events, we don't have alcohol ... We don't do happy hours, we don't have alcohol in the office, there's no beer keg in our office. Which is, come on, that's just bush league ridiculousness. You want people to focus, get rid of the freakin' beer keg in the wine taps.

And the companies that we've run without alcohol have been far more successful than anything I did in my past. And I can remember this night, a simple accident happened. The guy that I'm talking about had had a few drinks, and went out to move his car. Not to do anything else besides just move it, it was in the wrong parking space at a bar or something. And he went out and instead of moving it, drove it across the street and pulled onto a center median, like crashed into the center median across the street from him.

It was dark, he couldn't see, he was also kind of buzzed. He ended up getting arrested. Because he was arrested at Retail Vision, every retailer in the country knew about it, and for all intents and purposes, it ended his career in our industry. He was the guy who got so drunk he crashed a car at a happy hour at the most important show of the year, and almost immediately, it was the conversation everyone was having. And there was no forgiveness for him.

Even though everybody else was drinking, that ended his career. I mean it literally ... He was gone from the memory manufacturer I was working with within a week. He had rented a Jaguar from a rental company, and that's what he had crashed so it ended up costing him like 40 or 50 thousand dollars, because he literally parked it on a center median and just completely wrecked the entire undercarriage, the oil pan, knocked the engine off the engine mount. It was horrible how much damage was done to this car.

And it was because he was at a simple happy hour, entertaining clients and went out to move his car. Ad because he had a blood alcohol level that was higher than what it should be, he was arrested, put in jail, ended up having to defend himself in California even though he didn't live there, it was a complete and total nightmare.

And that's a dramatic example. One that really stands out in my mind, there are so many more. I mean I've seen people at corporate sponsored happy hours get in fights, and and up sleeping with the wrong person, break their marriage vows, sleep with subordinates, or hitting on subordinates even worse, without having them reciprocate. It's just not a safe or a healthy environment for you to encourage your team to go into.

And so there's a clear reason we don't do happy hour. I don't support fake momentum. And guys, it's not just when we all get together and drink what happens, it's when we drink it all what happens. I know there's this argument that exists today; this, a little bit of alcohol is good for you, or sometimes drinking is okay, or drinking can actually be beneficial to your health, and I call 100% total BS.

I don't care what phytonutrients are available in red wine, you can get them in a different way without having to take on the alcohol. When we drink as little as one or two drinks, we eliminate the most effective level of deep sleep that we get, you can't get there. When we drink just a couple of drinks, we completely and totally dehydrate our body. Alcohol is a diuretic, it makes us completely empty out the water that we're carrying, and throws off our entire system.

When we drink even just a little bit, we lose the judgment that we have in the moment to be fully present, fully aware and create momentum. And when we drink in a situation with our business, we open ourselves to the liability of diminished capacity, and being around the people with whom we are creating success. It doesn't make sense.

So, in our company we don't do happy hour. And at our events, we have cash bars. I don't buy alcohol for people. If they want it, they can get it. And then our company events, there has never been a cash bar. And even then, sometimes our team members have gone off to the bar at the hotel, or have found a bar somewhere and have ended up getting the alcohol some way and we've had issues. I don't want to see that happen to your company.

So one of the easiest things to do, starting right now, is to eliminate any type of happy hour or drinking that you do with your team. Eliminate any type of happy hour sponsored drinking that you do as a way to motivate the team members, and start creating habits around success. Have your team get together and talk about success. Do goal setting with them. We used to sponsor five K's on the weekend. We get 20 or 30 of our team members out there running in a five K, increasing their health, feeling better.

Because when I want my team ... When my team gets together, I want them thinking about improving, about momentum, about moving in the right direction. Not, sitting at a TGI Fridays, drinking their faces off, and then having trouble remembering the next morning what happened. Because let's be honest, at most happy hours, that's exactly what goes on. And using happy hours as an excuse to make work more productive ,is a lie that every person walking into them tells themselves. Because the fact is do we really accomplish anything in a happy hour, other than just being around each other in a diminished capacity? Not really.

This is a topic that I know will be polarizing for some. But if you want your business to grow, and you want to protect yourself as an owner, and you want to lower your liability, and take care of your people, and make certain you are giving them every opportunity for momentum, stay out of that happy hour game, it just doesn't make sense.

And if you haven't yet, download a copy of the entrepreneurial personality type, my book. In the chapter on entrepreneurial loops and spirals, you will learn exactly why things like alcohol keep us coming back even though, they are not creating momentum.

And, you will learn exactly why, or how, you can get out of that never ending loop or spiral that you're in, that has you stuck, feeling constrained, and feeling like you are not in momentum. Because, for people like us, the most important thing in the world is feeling forward progress. And when we start drinking, we get anything but.

Thank You For Listening!

I am truly grateful that you have chosen to spend your time listening to me and my podcast.

Please feel free to reach out if you have a question or feedback via our Contact Us page.

Please leave me a review on iTunes and share my podcast with your friends and family.

With gratitude,


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