When I was promoted and given a team to manage, one of my priorities was cultivating a healthy team culture for my direct reports. Few of my colleagues may realize it, but I’m a fun guy, word to Kawhi. And while I may have sometimes despised the way colleagues of my past would host mandatory fun after-work functions at the office’s local pub, I must admit they were an efficient (albeit unoriginal) means of getting folks to loosen the hell up for once.
These days, my team — Black Karen, Mitch, and Young Marcus the Intern — is working remotely, which takes IRL happy hours off the table (ditto for Marcus’ 20 years of age). But let’s be real: Even before the pandemic, these cliché bar outings had become HR minefields. They were where in-office reputations were solidified, and legends were made for the wrong reasons. (Shout out to the Snow Patrol.)
Once the drinks start flowing, professional facades and filters vanish. Amy from accounting lets her hair down, Richard from recruiting unfastens the top two buttons of his shirt, and you and the attractive person who works in another department finally get a chance to speak — away from the fluorescent lighting that feels like it’s slowly zapping your soul. Trust, it doesn’t take a meteorologist to predict a whole lot of messy in the forecast.
How can I expand the playbook to team activities that are more inclusive and less dependent on alcohol?
Don’t even get me started on all of the Earl Grey that gets spilled at these happy hours. The most popular activity at any workplace event with booze is to talk about everyone who isn’t present at said function. Even I’ve partaken in this great corporate American pastime, especially on the occasions when there’s been another Black person in attendance. When two Black co-workers meet at a company happy hour, just know they’re gonna find a way to talk about who’s casually racist, who’s overtly racist, who has a Black wife or husband, who is down with Black Lives Matter…