HappyHour_Square

Graphic by Mike Forbush

Happy hours are one of my favorite things. Who doesn’t love a plate of calamari, sliders, and a glass of house red — all for under $10? After a long day, there’s nothing like eating some fried food, sipping on a glass of cheap wine, and catching up with your favorite friends … especially when there’s no one from the office around to hear you talk smack about your snarky coworkers and overbearing boss.

But what happens when happy hours aren’t so happy — when you’re forced to “enjoy” a cold one with people from your office?

While most of us have what we would consider a “real” friend or two at work, not all of us are blessed to be best buddies with those we spend 9–5 with. When micromanagers decide to incorporate what should be the best of hours into some sort of team-building exercise, it can be painful to enjoy your favorite food and libation — even if it goes on the company credit card.

If you dread spending happy hours with your coworkers, you’re not alone. Darnell Sue, marketing and communications manager at Bellevue-based SimplyFun, has experienced her fair share of happy hours with business partners and executives over the years. “When I first started my career years ago, I remember thinking that the last thing I wanted to do was spend my evenings after work socializing with coworkers after a long day,” she says. “I used to look at it as a chore, something I had to do.

“Now, I realize the benefit of such events,” she says. “It’s a time to connect with your coworkers and add value to your working relationship by getting to know them better.”

Though she would rather spend happy hours with friends at Eastside hotspots like Scotty Browns, El Gaucho, 520 Bar & Grill, or 99 Park, Sue says it’s important to invest time in building coworker relationships outside the workplace. By avoiding these situations, you miss out on key connections that could lead to other opportunities.

Of course, animosity toward your coworkers might be rooted in the fact that you haven’t spent much time with them at all. If that’s the case, it may be worth setting that bitterness aside and trying to enjoy a happy hour with them, even if that means skipping time with your best buds. Dozens of studies have shown that team-building can improve personal job satisfaction by making individuals feel worthwhile and motivated. Happy hours can benefit the team by improving communication — thus improving productivity — and overall office morale. Your coworkers may never become your bridesmaid or best man, but spending a little more time with them might make both these gatherings and your job more enjoyable.

If, after a little effort, you still can’t make work-related happy hours “happy” enough, “It’s probably best to skip out because the last thing anyone wants to be after work is unhappy,” says Sue. Your disdain for your coworkers may indicate a bigger problem you have with your job, which might reflect poorly on you, whether you realize it or not.

Consider bringing up your issues at your next “real” happy hour and ask the people you truly enjoy spending time with if it’s your coworkers you don’t want to share a beer with — or if it’s you that is the real problem. Even if it is difficult to enjoy happy hours — or any other social events — with your coworkers, it may be in your best interest to take a deep breath and attend them anyway.

Socializing with others from your office not only demonstrates that you’re committed to the company and a team player, but also shows you’re likeable — and therefore more trustworthy. Establishing this can open new opportunities, such as a promotion, and could be all you need to ensure a little job security — something that is definitely worth hanging out with your colleagues for an extra hour.