Years ago, folks used to drink at work. They took work seriously and they took drinking just as serious. A cocktail or two while out at lunch was the workplace norm, not the exception, and not the mortal sin it’s now become. Work was work, but there was some amount of fun involved. That fun involving hitting the bottle on the clock.
The Economist reminded me this week that, as they put it, “the battle is over and the killjoys have won.” Their article, titled “The boredom of boozeless business: The sad demise of the three-Martini lunch,” summarizes two new studies published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and Consciousness and Cognition.
The newpaper’s summarization of each study produced two simple conclusions: first, “Americans link even moderate drinking with stupidity, which the professors call the ‘imbibing idiot bias’.” Second and more straightforward, “a couple of drinks makes workers more creative.” The two studies’ conclusions scientifically confirm what we’ve always known: you might be better at your job with a drink, but you’ll be thought the fool should you partake. (Never mind whether you’d be permitted a drink, that’s long gone.)
Reminiscing for those times, thanks to Mad Men’s popularity, is of course all the rage, or at least was when the show debuted. Even in that fictional setting, the booze-fueled culture is becoming a frowned-upon practice of a by-gone era, documenting the demise of the workplace pour as the show progresses into the late 1960s.
So what’s left at work today? Certainly not a bottle strategically hidden inside your desk. Is there anything other than the obligatory and largely misery-inducing post-work Happy Hour with colleagues? However, as long as there are enterprising employees, there are enterprising drinkers: those of us who trust our colleagues to discreetly enjoy a beer or cocktail with over lunch, who can handle our liquor and return to our desks with the appearance of sobriety.
Perhaps the killjoys haven’t won after all. Maybe instead of the three-Martini lunch, it’s now just one or two. Workplace boozing is still present, it’s just gone underground, conducted only within circles of trusted colleagues, who not only value a fine drink, but more importantly, absolute secrecy.