Can Alcohol Put Your Business on The Rocks?

Do you think alcohol and networking mix?

Some people do Dry January, which means taking a break from alcohol. And some who participate in the Catholic tradition of Lent, give up alcohol during the Lenten Season. While others do not drink by personal preference, or are in recovery working on living a life of sobriety.

There are many situations and settings where networking happens, business is discussed, and alcohol is present. How does alcohol influence these encounters? And how does it affect the way people in recovery network?

Alcohol can impair judgment in negotiations.

According to the study “The Impact of Alcohol on Negotiator Behavior: Experimental Evidence” by Maurice E. Schweitzer, Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and Leslie E. Gomberg of Barry University: “Often, alcohol exerts considerable influence over the negotiation process. In some cases, alcohol consumption eliminates the possibility of reaching a deal (Ruzicka, 1995), while in others it helps create agreements that probably should not have been reached. In one example, after consuming wine during a negotiation, a real-estate investor agreed to sell a property for half of its actual value (Schapiro, 1993). In a more serious example of alcohol’s influence on the negotiation process, senior American generals gave away important secrets after consuming alcohol with Soviet generals during the arms-control negotiations leading to Start II Treaty (Rowny, 1992).”

While it’s doubtful that anyone in Northeastern Pennsylvania is giving away top-secret information over happy hour, many professionals still prefer to network dry.

Bob Courtright of Courtright & Associates who also serves as president of the nonprofit group NEPA Networkers, says he doesn’t drink or eat during events because as a host, he is there to support the mission of the group, which is to help develop businesses in NEPA and help people professionally. “I’m there to facilitate connections between people.”

He says that he waits until after the event is over to relax with a drink.  “The last thing I want to do in a business setting is appear unprofessional.”

A drink can remove anxiety to help some feel comfortable networking.

Others say a cocktail offers a way to lessen potential social anxiety.

Fellow NEPA Networker Board Member Jordan Fritz says, “Alcohol can play a couple different roles at networking events. I don’t promote drinking, but alcohol can help people become more comfortable talking to or approaching people they don’t know. Although, it’s important to know your limits and monitor how much you are consuming. Nerves and the environment may alter your normal tolerance.”

And typically, people know their limits. Bob says that he has not seen anyone overindulge in 13-14 years of networking events.

Explore options to network that do not include alcohol.

Whether it’s a networking event, a company picnic, an awards banquet or conversation after 18 holes, there’s likely going to be alcoholic beverages served. So how does this impact people in recovery who may feel vulnerable or triggered?

My addiction is what I wrestle with every day of my life. It is nobody else’s problem but my own. If I had an issue or an obsession with alcohol in a social setting, I would not attend.

Jamie Monahan, Business Development Representative at ENX2 Legal Marketing

Jamie, who is two years and two months sober from addiction, says that not only can he choose to network in a variety of social settings, but networking is vital to him. He is working toward a Bachelor’s degree currently with plans to work on a Master’s degree and has earned a top scholarship to The McGowan School of Business at King’s College, where he will begin his studies in the Fall.

“Networking as a person in recovery has been greatly beneficial for me. I have noticed more opportunities open up for me to grow as a professional person and help with my sobriety. Connection is everything for people recovering from substance abuse and mental health issues!”

According to an article published by in August 2021, there are strategies that people in recovery can use to navigate work events involving alcohol, but there are also things that employers can do to encourage bonding activities that don’t involve alcohol. Companies can create positive workplace events that are more supportive of employees in recovery by:

  • Making networking the focus of happy hours.
  • Shifting the venue for networking activities and work events to a place not centered on alcohol such as a driving range or bowling alley.
  • Developing more inclusive, alcohol-free company events such as a movie or book club, sports tournament, or group volunteer days.

Enjoy coffee talk.

In addition to quarterly mixers that take place in the evening, NEPA Networkers also offer regular coffee time events where professionals can meet to discuss what’s brewing in the region.

Board Member Jordan says that their morning coffee events feel more intimate than the evening events because they tend to draw a smaller group and that may help people feel comfortable opening up. She adds, “I truly enjoy the morning coffee’s because they start my day on a positive note and allow me to connect with those who cannot make evening events. Whether you are more of a morning person, have kids in extracurricular activities or you are working towards sobriety, the morning Coffee Hours are ideal for many.”