Tell your boss, after-work drinks good for business

By Lydia Anderson

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NOT FOR NORTH: Research has encouraged companies to have team-building after-work drinks but a local union representative says it's not for Northland. PHOTO/FILE
NOT FOR NORTH: Research has encouraged companies to have team-building after-work drinks but a local union representative says it's not for Northland. PHOTO/FILE

An after-work tipple with colleagues can help strengthen workplace relationships among Northland workers and may be good for business, research suggests.

However, corporate Northland companies had moved away from offering workplace drinks amid fears of boozy socialising spilling over into arguments, Amalgamated Workers Union Whangarei organiser Robert Popata said.

"I can't say I've seen [workplace drinks] probably in the last 10 years," he said. "People had disagreements outside of work after a few beers, it became work-related and, really, companies stepped away from that."

A Victoria University study examined influences on young people's drinking habits in a white-collar environment. It found laying on free alcohol bought bosses "credit". They were seen as being a "good mate" for buying staff drinks, with workers feeling "compelled to work harder during ordinary work time".

Mr Popata said workplace drinks were more likely to be offered by low-paying employers.

"You talk to [workers] about why they don't join unions, why they don't strive to get better terms and conditions and their answers are, 'Our boss looks after us and takes us out for a beer on the Friday night after work'.

"Quite frankly, we'd rather [the boss] put that money into their pay packets so they can buy bread and milk for their family.

"If you're going to [do workplace bonding], do the real stuff and do the bonding. You don't need alcohol to bond people."

Study authors Master's graduate Benjamin Walker and management school senior lecturer Dr Todd Bridgman conducted in-depth interviews with employees at an un-named professional services organisation in Wellington.

Mr Walker was surprised to discover the extent to which alcohol featured in the workplace.

"Alcohol is commonly used to facilitate team bonding and for presenting a friendly, informal image when networking with clients. It's the way the organisation celebrates success, as well as the way new employees are inducted into the organisation."

The researchers found that social events where alcohol was involved could even be a deliberate form of managerial control.

"Through positive reinforcement using events involving alcohol [the organisation] succeeded in prompting workers to work harder", the study said.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association said "Friday-night drinks" were common practice for many businesses.

"Having staff congregate and network outside their usual connections within an organisation can be very good for staff morale and help with team-building," spokesman Gilbert Peterson said.

The study was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

- Northern Advocate

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