How to behave during liquid lunch meetings

While drink-fuelled lunch meetings are less common than in the past, they still happen. Here’s a guide to how to behave if you’re drinking during a meeting…

The glass of wine over a lunch meeting was once part of many business people’s daily routine. But as we’ve become more health conscious and time poor, these sorts of long lunch meetings have become old fashioned.

Business people eating at a restaurant

Lloyd’s of London has taken things a step further by banning daytime drinking for workers. This was after it found out that half of employee disciplinary cases were related to alcohol.

But most companies don’t have a ban in place and leave it up to individual employees to manage their own behaviour in these situations.

Here are a few tips on handling liquid lunch meetings…

Err on the side of caution
Don’t be the first person to order a double whiskey or suggest splashing out on a bottle of fizz. If you’re with clients, only order an alcoholic drink if they do. If you’re with colleagues, take your lead from the most senior person.

This also means not drinking heavily until the food – or at least some bread – has arrived. If you know you’re going for a liquid lunch maybe grab a quick bite beforehand to help reduce the impact of the alcohol. And make sure you order a few bottles of water for the table.

Limit yourself
‘Everything in moderation’ should be your mantra during liquid lunches. Don’t over-do it. Even if your client is starting to knock back the glasses of Pinot Nior, don’t be tempted to follow them into drunken oblivion. After all, you don’t know what they’re doing after. They might be heading back to their hotel room to sleep it off, while you’re faced with heading back to work drunk.

A Business Man Holding a Glass of Wine

Know your own limits and don’t be afraid to say stop. If you feel yourself getting a little tipsy, then switch to water or grab a coffee.

A study by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China found that a single small glass of beer was enough to help business meetings flow more freely. They found that when everyone at the table had a single small drink collaboration was more common. It shows you don’t need to be drunk to get conversation flowing.

Consider the consequences
While many industries wouldn’t blink if someone had a drink at lunch time, in others it could cost you your job.

It sounds like common sense, but just consider what you might be asked to do when you return to work and whether alcohol would affect that. If you’ve got any physical work then getting even a little drunk should be a no-no.

The same goes if you’ve got a big presentation after lunch or you have an important deadline to meet.

Building relationships, don’t burn bridges
Alcohol can, in the right circumstances, make conversation more relaxed. This can help you strengthen relationships with colleagues and clients, becoming more open and divulging personal information you might have felt uncomfortable doing otherwise.

But there is a flip side. If taken too far, a drunken chat can turn into an argument and you could end up seriously damaging relationships. Even if you aren’t aware of it at the time, you might say something offensive after a couple of glasses of wine that you wouldn’t normally do.

Be more wary of what you’re talking about and try and avoid topics where people could be offended.

Go home
If you have enjoyed too many glasses of wine or beer during lunch and are feeling a little worse for wear, then go home.

Firstly, you don’t want your boss seeing you stumble in drunk and smelling of booze. And secondly, you’ll probably be of use to no one in that state.

If it means having to make up the time another day, then that’s the price you have to pay.




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