Friday night drinks after work can benefit companies as much as workers, a Victoria University study has shown.
Work drinks can help create stronger relationships or make employees work harder out of loyalty to the company, which becomes a "good mate" for picking up the tab, master's graduate and researcher Benjamin Walker says.
But he warns that this relationship can have a "darker side".
One senior member of a Wellington professional firm used in his research said the company used alcohol as a reward for coping with a heavy workload.
"We will work them bloody hard. And, as a consequence of that, if we have to fill them up with a bit of grog, so they think we're good people, then we'll do that."
A 28-year-old female participant also said employees were taught to use alcohol as a networking "prop" to help start conversations with people around a room.
However, Mr Walker said his research showed the firm managed alcohol in the workplace well, and that staff drank responsibly because they valued their careers.
His supervisor, Todd Bridgman, a senior lecturer from Victoria Business School, said employees might know drinks were as much for the company's benefit as their own, but it would not necessarily stop them working hard.
"Even if they see it as a managerial tactic, they may view it as justifiable reward for their hard work."
But organisations should keep an eye on whether they were encouraging or even requiring workers to drink, he said.
The Green Man Pub co-owner Steve Drummond said work drinks were a large part of his business, from the "thank God it's Friday" crowd to corporate functions and managers bringing their teams to celebrate the completion of a project.
While there wasn't much difference between them and other clients, he said work groups generally wanted to socialise in a slightly more formal sense.
Employees protected their careers and images by monitoring how much they were drinking at work-hosted functions, around their bosses, managers and clients. Alcohol was used like a prop to help develop and keep up a relationship with clients. Employee courses included drinking etiquette, such as using topping up a drink to start a conversation when networking. Providing alcohol was good for the company. it encouraged employees to work harder during work hours, and allowed them to create stronger relationships with colleagues. Having a few drinks together was a way to induct new graduates. One study participant said there was a noticeable difference in how relaxed teams were in working together after their first function. Employees said alcohol was used as a reward for keeping up with long hours and high expectations. Drinks were also used to celebrate successes such as landing a big contract.
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