Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Alcoholic Cheerleader

Last week I was sent on an impromptu business trip. Well, it seems nothing is planned and is always done at the last minute at my current client site. So this shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Still, when you come in Monday morning and see an email telling you that you are expected on a business trip later that week – I’m just glad the trip wasn’t on the other side of the globe.

Luckily, my business trip was to a summit in the city’s west-end. Still, in order for me to be able to beat traffic, I had to sleep over at the hotel the summit was being held at the night before.

I don’t mind sleeping in hotels. Room service, the on-site gym and that overall feeling of being pampered are nice to haves. Sleeping in a strange room, under strange covers isn’t always easy.

You learn a lot about your colleagues on these business get-a-ways. Spending days and nights with the same group of people will bring out everyone’s more personal side.

On a business trip I’m always cautious not to go crazy. Always remember you are still on business, and those around you will be judging you for your professionalism at all times. It doesn’t matter if those people are beneath you or above you on the corporate ladder – always be professional.

That’s good advice, but it appears our drunken silly marketing manager and the director of marketing don’t believe in this advice.

Every chance those two “professionals” (and I use the term exceptionally loosely here) had to spend drinking, they did. They were hooting and hollering like drunken floozies at the corporate dinner we had. Yes it was an open bar. No, that doesn’t mean get the funnel and keep ‘em coming.

The marketing management was already at the bar at 9am the first day of the three-day summit. Leaving others to do their setting up and preparation. They did somehow manage to stumble back to the conference room to present their work, but they were late – as usual – and probably sloshed.

Then, at the company poker game, they brought their own booze. I had warned the marketing director not to do this earlier in the day. I told her, by supplying the alcohol we were taking on the legal responsibility of “host” and that means if anyone does anything stupid, we’d be legally responsible. So, if someone got plastered and destroyed their hotel room, or decided to walk naked down the street drinking their bottle of beer, we’d be the ones to pay the legal consequences.

The marketing director “poo pooed” my ideas, saying we’re all professionals and no one would get drunk.

Yeah, right, no one gets drunk. Funny, she was drunk the night before. She was having a great ‘ol time laughing loudly, talking loudly and slurring her words to the beat of her own booze induced drummer.

The training manager also supported my ideas, and said it probably isn’t a good idea. We even talked to the hotel and they managed to get us clearance to take drinks from the bar down the hall to the room where the poker was taking place. Problem solved, we would have booze, but the hotel was supplying it, so we weren’t legally liable.

That just wasn’t good enough for our alcoholic cheerleaders. The marketing director’s room was next to mine – not by my doing. I saw her in the hall as I was heading down to dinner. She tells me she got some alcohol for the poker tonight and would be bringing it to the room.

I gave her a look and said “fine.” It wasn’t fine, it was childish and unprofessional. I felt like a parent who had an unruly teenager that just wouldn’t listen. I went to dinner and focused on my food to take my mind off the marketing director’s ineptitude.

The poker game was a great team building activity. It really brought us closer together with some of our branch manages, and we all had a lot of fun.

Some had more fun than others.

The marketing director was slurping down rum, vodka and gin like it was water. When I just grabbed a bottle of water, she said “that’s all you’re having?”

I felt like a kid at his first party, and everyone was putting the peer pressure on for me to take a puff of the joint being passed around the room.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to inhale.”

Eventually, as the night wore on, I decided I’d have a small drink, just a little rum and some coke. The marketing director noticed quickly and said, “no you’re finally loosening up.”

Good thing I wasn’t as loose as her. By this time she was already cruising down drunken avenue. She was stumbling around bare feet, plunking down on chairs that somehow luckily didn’t collapse under her swift decent. I guess when she gets toasty, she looses the perception of height or some other spatial awareness, because she was falling into the chairs like a rock falling from the sky.

After the poker match, we all went to the bar to have some drinks. I still was careful and very corporate. I had one drink and nursed it until I left.

Yeah, I know, not as much fun as chugging and downing another, and another and another.

But, as a business person with other business persons, it is the right thing to do. Social functions at work are supposed to be fun. But come Monday morning, you still have to show up at work after any shenanigans you may have pulled in front of your co-workers.

Or worse, in front of others who you rely on for information and resources necessary to do your job. When these people see you misbehaving like a teenager going all out at a corporate function, they don’t forget.

I will never forget the image of the marketing manager slurring her poorly thought out sentences at the corporate dinner. And I will never forget the image of the marketing director, winding her way around the poker tables in her bare feet.

When they come to me and need something from me, I won’t forget how unprofessional they really are. And that’s the worst thing that can happen in a business setting. Because now you have people that don’t value each other’s contributions to the team and that just makes the whole team suffer.

Pass the bottle – I’m off duty.

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