• Anupam Pandey

Should we drink before the meeting, or after?

Do NOT try this at work.

For those familiar with Mad Men, a big part of it's charm was the showcase of a client-driven business, an ad agency, in the 1960s. The one thing I found more fascinating than others was the role alcohol played in the workplace. It was all pervasive. The attitude was summed up in the very first episode where Sal, from the agency's art department, quips to Don Draper, the creative director and protagonist, "Should we drink before the meeting, or after? Or both?" before proceeding to pour himself a drink minutes before a big client presentation.


Circa 2018 I don't expect many corporate cultures to have even a remotely similar attitude towards alcohol. Sure some might allow or even encourage some Friday evening drinking but at any other time or day, showing up to work with whiskey breath will almost certainly result in disciplinary meetings.

Having said that, alcohol is still quite pervasive in client-based businesses, though certainly not at Mad Men levels. When I moved from working in industry to an advisory firm, I noticed this very definite change in culture. Alcohol was a lot more prevalent and commonly served not only at client dinners but team get togethers and company events.

Not surprisingly then, business schools are continuing to research the subject. I found not one but two pieces of recent research done by different schools.


Their conclusions, however, are contradictory. The first, by INSEAD, found that alcohol reduces our capability to negotiate (well, no surprises there, I suppose). The second, by HBR, concludes that drinking to the legal driving limit can actually improve creative problem solving skills!


Perhaps there was a method to Draper's madness after all.


Further reading -

https://knowledge.insead.edu/strategy/can-alcohol-help-you-with-negotiations-8776

https://hbr.org/2018/05/drunk-people-are-better-at-creative-problem-solving

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