You Learn a Lot When You’re the Sober One.

Tim Sackett always writes practical and entertaining posts,  Today’s post, “The Number One Reason You Should Never Drink at an Office Function” is no exception.  Tim goes beyond cautioning us to not make a fool of ourselves with a tongue loosened by alcohol.  He points out that bonds can be created and information exchanged by being the sober one among drinkers.  Tim then articulates a secret I discovered long ago . . . you learn more from employees, supervisors, and witnesses at their smoke breaks than you do in any interview or formal setting.  Whether it be a labor relations matter or an OSHA case where I need to earn credibility and put witnesses at ease, even though I do not smoke, I will regularly keep the smokers company during their break.  I usually take a cup of coffee (my addiction)  and it does not seem awkward.  Many times a solid employee relaxes and proves to be enormously helpful when he realizes that the lawyer puts on pants one leg at a time, just as does he, except lawyers are more clumsy.  Tim sums it up even better:

The only thing better than employees with too much alcohol in them are the employees that smoke with too much alcohol in them!

These are a unique group of people who tend to talk too much anyway.  I mean they are already going outside for 5-10 times per day for 5-10 minute little breaks to get their smoke on, so they’re use to coming up with conversation to pass the time away with their smoker friends.

The smoker network gets even better with drinks!  People ask me if I smoke because I go outside with the smokers, and I don’t, but they have the best conversations.  Plus, the smokers are the only “group” in the organization that is truly diverse – you get all shapes and sizes, males and females, Black, White, Blue, Secretaries and Vice Presidents – You’ll hear it all!

(Tim’s Newbie HR Pro Tip No. 23 – hang with the smokers in your organization; you will find out everything before it happens!)TLNT.

Don’t view Tim’s recommendations as some Machiavellian strategy to take advantage of employees.  Rather, use your interaction with coworkers at parties and with smokers to build better relationships and to obtain and communicate information in a more civilized fashion.  I’ve won many a case because I treated employees and investigators as normal people and did not put on “my full lawyer.”




About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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