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Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

(OP)
My current job puts me in a position of power that I am not sure I like/want. I am an engineer with a big well known construction company. We do a lot of design-build work, so I interact with some of the big-name consulting firms. I am apparently old enough that the champions at these firms are previous colleagues or college buddies of mine.

When we go out for lunch or for a beer, I get so annoyed with the niceties that are aimed at me. I whole heartedly understand where they are coming from, but is there a polite way to say "it's after 5pm, we aren't talking business (granted 80% of the conversation is engineering related because we are helpless nerds)."

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

I guess that comes with the territory.
I try to be very selective on the functions that I attend and whenever a contractor invites me for a lunch meeting, I insist that it takes place in our property in one of our restaurants, where I can sign the bill. Most of them get surprised when I do not let them pay as lunches and other amenities are usually offered by contractors/sales people in an attempt to drive business.
Remember that Caesar's wife must be above suspicion...

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Sometimes people like to vent after hours. Sometimes work related ideas pop up talking/drinking when there is less stress. Be selective what you want to hear.

Chris, CSWP
SolidWorks '20
ctophers home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Quote (appot)

but is there a polite way to say "it's after 5pm, we aren't talking business"
That sounds polite enough and to the point. Let them know you're clocked out and they should respect that. If they don't, then you know to limit interactions to a professional basis as they have no concern for you personally.

There can be a very fine line between the sales tactic of incentives, freebies, lunch, dinner, drinks, and the company culture of wanting to pay for things. It is expected of me to not allow my customers to pay for drinks and cab rides, regardless of whether I'm with professional friends going out for drinks after a conference or part of a sales excursion and "entertaining clients".

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Sounds like you either need better friends or acquaintances that are better salesmen. If they want to make a pitch then they should either come to your office or invite you to theirs, but pushing business over a meal is embarrassingly unprofessional marketing. I wouldn’t even address the issue, just forgive the minor isolated incident and cut ties with repeat/flagrant offenders.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Or you can respond with "I hear you, but can you believe the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs last season? I wonder if they can make it all the way this season?"

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

My take is if they want to pay for stuff, let them. Does not mean you are obligated to throw business their way. But, as long as it not expected to be reciprocated, it doesn't hurt to at least be a bit more amenable to them during actual business dealings.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Pedarrin2:

There are no free lunches. Sooner or later, the bill will come due.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

There's "relationship building", and there's "talking shop", and then there's "selling". The first two are fine and to be expected at business happy hour. The third is too far.

You'll never completely separate business from personal. For many of us, our careers are too deeply embedded into our beings. It's part of who we are.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

"I get so annoyed with the niceties that are aimed at me..."

I'm a bit lost here as to what you find annoying? Do you just think they're blowing smoke up your behind or what?

Any examples?

Maybe " Hey Joe, my ego is big enough as it is. I don't need you to to make it any bigger or I might not be able to get out of the door.... Now how's that project of yours going in xxx" or start talking about holidays, family, cars or sport because that's what us blokes talk about right?

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

(OP)
Quite the range of responses. Some of you misinterpreted the question a little bit, others of you answered it well, so thank you.

I just really do not like the constant flattery. You can be civilized, pleasant to be around, friendly without being overly flattering. To me it is annoying to be fawned over when in my mind we are equals, if I am not lesser (some of these engineers I greatly respect and admire for their technical ability).

And then there are people like WindWright who must not have been held by his mother as a child. Sorry you were an orphan. You can come to happy hour with us if you promise not to be a buzz kill!

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Unless these guys were your college buddies - guys you knew well and still know well and would drop everything and rush to the hospital if their kid got sick - don't go to these looking for friendship of any kind. Professional relationships, sure, but friendships are not a good idea. (Even if they are close friends - don't do the friends thing at professional functions.)

Go into it expecting that they'll be blowing smoke up your arse, accept it and enjoy it (not many people will sit on your perch), and then get out of there and spend time with real friends and family who treat you like a real person and not somebody who's going to earn them their next Christmas bonus when you sign the proposal they'll be sending over in the morning.

Because you're not equals. They may be your technical betters, but you are their better in business. You write the checks. You decide who eats and who starves.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Pham,

You were doing well until that last sentence....

Appot, you probably need to let some of this wash over you and not really respond other than maybe, "well that's nice to know" then move into something else....

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

LittleInch - what's wrong with the last sentence? Is that not the reason for this 'unreasonable fawning?' Even if not actually true, it is perceived to be true. It's very unlikely that anything appot does will change that perception. Might as well accept it and move on.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

"Who eats and who starves" is just a little bit too dramatic for me.

Sure who gets the contacts and who doesn't, but "starve" is just going a bit. IMHO of course.

That sort of position isn't for everyone and it can make you feel very uncomfortable, but business is business and that's how it goes. And it shouldn't all be on the say of one person anyway.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Ah, I see. That's fair. Though in a small to medium sized consulting firm - or even a department in a larger firm - a lot can hinge on the decisions of a single large client. My statement may have been a touch hyperbolic, but it can feel that way at times when you're searching for work for you and your employees to do to keep the lights on and payroll turning.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Quote:

I just really do not like the constant flattery.

I find it interesting that this is coming from engineers. I have seen similar behavior out of junior "business" folks hoping for a promotion, but IME engineers treat everybody with equal (usually clueless) indifference. Through the dayjob and volunteering I've had quite a few meals with Fortune 500 execs and automotive celebrities and most noticeably relax when told I'm an engineer, always assumed they thought I'd either make intelligent conversation or know enough not to be annoying.

RE: Engineering Happy Hour: business vs friendship

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote anything that got red-flagged and removed. Touché.
It does make me wonder how much you really are bothered by flattery... when sarcasm cuts you so deeply... that "thou doth protest too much".

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