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You notice that your office tends to blow off steam and bond by going out for a drink after work. You don’t drink alcohol. Is this going to be a problem for you? What should you say if people notice you’re not drinking?
Work events often focus on drinking whether it’s a weekly happy hour or a client dinner. But if you don’t drink – for whatever reason – it shouldn’t be a big deal to be sober at work. I’ve seen lots of people successfully handle this in a few ways:
Order a beverage – like a glass of club soda with lime – and sip on that. You don’t need to call attention to the fact that it doesn’t contain alcohol if you don’t want to.
Order an alcoholic beverage and just hold it all night.
Turn down a drink with a simple, “No thanks.” Or with “No thanks, I’m good for now.” (Adding “for now…” might invite a second offer of a drink later, but it usually stops conversation in the moment.)
Turn down a drink and explain that you don’t drink: “No thanks, I don’t drink.”
Whatever you decide to do on any given day, the key is to be casual and treat it like a non-issue. Usually everyone else will follow suit. But…sometimes, they don’t. Here’s how this can play out if you come across someone who tries to turn it into a big deal:
Boss: Hey employee, grab a beer!
Employee: I’m good, thanks.
Boss: Are you sure? We’ve got wine too, help yourself!
Employee: I’m fine, thanks. So, what do you think of tonight’s event? Great venue, huh?
Boss: Yeah, it’s cool. You sure you don’t want a drink?
Employee: Yeah, I’m good. I don’t really drink. So, I wanted to ask you about xyz file you’re working on…
Partner: You don’t drink? What? Why?
Employee: No, I don’t. (Or, No, I don’t, due to allergies/religion/never developed a taste/etc.) I am, however, basically responsible for keeping my favorite seltzer company in business! Anyway, what’s keeping you busy these days?
Boss: Actually, I’ve got this really great new project…
In the vast majority of situations, I think you’ll find that abstaining is just not a big deal or even noticeable, especially now that being sober at work is much more common (e.g., Dry January).
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