Business Travel Has a Drinking Problem...
The Marcus Buckingham of Commentary on Surviving Bad Company Culture...

ASK THE CAPITALIST: How to Be "One of the Gang" at the Office When You Don't Drink...

In response to my post last week about Business Travel Having a Drinking Problem, I got this question...



I have watched too many loved ones struggle with alcohol so I do not drink.  (I too engaged in the past in enough to cover me for a while)  Plus, I like bringing Odoulsmy "a game" and I cant do that when I am hung over! What advice would you give to someone who feels their career advancement has been negatively impacted for not "going drinking with the boys" - or "having a few with the team" - I used to excuse myself and pull aside the bar tender or server and ask them to bring me glasses of apple juice (since lt looks like beer) but that can be tough to pull off
K -
Good question.  There's always the threat of not being on the inside of team dynamics if you don't drink.  I think your instincts are right, you have to engage and be there if that scene is important at your company/within your team.  Here's my list of thoughts related to how to deal with it:
1. Have a drink in your hand but nurse that ****** ****** all night long.  Get a beer in a dark ass bottle (going with the technical term there) where no one can see the consumption level and make it last two hours.  By rounds for others, it will take the focus off the fact that you're running at a clip of one drink per 4 hours.
2. Drink O'Douls.  Get a glass to go with it and pour it out of the bottle in a sneaky fashion.  Drink the fine pilsner that was never meant to be consumed in volume all night long.  Go order it at the bar, pour it in your glass and come back to the group.  Act like a fool after three to sell it. Mmmm. #odoulsgoodness
3. Organize drinking outings for the team.  You get more grace if you're the equivalent of Julie on the Love Boat.  If you don't know who Julie was, let's just say she was the social director on a cruise ship.  You should buy the first round as well. You can get inside the team without drinking if you're willing to organize and spend a little bit.
Why is the Love Boat not a Will Ferrel movie?
Option #1 is always best.
That's what I got.  Can you make a beer last 3 hours?  I can!!



In most instances, others care very little if you're drinking or not. If I'm not drinking at a business event, I order a soda water and socialize/enjoy the event without alcohol but don't pretend to be drinking. If others notice I'm not drinking, I acknowledge I'm not but that they're welcome to have one for me. I've found if I don't make a big deal about it, others don't either. :)

Matt Landrum

I've seen very few people make an issue out of someone not drinking, and when it does happen, it's usually a 20-something you can ignore or squash. I drink, but I don't care if others don't (hey, designated driver!). If you really don't want to be hassled, order a tonic with lime. Maybe I've just been lucky, but like Chelsea, I just haven't seen people care if you are drinking or not.

Now, some folks would just prefer to NOT be around a bunch of dudes acting like idiots - me neither. But, it's interesting to see what springs from loose lips.

If you want to get talked about, never go to any company social functions. I'm not saying that's right, I'm just relaying my experience.



I employ strategy number 1 on a regular basis. The only time it hasn't worked for me is in Cologne, Germany where they serve Kolsch in one oz glasses that stack up in front of you to show how many you've had. Haha.

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As one of "the boys" that imbibes, I can personally say I don't care if you drink alcohol or not. The fact is, I appreciate the social aspect of hanging out after work (or at a work event). What you are/n't drinking has no effect on how the night goes. If there is someone that gives you crap for not drinking I suggest not inviting them, or if I notice someone dishing out crap I politely put them in their place.

science nerd

Being honest and saying "I don't drink" is an option. Honestly, I don't particularly care what others think of me if I decide not to imbibe--I am there with the team of coworkers, socializing and showing my "team spirit". If they have a problem it says more about them than about me.

They may say something the first evening or two, which is good-natured ribbing among most colleagues. If it keeps up afterwards, its a problem. The only tricky spot is a boss ribbing you, but typically they understand your motives and respect it.

The other favorite tactic I use when I am part of a bachelor party or a "drinking oriented" party and need to make sure everybody gets where they need to go is to order a gin and tonic, hold the gin. If the bartender is worth his or her salt, they will pour you what looks exactly like a gin and tonic...and even smells like one. Problem solved.


I don't think most people have an issue with someone not drinking. If you contribute to the conversation and don't act awkward I don't think many will even notice.

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