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Navigating Corporate Drinking Culture When You Want to Abstain from Alcohol or Reduce Your Intake

Alcohol has been an influential part of the business world for a long time. The era of making deals over boozy meals may have faded a bit, but drinking culture is still in plenty of work environments. Drinking during work hours may not be as prevalent as in Mad Men’s show. However, many still engage in bonding through after-work drinks at the end of the workday. It may also become a slippery slope with the holidays approaching since some holiday parties can turn predictably tipsy. According to a survey by the American Addiction Centers, only 12% of Americans avoid alcohol at a holiday work party.


Alcohol and Peer Pressure in the Workplace

As human beings, we have an almost innate desire to find community. It’s common for us to want to fit in. If you’re at a work function and everyone is ordering a drink, you may feel that saying “no” may put you in a negative light. However, there are many reasons an individual may choose not to drink (or cut down on drinking) at work events. Some reasons may include:

  • Health concerns
  • Impact on work performance
  • Impact on interpersonal relationships
  • Alcohol Use Disorder concerns (AUD)


Luckily, how we see drinking during work hours or at work events is rapidly changing due to our growing knowledge of the increased risks we may face. Understandably, some may find it challenging at a work function to say “no,” but there are other ways to reach your goal of abstinence or reduction.


Tips to Decrease or Stop Drinking at Work Events

Plan Your Response

The “element of surprise” might make it more challenging to say no to alcohol at a work-related event. Let’s say you go to a work-related happy hour to engage in camaraderie, and someone offers you a drink. If you are put on the spot, you may feel caught out and obligated to say accept the beverage. Hence, it may help to practice how you might respond if someone offers you a drink beforehand. Whether you politely decline or ask the server for a mocktail, it can be helpful to rehearse your response beforehand.


Have an action plan

Having an action plan before you meet with your colleagues is also beneficial. The action plan may include speaking to the server before sitting with your colleagues and letting the server know you will be ordering non-alcoholic drinks such as a ‘club soda and lime’ or a mocktail.


Suggest Activities and Locations That Don’t Involve Drinking

Although happy hour may be typical for after-work camaraderie, bonding may also occur in settings where alcohol is not involved. Getting out of the bar environment and engaging in other activities like a run club or biking may help you get to know your colleagues differently.


Learn to Navigate Corporate Drinking Culture with Dr. Carolina Raeburn

Dr. Carolina Raeburn is a Florida Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a subspecialty in neuropsychology. Dr. Raeburn helps patients identify their needs and develop practical plans to foster confidence and personal growth. 

It’s easy to submit to the patterns of corporate drinking culture without setting clear boundaries. Dr. Raeburn’s personalized approach can help you get to the root of your troubles and provide the tools you need to succeed at work and in life. 


If you’re struggling with your career and drinking culture, you may send a message to doctor Raeburn through our contact page. Or you may schedule a telehealth appointment by clicking here.

*All the information published in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Any information provided here is offered in generic form. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.


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