my boss keeps pushing me to drink

A reader writes:

Sometimes at work for employee birthdays or for special occasions, my boss will bring in wine or other alcohol, and after we close, they will drink and celebrate a little. I have always been offered the drinks and declined. Bet recently, even though I decline, my boss is pouring me a glass anyway and leaving it on my desk. I have said things like, “No, thank you” or “I appreciate it but I am not interested, thanks.” This last time, she was so insistent that she actually placed the cup into my hand and told me to drink. I was really upset, although I tried not to let on that I was so upset by it. I said, “Really, I am not interested, thank you” and placed the cup down on the table. She then proceeded to talk about me and how I must be a closet drunk because I don’t drink at work.

What am I supposed to do? I don’t drink because I don’t want to. I don’t enjoy it and I am just not comfortable drinking. I have explained that point and they don’t seem to listen. I have nothing against them drinking but I don’t want to drink. How do I get my boss to respect this and stop pressuring me?

Your boss is an ass. Pushing people to drink and drawing conclusions about them if they don’t is the sort of immature behavior most people left behind in high school.

I’d try saying something to her like, “Jane, I don’t mind the rest of you having a drink at work, but I don’t enjoy doing it myself. You know, there are a lot of reasons people don’t drink — simply not liking the taste of it, not liking the buzz, having a low tolerance, being on medication, religious reasons, past problems with alcohol, and lots of others. I’d hate to see us as a group put someone in a tough position by pushing drinks on them when they don’t want them.”

Beyond that, you might also pour yourself a glass of something non-alcoholic so that you can “celebrate” with them and actively participate, which might help the situation.

And file this away as valuable information about your boss’s judgment and common sense.

{ 357 comments… read them below }

  1. Rose*

    A closet drunk? What about a recovered alcoholic (not saying you are, OP, but for all she knows…)?!

    1. De (Germany)*

      I wish that boss would think about that case – and think it through, realizing what being this pushy about the issue might lead to.

      I am on medication that already stresses my liver, so it’s recommended I don’t drink alcohol. It’s no-one’s business why I don’t drink and pushing the issue is really incredibly rude.

      1. cuppa*

        I had a manager that was on blood thinners and couldn’t drink. It was definitely a drinking environment, but I don’t ever remember anyone bothering him about not drinking.
        He did always participate and just drank non-alcoholic drinks, but still. There are lots of people that don’t drink for many different reasons and no one should be forced to.

      2. AnonForThis*

        I’m on psychiatric medication that makes me get MUCH drunker MUCH faster than when I was not on this medication, so I go from zero to unprofessionally drunk in very few drinks. I get VERY uncomfortable when people ask me why I don’t drink. If I say I’m on medication they frequently follow up by asking what, and I don’t want to be all OH I AM ON MEDICATION FOR MY MENTAL ILLNESS to people I’m not close to or to coworkers!

        Luckily most people aren’t jerks and don’t push it.

    2. UK Anon*

      Or the opposite – if you never drink, you’re probably not going to be able to handle drink even in small doses, and then that’s not professional (which is why saying no is the professional thing to do).

      Or any other of 101 reasons.

    3. Relosa*

      There is no such thing as a recovered alcoholic. They are always in recovery. You can’t stop being one, unfortunately.

        1. LBK*

          AFAIK there’s no point where you’re considered a recovered alcoholic, even if you’ve been sober for decades. It’s always recovering. It’s a disease, so you can’t kill it – when you get on insulin shots for diabetes, you don’t call yourself a “recovered diabetic”. You’ve just found treatment that works to manage your disease.

          1. TychaBrahe*

            That is part of the teaching of Alcoholics Anonymous and other programs based on it. There’s no scientific evidence behind it, just a firm belief that people who drink too much need religion in order to stop drinking.

            In actuality, many people are able to stop drinking without AA, and many more decide they are drinking too much and moderate their behavior so that they only drink some.

            Anyone interested in learning more about the history and philosophy of AA and other twelve-step programs should read Ken Ragge’s More Revealed ( or The Orange Papers.

            1. Alano*

              I realize this is totally off topic, but I had to throw in my two cents. Yes, AA teaches that alcoholism is a chronic disease, but they’re far from the only folks who believe that. The medical community and most addiction counselors also treat alcoholism as a life long disease that can be managed but not entirely cured. Just because you’re turned off by the spiritual aspects of AA doesn’t mean they’re wrong about everything.

              1. Loose Seal*

                There are many other self-help groups for addicts and alcoholics, several of which do not have a spiritual component (Google “alternatives to AA” for some suggestions, if you’re interested). Of course, the most common program in the U.S., especially in rural locations, is going to be AA and if that’s the case, a member certainly does not have to believe in any religion to get help. You do have to have a “higher power” but it does not have to be any sort of deity. I have a client who believes in The Force from Star Wars as his higher power and it works for him.

                1. Anon for this*

                  Do you think he really believes that, or is he just saying he does? I ask because I had considered a 12 step program for overeating, but I have a problem with the religious aspect. Sure, I guess I could pretend to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Cthulhu or The Force, but I feel like that would defeat the purpose and therefore the program wouldn’t work properly.

                2. Loose Seal*

                  @Anon for this: I have no idea if he truly believes it or not but the program is working for him so I’m led to think that he must be putting in some effort to do the steps properly, even if he just says to himself WWYD (What Would Yoda Do?) before taking any action.

                  I do get where you’re coming from. I’m atheist myself and can’t see myself pretending to believe in something, even something light-hearted like the Spaghetti Monster, just to check off a requirement. Have you looked to see if there are any programs advertised as non-spiritual in your area? If there aren’t, you could drop by a regular meeting or two and see if there are people there who aren’t particularly religious who look like they are doing well in the program; they would probably be happy to talk to you about their experiences. I’ve been to a lot of AA/NA meetings with clients and, with the exception of meetings that are specifically billed as Christian meetings, I’ve never found the religious aspect to be overwhelming in the meeting itself (no praying, for instance).

          2. Observer*

            Well, some diseases can’t be cured. Others can. So, even if alcoholism is a disease, doesn’t mean it can’t be cured.

        2. Anonforthis*

          Nope. No such thing. An alcoholic does not get to a point where they can drink socially. A person who is an addict does not have the ability to have “just a little”. And if you show me one who can, I’ll show you someone who wasn’t an alcoholic to begin with.

          1. Anonymous*

            So, when I used to drink hard alcohol alone every night, I wasn’t an alcoholic? What’s the name for that? I’ve been able to drink in very infrequent moderation for years and the emotional problems that were leading me to abuse alcohol in the past have since been resolved.

            1. Sue Wilson*

              You can actually be dependent, even physically, on alcohol without being addicted. They are actually too different states.

            2. Jazzy Red*

              “Habitual Drinker”. Not all heavy drinkers are alcoholics. I’m glad that your drinking is no longer a problem and that you’ve resolved the emotional problems that you had. You are one of the lucky ones.

      1. Mike B.*

        Google naltrexone and the Sinclair Method. I went from being a nightly heavy drinker (seriously, I was in bad shape) to an occasional social one. Medication taken according to the right protocol can eliminate alcohol cravings completely. There’s also important work ongoing with topiramate, baclofen, acamprosate, and other drugs.

        That said, this boss is an ass for not respecting her employees’ choices.

      2. SA*

        This is actually a myth that can be very harmful, and I believe the newest issue of the DSM discusses this. There are absolutely people whose drinking is so bad that they can never have a drink again, but there are many more who have a drinking problem that is less severe, and they truly can cut down and drink in moderation. Conceptualizing alcohol problems with a black-and-white “either you’re an alcoholic or you’re not” attitude discourages that middle group, who drink too much but don’t have cravings/dependency/other symptoms of full-blown alcoholism, from seeking help or even realizing that they have a problem, since they think they don’t “count” as alcoholics, therefore their unhealthy behavior must be okay.

        It can also be harmful to alcoholics who see it as a self-fulfilling prophesy – you’ll *always* be an alcoholic, that’s who you are, there’s nothing you can do about it, etc. – and it can backfire and take away their senses of agency and accountability. You should of course be compassionate toward people with serious drinking problems, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the power to change their actions – and empowering people is usually much healthier and leads to better outcomes than making them feel like they’re inherently, irreversibly flawed.

        1. Tara*

          I agree totally. I’ve seen both sides of this– my parents met through NA (like AA, but for drug addiction). When I was fifteen, they (now divorced) had both been clean for around sixteen years. They both started drinking socially at around the same time. It was totally fine for my mom. She hasn’t even gotten close to carried away. My dad started drinking more and more heavily (concerning, but it was mostly when we weren’t around), smoking pot (okay, I hear that’s not a big deal) and finally relapsed into cocaine addiction. He ended up borrowing hundreds of dollars from me before he finally managed to kick it again.

        2. LBK*

          Thank you for this perspective. I was speaking only from my minor knowledge based on what I’ve read/seen in the media and not really on much research or personal experience. I’m glad to expand my view of the issue based on your considerations here.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          There are absolutely people whose drinking is so bad that they can never have a drink again

          I’m like this with tobacco. I can’t smoke socially. If I do, BOOM! Right back on it. Been smoke-free since 2007 and I like being able to exercise without gasping for air.

          You make an excellent point about dependency and addiction not being black or white. And it absolutely helps to know that you have some power over it.

          1. LBK*

            That’s a great comparison – I’m the other type of former smoker, where I’m totally fine now to have one every so often and it doesn’t set me back to smoking 3 packs a week.

  2. Helka*

    Was she doing this “closet drunk” speculation in front of other people? I’d be blazing down to HR about it, on the grounds that your boss could be seriously harming your reputation.

    (Also, it makes me wonder what’s going on in her head that that’s the explanation she immediately leaped to.)

    1. Non-Drinker in da house!!!*

      (Also, it makes me wonder what’s going on in her head that that’s the explanation she immediately leaped to.)

      I have a friend who likes to drink. She likes it a lot. And she is always trying to pressure others to drink with her. She says that it makes her love of drinking feel less conspicuous when others are drinking too. I say, if you can’t drink without resorting to peer pressure in order to get tohers to join you, then maybe you have a problem.

        1. Marie*

          Yep. I have only once experienced constant pressure to drink – from an old varsity friend who would pour me wine even when I asked for tea, and then call later to find out if she had offended me or otherwise why hadn’t I drank the unasked-for glass of wine. I like a glass of wine from time to time, but something about the pressure put me right off and I never drank with this friend. To nobody’s big surprise, she turned out to be an alcoholic in the end.

      1. Rose*

        I know a few people like that (although they won’t admit to it that openly). It’s very, very high school. “If everyone else is doing it, no one can judge me!”

        I have coworkers who are the same about my eating habits. I’m a thin girl, and I only eat dessert once a week, because, yes, I care about my weight. My coworkers are constantly bringing in cookies, brownies, whatever and it’s gotten to the point where they basically beg me to eat them. “Come on! Just ONE! One won’t make you fat!” They won’t take no for an answer.

        I know they think I’m judging them, but I’m really, really not. I just want to stick to my own diet.

        1. Koko*

          I will never really get what it is about eating/drinking that makes people SO concerned about other people’s choices.

          A few months ago I was doing a gentle two-week cleanse to prepare myself for an intensive physical ordeal. I wasn’t drinking any alcohol and I was eating exactly 3 healthy meals per day, with no snacks or desserts (aside from an apple as my lunch dessert each day). I remember going to a party on a Saturday night after I’d already had dinner, and I was holding a water bottle that I occasionally drank from. Folks kept trying to offer me food or drink to be hospitable/friendly, but I didn’t want to discuss my diet with anyone, so I tried just saying politely, “No thanks! I’m good with my water.” More than half the people followed-up either trying to cajole me into changing my mind or directly asking why I wouldn’t eat/drink something. It was so frustrating to me that people seemed to feel entitled to an explanation of my diet instead of just accepting a simple, “No thanks.” They were all my friends and meant well, but there is something about food/drink that people just get really pushy about!

          One of the reasons I hadn’t wanted to explain that I was eating healthy/cleansing is because I’ve found that it’s really hard to decline food or drink for a specific reason without people jumping to the conclusion that you’re judging them for not sharing your goals. Whether it’s being on a diet to maintain your figure, a cleanse, or vegetarianism. Offering up, “No thanks, I don’t eat X because of Y,” seems to drive a lot of people to retort with reasons why Y is invalid. Not because they really want you to eat X, but because they imagine you disapprove of them for eating X.

            1. Koko*

              Yes, I don’t believe in extreme diets :) When I’m cleansing I increase my green fiber and I cut out all grains and sugars, so basically each meal is an unprocessed protein (meat, cheese, nuts, etc), some vegetables, mostly green vegetables, and a tablespoon of healthy fat for the brain (coconut oil, olive oil, butter, or half an avocado). And a lot of water! It just gently sweeps all the nitrites and salt and liver toxins right out of your body, calms any inflammation, energizes you, and you never have to go through a cranky/withdrawal feeling phase that short extreme “detox” diets produce. And then you’re ready to survive your test of strength and endurance!

              In my normal life I eat similarly, but I have rice or potatoes once or twice a day, drink alcohol a few times a week, have a sugary coffee drink most mornings, and have enormous decadent boozy brunches on the odd weekend. Still pretty clean overall, but occasionally I need to take some time to rejuvenate :)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I think that people worry about other people’s food choices, so they do not have time to worry about their own. There’s more than one way to escape guilt.

          2. Lamb*

            One thing that could help with the offered drinks (but not the food) is to put your water in a cup similar to whet everyone else is drinking from; that way it doesn’t look like “Poor Koko stuck drinking the water bottle that was in the car since no one offered them a drink” but rather “Koko already has a drink and is included in the party”.

        2. Ruffingit*

          If anything, I’d be judging their lack of ownership of their own decisions. I don’t care if someone eats an entire value sized bag of M&Ms or whatever. Your choice, but own it. Nothing wrong with doing that, just don’t act like you have to have the complicity of others to make it acceptable. It’s acceptable if you think it is and you’re not harming anyone else.

  3. B*

    “Your boss is an ass. ”

    Oh how I love that line. Yes, your boss is completely out of line but if you think she would actually be receptive, have a private conversation with her. Explain that you do not like to drink, you do not appreciate being pressured to do so, and you are not a closet drunk. She is owed no further explanation and if it is brought up again immediately go down to HR and file a complaint because, in my opinion, this is becoming harassment.

    I do agree with AAM that if this is a celebration a drink (water, soda, etc.) of some sort in your hand might be a bit of “celebration” with them.

  4. JMegan*

    I agree with Alison, your boss is an ass. And this is where I’d pull out the “No is a complete sentence” argument. Just keep saying no thank you, every time. Don’t follow it up with “I don’t drink” or “I’m on medication” or any other explanation, just keep saying no.

    If she puts a glass on your desk, you can leave it there untouched – I wouldn’t even pour it down the sink, because I would want her to see that I really, really don’t intend to drink it. Let it sit there for days if you can stand it, just to make the point. (Passive aggressive? Sure. But being direct isn’t working, so it’s worth a try!). And if she puts a glass into your hand, put it down and repeat your no. Be polite, but firm, and don’t give her anything to argue with. Just “no thank you” over and over and over again, and hopefully she’ll eventually get bored and move on. Good luck.

    1. bridget*

      Better yet, put it back on HER desk and let her drink it or pour it out. (Because I’m one who couldn’t stand leaving it there. As someone who has to constantly remind her spouse to remember to rinse out his beer bottles before putting them in the recycling bin, I live in fear of a fruit fly infestation.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think what makes this tough is that there’s a power dynamic. If this were a peer, sure. But with her boss — someone who can make her life very unpleasant — I think the OP ideally needs a solution that doesn’t chill their relations, if possible.

      1. Smilingswan*

        If it weren’t her boss I’d be inclined to tell her to say, “what part of NO do you not understand?”

        I agree with others above who stated that she should go to HR. Her boss is harassing her and talking smack about her in front of her peers (and possibly other superiors or direct reports).

  5. tt*

    I hope your boss gets a clue. Drinking is a sensitive subject for many people, alcoholic or not, and it’s really no one else’s business. Personally I don’t like the taste of a lot of alcohol and am hesitant to drink in specific situations, so there are many people who’ve never seen me have an alcoholic drink. And on the rare occasion when someone has tried to pressure me into drinking when I don’t want to, I stand my ground.

    Some of my coworkers were at a conference together, and one of them commented to me later that it was “tacky” (or some similar adjective) that one of the guys ordered a soda while everyone else was drinking wine, and that he should have gone along with the group. She wasn’t expecting my very stern response disagreeing with her.

      1. Michele*

        I agree good for you! I have a few friends that are recovering alcoholics and it bothers me so much when people make comments about the fact they don’t drink or how they aren’t that much fun anymore. I have basically told people to shut up about it and to mind their business. Politely of course even though they don’t deserve for me to be polite.

        1. Koko*

          ROSS: Yeah but, you know, now that I think about it I don’t think I’ve ever seen Fun Bobby without a, a drink in his hand.

          PHOEBE: Yeah. Ooh, OOOH, yeah, ya know, did you notice how he always starts his stories with, um, OK, ‘I was soo wasted,’ or, ‘Oh, we were soo bombed,’ or, umm, ooh, ooh, ‘So I wake up, and I’m in this dumpster in Connecticut.’

      2. tt*

        The coworker who made the comment was, without a doubt, one of the most immature coworkers I’ve ever worked with, and that was just one example. It was like I was talking to a 16 year old instead of someone in her late 20s/early 30s. By that point, I was so exasperated with her, I just couldn’t let that one slide. She sulked a little and didn’t seem to get my point, but at least she shut up.

      3. RobM*

        Indeed. The only tacky thing I’m seeing is tt’s coworkers, for judging their colleague for not drinking.

        I can’t drink at the moment myself, after a severe attack of pancreatitus caused by a bad case of gallstones; my doctors tell me that my pancreas and liver took such a ‘kicking’ during the attacks I’ve had that I cannot drink for at least a year. As much as I do enjoy a cold beer on a hot day, or a good ‘session’ with my friends every 2 or 3 months I really don’t drink that much, and the friends I _do_ drink with have been very supportive.

        There’s been a few laughs from people who know me at work but nothing that I would class as anyone having a problem with my lack of drinking, certainly nothing so crass as others challenging me on it. I’d be absolutely appalled if I saw this happening where I worked.

    1. sunny-dee*

      This. I am also a non-drinker, and one of my project teams is full of guys who are really heavy drinkers (wine-snobs and beer-snobs). They have never, not even once, commented on my ordering a Sprite at a bar. A few of my social acquaintances have raised an eyebrow, but they haven’t said anything.

      An adult wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

      1. manybellsdown*

        You made me think of a friend of mine who is also a non-drinker. She just doesn’t like the taste of any alcohol, although she’s willing to try a sip of something new occasionally (the only thing she ever liked was Limoncello). And she’s married to a guy that brews his own beer and keeps a kegerator in their dining room. They manage to get along just fine!

        I like a drink just fine, but I don’t like *every* drink. I’ve never been able to get a taste for red wines, so if the boos was pouring that I’d turn it down too. Or a Long Island Ice Tea which my spouse loves but I think tastes like someone just dumped the dregs of a liquor cabinet into a glass.

        1. AMD*

          I feel like “boo-s” is a great nickname for bosses like this.

          Or possibly “bass,” to play off Alison’s comment. :)

        2. AnonEMoose*

          My husband doesn’t like the taste of alcohol – any alcohol – either. I like a drink or two occasionally. It’s not a big deal to either of us; my comment is usually limited to “I always have a designated driver!” We’ve been married for well over a decade, now, so we’re doing something right!

          I also have my likes and dislikes. I’m not a beer drinker, and not big on red wines. So I’d turn those things down, too.

      2. Felicia*

        For sure – the type of people I remember making a big deal about it are 19-20 year old students who have just (at least here!) become legally able to drink so are really excited about it. I’m glad that most people of my age I meet (i’m 24 now) have grown out of that attitude.

      3. Jessa*

        I do remember my days of ginger ale in a highball glass. Because it looks like booze and isn’t. I have long since gone onto “no, thank you, sorry, no, etc.” If someone is really close to me it’s “No, I’m on meds, cannot do it. Not even a little.”

    2. Rose*

      Ummmm wow. It’s not tacky; it’s exactly what old school etiquette dictates (going drink for drink, even if you stick with soda). Gossiping about someone else’s food/alcohol choices? Super tacky. I’m glad you called her out!

      1. Cari*

        That’s something that gets to me, being a non-drinker out with a group of drinkers. They’re drinking to get drunk and expecting me to match them when I’m drinking to what, not savour the taste of the nice thing I’m drinking and go to the loo all the time? Doesn’t sound like fun to me, but they just don’t get it.

        Mine’s always a hot chocolate, just to be awkward :D

    3. Anon*

      I’ve encountered a similar attitude about soda in particular (versus other nonalcoholic options), as I love diet soda and used to drink it frequently. People will openly lecture you about its unhealthiness, the same people who would consider you “judgmental” for commenting on someone’s smoking or drunk driving or whatnot. Others consider it childish or “tacky” (a euphemism for classism, generally).

      If I want to make a good impression now, I never order diet coke. I will order a water. If I need to not look cheap, I’ll order a pricey water like Pellegrino. I don’t agree with it, but soda carries a weird stigma for a lot of people.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        Really? When I “celebrate” with coworkers, I get a soda and no one comments. They know I rarely drink and I don’t drink at all with work people. I go to HH with some former coworkers every few months, and since we don’t work together anymore I’m comfortable having a drink around them. When I was in my 20’s, I worked with a lot of people who would go out and drag the non-drinkers out with them occasionally. One of the advantages of drinking water or soda is that you can remember all of the shenanigans from their drunken night out. It made for some pretty easygoing bosses (as they were usually the drunkest).

        1. Anon*

          I think that it may be regional. When I was a soda drinker I lived in California, where I got a ton of flak for it and never saw anyone else drinking it in professional settings. (My mom is Southern and I had kind of been raised that it’s just as normal to have a morning diet coke as a morning coffee.) I stopped for health reasons but now I live in the Midwest and I never hear people lecturing each other over it, though the normal social drink of choice is beer.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      …you should have gone along with the group?

      Okay, so if they are all jumping off a bridge then you should, too?

      No. Just NO.

      Good for you for not letting that person out of that conversation easily.

    5. Cautionary tail*

      It’s in situations like this that I get people’s drinks at the bar and nobody knows or cares that my red wine is really only cranberry juice.

  6. Bend & Snap*

    I think addressing it is a good idea. You want to shut it down without being penalized during the non-drinking workday. And I would be looking at how the manager treats the OP vs. other staff when it comes to actual work. Interesting to see if there’s any favoritism or retaliation.

    This team may not be a great environment for the OP. My last job was a drunkfest and it was just not my scene. My current job is not and it’s so much nicer to not have people forcing a beer in my hand and a sombrero on my head during happy hour.

    1. Jessa*

      Yes you do want to address it, because honestly sooner or later someone is going to make a complaint vis religion or medical issues and even if the boss isn’t trying to be an idiot, at some point a culture that tries to require everyone to drink and gets nasty if they don’t is going to backfire.

  7. Mimmy*

    I like Alison’s suggestion to pour yourself a non-alcoholic beverage. Maybe part of the problem is that the boss thinks the OP isn’t being a team player by not sharing in the celebration (sorry…”team player” might not be the best phrase here, but it’s all I could think of). I would try that first and see if that alleviates your boss’s pushiness.

    I do agree that her behavior is completely inappropriate though. My suggestion might not be enough, but it’s worth at least considering.

    1. Mimmy*

      I just want to assure everyone that I am NOT belittling the situation and do understand the sensitivity of drinking, especially forced drinking in this instance. I was just thinking out of the box a bit. I should add that, yes, the OP should also address the boss’s behavior, preferably in private.

    2. Traveler*

      No, I see your point. I think that might be what the boss is about here – thinking that OP is not “participating” without taking into account the issues with alcohol being a necessity to that participation.

      1. Jessa*

        But if this is the issue, then confronting the boss (politely of course) will hopefully dig down to this, and a conversation that goes “I don’t have to drink to participate, why else, aside from not drinking do you think I’m not?” It could be that there are other obvious or subtle behaviours that the OP is giving out an “OMG they’d drinking, I don’t want to be here vibe.” Which could also indicate that the drinking thing has gone too far.

    3. Mints*

      I agree. The boss is an ass, but this might be a way to minimize the damage to the relationship (assuming OP wants to). Depending on logistics, OP might be able to buy something festive and non alcoholic, like sparkling cider or hipster sodas, when a celebration is coming up

  8. Artemesia*

    I have a friend who never drinks alcohol. She is a fairly new friend; I am in a new town. I know her first husband was an alcoholic. I have NO idea if she is also or if she just avoids alcohol because of that or what her reason is. It is none of my business. How much less her business is why a subordinate at work doesn’t drink. How do people with so little judgment end up in positions of authority?

    1. Andrea*

      Good on you for being sensitive to your new friend. I also don’t drink. I don’t mind if others drink around me, of course, though I will usually avoid events that revolve completely around drinking because well, that’s just not an event for me. But it bothers me that I’m often expected to give a reason. I usually just make a joke or deflect by saying, “why do you want to know?” But I shouldn’t have to answer at all because no one should be asking.

      And I’m sorry to say it, but in my experience, often the people who were the most bothered by my decision (just wouldn’t let it go, said insulting things to me, etc.) also seemed to have … maybe not the healthiest relationship to alcohol.

      1. Felicia*

        I hate that people expect me to give a reason too – why is “I don’t want to” not a good enough reason for people? Usually I don’t even say that I don’t drink (i just don’t like the taste and have no desire to) until someone keeps insisting i have a beer or whatever after my first “no thank you”

        1. manybellsdown*

          I sometimes forget that one of my friends doesn’t drink and offer her a beer. I’m the one who is embarrassed when she gives me the “duh Bells, I don’t drink” look, and I should be!

          1. Felicia*

            Sometimes my friends forget I don’t drink as well …but I don’t really mind as when I say “no thanks” then they say, “ok, would you like some pop or water or anything?” It’s not really the offering of beer that bothers me (though I would rather my friends usually remember, just like i remember their major food/drink preferences, i don’t really care). It’s the questioning my “no thanks” that bothers me. Not liking alcoholic drinks is not treated the same as not liking let’s say, apple juice, even though it should be.

      2. Cari*

        I remember reading in the comments of a post on this topic somewhere online (might even have been here), where a commenter noticed they would get grief and pressure off people when saying “I don’t drink”, but support and acceptance when they then started saying “I quit drinking.”
        It’s something I’ve always meant to try since, but have been fortunate not to be around such pushy people recently, so I can’t say from experience it works. Maybe (even if you have never, ever had alcohol) you could try putting it across that way and see if it changes the way people respond?

      3. Ruffingit*

        I don’t drink either, at all. I’ve never liked the taste of alcohol. When people want a reason, I’ve strongly considered saying “Well, after that horrific drunk driving accident where I killed six people, I managed to get time served and parole, and then they put me on all these psychiatric meds to deal with the guilt so now I can’t drink at all. Bummer. Enjoy your wine though!”

        This is not to downplay the horror of drunk driving deaths or anything, it’s to make the point that there are truly legitimate reasons people might not drink and asking might get you an answer you don’t want.

        1. Brandy*

          good thought. people never realize that theyre driving home, maybe in rush hour and you have alcohol in you. Even if you have a minor fender bender you could get checked and you have alcohol on your breath. And you could potentially ruin your life and others.

  9. MaryMary*

    At first, based on the headline, I thought OP might have a question about coping with a terrible boss through self-medication. But that would be what to do when your boss drives you to drink, not pushes you to drink.

  10. Colette*

    I agree that the OP’s boss is out of line, but I also think that not every situation involving alcohol needs to be a discussion about how the OP doesn’t drink. The boss knows that and she doesn’t care. If she hands you a drink, say “thank you” and set it down. You don’t have to drink it, but you also don’t have to make a big deal about it.

    1. tt*

      I’m not sure why the OP should say “thank you” for something she has repeatedly said she doesn’t want, and in fact makes her uncomfortable?

      1. Colette*

        She’s tried saying no, and it hasn’t worked. She should say “thank you” because it’s expedient. The boss has decided that this is she will not accept that the OP is not interested in drinking, and I don’t see how continuing to tell the manager that she doesn’t drink is helping. She doesn’t have to drink, but if she has a drink available, she isn’t making an issue of not drinking.

        Of course, she can continue to resist, but … who’s going to win that one? How is it going to affect her manager’s opinion of her in general?

        If she had a medical need not to drink (allergy, medication, recovering alcoholic), I’d suggest a different approach, but there’s no danger to her in having a drink sitting on the table beside her.

        1. Dutch Thunder*

          I’d really hate to reward the boss’ assy behaviour by politely saying thank you. The boss’ behaviour is completely unacceptable, and keeping quiet to appease the bully seems like the wrong strategy.

          One person pushing another person to drink is wrong. It’s wrong in a social setting, and it’s even more wrong in a setting where that person is in a position of authority.

          1. Cari*

            I can’t help but feel that the person in a position of authority pressuring an employee to drink alcohol aspect would be less overlooked if it were a male boss, female employee scenario.

              1. Cari*

                Well we (the commenters) seem to be assuming the OP is female when there isn’t anything explicit in the OP to say that they are (I understand you get a lot more info than what is posted though), and usually when a man is pressuring a woman to drink in any circumstance, the first thought tends to be “he’s plying her with alcohol to lower her inhibitions.” From what you have said about what’s (il)legal, going to HR and protected classes, that scenario would more obviously fall into the “go to HR/ your boss’s boss” category (regardless a male boss’s actual reason for pushing alcohol), and we’d be seeing more of that in the comments. Where as in this situation (female boss) advice is tending towards “protect your job and try and preserve the relationship with your boss while still not drinking,” even though OP’s boss is abusing her position of authority to get OP to do something she wants the OP to do.

        2. Mike C.*

          She should continue to resist because at this point it’s a matter of respect. I don’t care if the person signs a paycheck, the OP is a human being and should be treated as such.

        3. Traveler*

          Yeah, I have to say I think I agree Colette. Barring more drastic options like leaving the job or involving HR (which could all be damaging to this working relationship), this is a potential option to negotiate the situation. In an ideal world OP could read the boss the riot act over this sort of behavior but in actuality, the choices are going to be limited.

        4. Rose*

          It clearly isn’t expedient. Did you read the entire letter?

          “This last time, she was so insistent that she actually placed the cup into my hand and told me to drink. ”

          And then followed this up with publicly accusing her of having problems with alcohol? I agree that saying thank you and putting it down would have been the right answer the first time, but her boss is insisting on making this an issue. She’s tried just ignoring it, and it hasn’t worked. At this point, her boss has crossed some boundaries.

          1. Colette*

            Yes, but I think the boss is pushing it because for whatever reason, she thinks everyone needs to drink. If the OP accepts the drink and uses it as a prop (picking it up, putting it down, etc.), I doubt the boss will monitor her closely enough to how much (or if) she’s drinking.

            1. Jessa*

              Yes but if the OP has a medical condition or is religious for example, walking around with a drink could make people in the know look at OP badly. This is NOT the way to handle it. Appeasing the boss in a way that makes the OP uncomfortable is unreasonable no matter why they don’t drink. It’s an abuse of power and since the boss is not stopping, having been told more than once, it’s time to go over the
              boss’ head because there’s an issue here and it’s not the OP.

              Once you get to the point of “pushing drink in OP’s hand,” it’s gone WAY too far.

            2. Lamb*

              Maybe if OP had done the drink-as-prop thing the first, second, or maybe third time it was offered it might have worked, but at this point the boss is in the region of Crazyland where you force something in to someone’s hand and command them to drink it. If OP takes the cup, the boss will stand there waiting for her to drink.

        5. RobM*

          Yes, because a boss who is pushing a drink into someone’s hands after they’ve already said no, as per the OP’s description, isn’t going to interpret saying “thanks” and then accepting the drink, just to put it down later, wrongly _at all_.

      2. Cat*

        I’d normally agree and make it a matter of principle but in this case, depending on the vibe on the ground, of course, I might be inclined to go the other way and just play along, say thank you, and ditch the drink at the nearest opportunity. The reason being this behavior is SO bizarre and SO inappropriate that it strikes me as being driven by addiction and sickness rather than merely by social ineptitude, rudeness, or malice. I’d file it away as a serious issue and think about what effects this has on my job and whether I should be looking for a new one, but I’m not sure I’d make it a stand with the boss because arguing with people in that frame of mind often isn’t that helpful. (Whether it’s something that should be taken to HR is something I’d think about though.)

        1. Jessa*

          The issue with this is now, the boss thinks “see, I knew OP would drink, now she can never say no and I can escallate this to ‘you need to actually drink that in front of me, why are you not actually drinking that, come on now, you should have finished it by now, so I can get you a refill.'” This is not the time to appease the boss.

    2. J-nonymous*

      Sorry, I disagree wholeheartedly. The boss has escalated this situation. Where the boss used to (begrudgingly?) accept the OP’s declining a drink, the boss now pours one and puts it into the OP’s hand. That’s ridiculous. And taking the drink and putting it down would likely just invite further escalation by this boss.

            1. Observer*

              Well, it might come to that if the LW does NOT push back. After all, her boss just PUT THE DRINK IN HER HAND and then essentially told her that if she won’t drink she’s going to have to prove that she’s not a “closet drunk”! What are the odds of that turning out well?

              She really does need to put a stop to it.

              1. KJR*

                Doesn’t putting a drink in someone’s hand involve the hand taking the drink? The OP might try putting her hands behind her back (casually of course) to avoid this. Or, I also like the idea of already having a non-alcoholic drink in hand already. “Thanks, I’m all set!”

                1. Observer*

                  I’d say worth trying. The things that makes me skeptical, though, is how the boss reacted to the LW putting the drink down.

                2. Jessa*

                  The problem with this is A: unless the item is seriously dangerous (something on fire,) we’re conditioned to take things handed to us. and B: I don’t think this boss is going to accept the hands behind the back thing which can be viewed as terribly childish.

              2. Jessa*

                And she needs to resolve it without explaining why she won’t drink. No should be sufficient.

            2. Mike C.*

              I really, really despise this attitude. Signing a pay check does not give someone the right to treat someone else like garbage. Scaring the OP with vague threats of “consequences” is doing nothing to help the OP out, and gives support to managers all over who think this sort of activity is perfectly acceptable.

              What if the boss wants an employee to convert to a specific religion, help with tax fraud or a good old fashioned sexual favor? According to you the OP should just go along to get along or face the consequences.

              How about instead of normalizing this sort of terrible behavior we instead support the OP in trying to directly put an end to this crap?

              1. Elsajeni*

                This sort of thing has come up here before, I think — the conflict between “This is the right thing to do” vs. “This is the practical thing to do.” I don’t think anyone is saying that the OP’s boss has a right to behave like an ass (other than in a strictly legal sense), or that pushing back against a boss who pressures you to drink is something that should have negative consequences; they’re just pointing out that, in the non-ideal world we actually live in, it might have negative consequences, and that the OP may want to weigh those potential consequences as she makes her decision about whether and how hard to push back.

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  It’s also important that all the things Mike C cited are illegal for a boss to do, whereas this is probably not, so there are less resources on your side if you do the “right” thing over the “practical” thing.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                We ARE supporting the OP in trying to put an end to it. Not a single person here has said “just drink the drink.”

                But there ARE consequences to actions, and the purpose of this site is to help people get the best outcomes for themselves in their careers. I’m not going to recommend screaming at someone when a polite word will work, even if screaming is justified, and that principle is in play here too: Since she can (probably) get the results she wants without causing significant tension, that’s the route I recommend.

              3. Cari*

                I would love to know what the general consensus would be if OP’s boss was pushing the OP to smoke with her, or (where it is legal) smoke or consume pot? Would people be saying “just take the cigarette and say thanks, don’t go above your boss’s head” then?

            3. Colette*

              Mike C., I’m not saying people should just go along with whatever their boss wants, I’m saying they should pick the battles that are important to them, and be willing to face the consequences. We can encourage the OP all we want, but that doesn’t help her pay her bills.

          1. fposte*

            That’s some people’s idea of victory, sure. Other people’s goal is to get what they want, which isn’t necessarily about correcting how other people treat them. I don’t think I’ve ever had a drink at an office party (or office after-party, for that matter), and I’ve had a lot of people try to make me drink. I stayed collegial with those people and had no problem with my job and didn’t drink unless I damn well pleased, and that’s winning to me even without making anybody recognize the error of their behavior. And it’s for me to say whether it’s winning or not.

            1. Jessa*

              the main issue here I think is that the boss’s reaction that “if you don’t drink you must be an alcoholic,” is a DANGEROUS one and in the long run can be harmful to the company if the boss penalises people who don’t drink for religious or medical reasons and they complain.

        1. Anonymous*

          Completely agree with you here. Yes, there’s the principle. And the principle may be strong enough for the OP to seriously consider switching jobs. However, unless that’s the choice and if so, until that choice is feasible, OP is left with what is politic and in her best interest at that job.

          It’s difficult at best to change someone’s behavior. It’s near impossible when the transgression is laded with power differentials. Plus, it’s not the OP’s job to fix her manager. There’s little potential return in that investment, and a whole lot of risk. So the best course of action is how to diffuse the situation as effortlessly as possible while doing your best to remain professional until you find something else (if that’s the choice OP makes–it may not be). It’s a risk/benefit analysis. I might feel differently if it were a more systemic issue (labor rights, discrimination, harassment, exploitation, etc). But an asshole boss is not the hill I’d personally choose to die on.

        2. J-nonymous*

          Just because I feel that the boss has escalated her behavior (by putting drinks into the OP’s hand) doesn’t mean I’m suggesting the OP go to war with her boss over it. I think all the things Alison suggests the OP say are great, and if addressed calmly (and if the boss is a reasonable person in other areas) could achieve exactly what the OP wants – which is to be respected and not pressured to drink alcoholic beverages.

          I also think the OP needs to address this with the boss during work hours when no alcoholic beverages are being poured/consumed; from the letter, it sounds like this has only ever come up during times when people are drinking.

    3. Name*

      No way. If the boss is repeatedly pushing alcohol then yes, every conversation needs to be about why No Means No until that message is understood. It’s a lifestyle choice that the boss has no say in.

      1. Colette*

        I’m not saying the manager is right, I’m saying this is likely the most expedient way to avoid having the conversation every time and still not have to drink. She can keep saying no, but I really doubt the manager will suddenly decide she’s out of line.

        1. Dutch Thunder*

          If it’s red wine, can we advocate “accidentally” spilling it on the boss and exclaiming, “Oh no! This is why I don’t drink, for some reason I get so clumsy I inevitably end up staining things!”

          This will suffice until a bottle of white or a beer is retrieved, of course.

    4. OhNo*

      That would be fine if the goal was “stop having this conversation with the manager”, but the goal (as stated in the OP’s letter) is “stop the boss pressuring [them] to drink”.

      The problem that needs to be solved is the boss’ behavior. They need to stop pressuring the OP to drink, because the pressure (not the “I don’t drink” conversation) is making them uncomfortable.

      1. Fabulously Anonymous*

        Unfortunately, we can’t change other people’s behavior. We can only change our own.

        That may mean changing jobs or it may mean saying “thank you” when you really want to say, “I told you no you stupid b***h” and throwing a drink in her face or it may mean something else. But I agree with Colette that sometimes we have to do things not because they are “right” or “ideal” but because it avoids creating substantially worse situations (such as being fired).

        1. OhNo*

          We can’t force other people to change their behavior, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least let them know how their behavior affects others. Having a conversation with the manager about the fact that this makes them uncomfortable, or even going to HR and having them sit the manager down and explain why it’s a bad idea, might give the manager the incentive needed to change their behavior on their own

          (Granted, it seems likely that the OP’s manager wouldn’t actually change their behavior – someone this clueless seems unlikely to ‘get it’. But it’s still worth trying.)

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m with Colette here. The OP’s goal isn’t to make her boss realize how ridiculous she’s being; her goal (I assume) is to put a stop to the pressure while still maintaining good relations with her boss. She’s not seeking a battle or an opportunity to take a stand on principle. Saying “thank you” and not drinking it is a perfectly good solution, if it works.

      1. Dutch Thunder*

        If you ask me, the working relation is shot anyway. How can the OP trust that her boss will treat her like an adult, hear her take on work projects and respect her insights, when she won’t let the OP govern her own alcohol intake?

        I couldn’t work somewhere where my saying no would not be an effective way to avoid having to intoxicate myself against my will (and I write this as someone quite fond of a nice glass of red).

        In another setting, say a club on the weekend, it wouldn’t be tolerated. This isn’t a situation where you’re trying to make something a little less annoying – it’s a violation of ones rights and could put lives at risk (alcoholics relapsing, drink driving, you name it). It doesn’t seem like a situation anyone should just keep the peace for.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Some people are asses in very specific ways, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t tolerable in other aspects. Sure, it’s possible that this boss is an ass across the board, but it’s also possible that she can “treat the OP like an adult, hear her take on work projects and respect her insights” while also being immature about drinking. If she can’t, then obviously that’s important — but we don’t have enough info here to know.

          1. A Cita*

            Yes. This is also what I was thinking when I mentioned earlier in this thread that I may view the issue differently if the problem were more systemic. If the boss is across the board an ass, and this is the final straw for OP, then OP needs to think about that. But standing on principle where the risks are very great over one kind of behavior, while perhaps morally satisfying, will not render the best end result for the OP: short term advantages vs long term unintended consequences.

          2. hildi*

            This. Totally true and I probably wouldn’t have understood it if I hadn’t experienced it. I had a boss one time that was overall a good boss for me – let me have lots of autonomy over my job; trusted me to do what I needed to do, etc. But was a complete gossip about everyone (I’m sure about me, too!). So the topic is different but situation is the same: good boss on the things that mattered to me in the workplace and on the things that had an effect on my ongoing, day- to-day happiness. The other side of it was annoying and I wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with this person outside of work, but since I didn’t have to know this boss in that realm it worked for me.

        2. PJ*

          “I couldn’t work somewhere where…”

          Unfortunately, DT, some people don’t have this immediate option. They need to make it work. Everything you’re saying is true — it’s a violation and could put lives at risk. But it may be far more than just keeping the peace for some people. It could be keeping a roof over their head.

          1. Dutch Thunder*

            Sure, PJ, point taken – but what I was getting at is that, in terms of preserving a functioning working relationship, there is a lot of damage already. Jumping ship might not be an option for the OP, but searching for a new job would be.

      2. Observer*

        If it works is the key issue here. She has already tried to say “No thank you”. Her boss has ignored that – and essentially ORDERED her to drink. And the Boss’s response to her putting the drink down was to tell her she’s a drunk. Not terribly useful.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s really open to interpretation. I’d never take this as a boss ordering me to drink. No one is being forced here. She can take the drink, say thank you, and not drink it. (If the boss is watching her and telling her to start drinking from the glass, then sure.)

          1. Observer*

            Putting the glass into her hand? That’s pretty close to “ordering”, I would say. And responding to a polite refusal after that by saying that she must be a drunk, closet or not, just makes things ridiculously difficult. It’s hard to believe that she is going to be in any way reasonable about this.

            Perhaps the idea to have something already in her glass that looks similar to wine (if you squint) might work. I certainly hope so.

            1. Cari*

              Putting the glass into the OP’s hand and *telling* them to drink (literally what the OP has said) sounds even more like ordering them to do so, to me.

      3. Kat M*

        You don’t think this will become an issue when the boss starts insisting on watching her drink it, then insists “BUT YOU DID IT THAT ONE TIME!”

        If you pretend to cave, you lose any chance you ever had of stopping the behavior in the future. I don’t think ditching the drink in private is going to satisfy this boss.

        (This coming from years of experience as a non-drinker. They will never let up until they actually see you consume it, or they are no longer part of your life, or – as in my case – they are told that religion is a protected class and that they’re going to get themselves fired if they don’t quit.)

        1. Colette*

          I’m not suggesting she drink it, just that she accept it (and thus not give the boss something to argue with). If the boss watches her and starts insisting that she drink it, that would be the time to take more drastic action (such as talking to HR) – but that’s also much less socially acceptable than insisting someone take a drink.

    6. GrumpyBoss*

      I agree. I see a real tendancy for people to make everything into war and peace when faced with something they don’t feel comfortable doing. That just contributes to the drama.

      “No thank you” or “I don’t drink” is all I think someone needs to say. No need to go into a monologue about the why’s.

      I like your suggestion of saying “thank you” and ignoring it. Sounds like this boss likes to engage in some inappropriate teasing/trash talking. Why feed into that?

      1. Traveler*

        Right. Not to mention people tend to back down more when there’s a sense of apathy/dismissal then when you give them an option to directly engage in an argument.

          1. Traveler*

            If you’re still not drinking the drink, how is it a sign they can push you over? They’re still not getting what they want, and you don’t have to have the same debate over and over again.

            1. The Maple Teacup*

              I think taking the glass, saying thank you, then putting it on the desk to be forever ignored is a sign of strength. This is not a behaviour of apathy. The OP is not giving in to the desires of the boss, but holding their ground. What’s the boss going to do at that point anyway, keep pouring drinks? That’s madness.

              1. Jessa*

                This does work, putting it down, even if it’s put in your hand. Far better than pouring it out, or faking that it was drunk. Those are bad ideas.

    7. Anonymous*

      I wish this will work when my boss offers donuts. I know it is silly but he said we were offending him if we didn’t eat one, it doesn’t matter that you tell him you are having breakfast, gluten allergies or being on a diet, you’ll be forced to eat one and he will watch you. I hate that! Now I jusy give a few bites and trash it on a different floor.

      1. The Real Ash*

        If “no thank you” doesn’t work, then take a donut but don’t eat it in front of him. When he stands there to watch you eat it, just say you aren’t hungry right now. Then either toss it somewhere later, or put it back into the box when he isn’t around.

        I can’t believe that allergies or diets don’t matter to him either. Would he accept the risk of forcing a donut on a diabetic and they go into diabetic shock? What a putz.

        1. Lamington*

          I have tried that route and he keeps saying that he is offended I don’t want to eat it. i guess because he spent time bringing them to the office? i don’t like that he has to watch that you actually eat it, i guess to ensure it doesn’t go to waste.

          1. Jessa*

            Then really someone needs to go over his head, because people could get seriously ill, and this is seriously inappropriate. He needs to be told to his face “I don’t care if you’re offended, you do not get to tell me what to eat and not to. Ever.”

      2. Anna*

        By friend has Celiac and her response to anything with gluten in it being forcefully offered is “You are literally poisoning me”.

        1. Jessa*

          This, I have a friend who is a brittle diabetic, this would absolutely end her up in hospital. This is NOT acceptable. Maybe the office needs to band together and explain this as a group. I don’t know why he thinks bringing donuts is a thing, but maybe he can just be convinced to not do that anymore.

      3. Rose*

        Wait, I just commented about this. WHY ARE PEOPLE SO WEIRD. I take one, put it on a napkin, then throw away half when no one is looking. They assume I ate half.

      4. Windchime*

        How does he force you to eat it? I mean, is he literally FORCING you to eat it? Or just strongly encouraging. Because unless he is saying, “Eat it or I will fire you”, or “Eat it or I will torture you”, then I take exception to the word “force”.

        1. Cari*

          He’s their boss, he doesn’t have to be explicit. The act of standing there and watching them until they eat it is enough. Who’s going to not comply when he’s already made it clear their not accepting and eating the doughnuts is offending him, and he is in a position to make their work life very difficult? Same with the OP and their boss (which is why they are getting advice to not be heavy-handed in their response to the boss, because it could damage their working relationship – boss is already tarnishing the OP’s reputation over it, afterall).

    8. Nina*

      The problem with accepting it and saying “thank you” is that the boss could think that the OP has finally relented and will actually have the drink. Considering how persistent this woman is, it wouldn’t surprise me if she asked the OP “Wait, why aren’t you drinking it?” That puts the OP in a difficult situation of having accepted the drink when they didn’t want it. Saying “No, thank you” makes it clear that the OP doesn’t want it, no matter what the reason.

      1. Colette*

        If the boss watches her like a hawk to see if she drinks it, this won’t work, but it’s possible that just accepting it will avoid triggering the boss’s hyper-vigilance. And the OP can always hold it, gesture with it, etc.

        1. A Cita*

          Also, the ‘thank you’ isn’t meant to indicate ‘yes, I’ll drink it.’ It’s a flip automatic polite response that has no meaning besides, “thank you for offering.” I’d probably deliver that ‘thank you’ in a very unacknowledged way: barely noticing, looking across the room like I’m distracted and focused on a colleague who’s telling a joke, while setting it down immediately and then walking off to join in the festivities/conversations.

    9. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I might adjust this to, when the boss hands OP the drink, saying “Thank you” and then dropping it, cup and all, in the garbage, and continuing with her conversation or work.

      “Wha? Why did you do that!?”
      “Because I don’t want it.”

      We’ll see how fast the boss tires of that routine/runs out of glasses.

      1. Cari*

        That’s pretty passive aggressive though, and while it may be satisfying it’s not going to help the OP much at all. OP should stick to their “no thanks” and have the talk Alison said in her original answer with the boss outside of office party time. If boss persists in pushing alcohol on the OP after that, she clearly can’t be reasoned with and HR/ her boss should probably be clued in on the potential problems her behaviour could cause the company.

  11. Adam*

    “This last time, she was so insistent that she actually placed the cup into my hand and told me to drink.”


    I enjoy a good brew (or two…or…) as much as the next guy, but that is disrespectful to a level I can’t even quantify. There are many reasons why a person might choose to not drink, some of which could be extremely sensitive. This boss turning into such a “pusher” leap frogged over social boundaries so far she landed in a neighboring state.

    If she won’t listen to reason then cut her off at the pass by making sure you have some kind of drink available when these parties start. Preferably make it not water if you can and put it in a glass so it looks more “official”.

    But really talk to her and see if you can’t make yourself heard. If it doesn’t take then I’d keep an eye open for a possible exit because this manager is bonkers.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Yes, having a talk to your boss about it may be the best thing. She may be thinking in “party mode” during the problem, so you may need to speak to her during a regular work day about the situation and she may be more level headed.
      She may be thinking that you aren’t comfortable accepting a drink at work and she is helping you out by being persistent. It may be her way of saying “you can let your hair down now and relax a bit.” If you tell her that you really do not want to drink at work and you will not be changing, she may finally get the picture.
      I’d suggest that you could drink something else, or offer to work in another area if you boss really feels like you are a buzz kill.
      But I’m guessing this is the way your boss acts with her girlfriends at a night on the town and she just needs to be told your not down with it.

      1. Liz*

        That’s what I was just thinking, that the boss thinks she’s telling you, “Feel free to have fun!” and acting as she would with friends who were making polite refusals (but really wanted to join in). I’d try talking to her during a regular workday while she’s mentally in work mode.

        The other/fallback option is carefully arranging appointments right after work for those days, so you can say, “Sorry, Jane, I’ve got a dentist appointment at 5.15pm. Happy birthday, Wakeen!” as you head out the door.

        1. Rachel*

          “That’s what I was just thinking, that the boss thinks she’s telling you, “Feel free to have fun!” and acting as she would with friends who were making polite refusals (but really wanted to join in)”

          Seriously – how conceited do you need to be to think that when someone has repeatedly said “no” to a particular invitation they really must have wanted to do that thing? What’s wrong with you?

      1. Artemesia*

        +2 this is the only reason I can think of for the aggressiveness of this behavior — putting a glass in her hand and insisting she drinks? no one does that who doesn’t have a serious problem with alcohol.

        I do agree that if there is celebratory toasting going on around the office, the OP would be well advised to have her own drink at hand — but this situation is pretty gross. And I don’t see a ‘winning play’ here for the OP except to continue to set the drink down and not play.

        1. aebhel*

          This. I’ve been a pretty heavy drinker in the past, but I’ve never felt the need to pressure other people to drink with me. HUGE red flag there.

        2. Cari*

          Except people who have a vested interest in getting another person drunk and free of their inhibitions.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Yeah, that’s what popped into my head too. “Closet alcoholic”? She’s projecting.

    2. Traveler*

      I think that’s a leap. Drinking problem, boundaries problem, very misguided attempts to help another employee “kick back”, and others are all plausible reasons before jumping to alcoholism.

        1. Helka*

          “Drinking problem” can cover a lot of different ways someone is interacting unhealthily with alcohol; alcoholism is specifically an addiction to it.

          Compare with eating disorder vs. anorexia.

  12. Interviewer*

    I have a best friend who is on Day 53 of her recovery, after 10 years of struggling. OP, this story is horrifying – I immediately pictured her in your shoes, trying to stay strong while her boss put a glass in her hand.

    Go straight to HR, do not pass Go.

    1. Dan*

      I’m surprised “HR” isn’t being plastered up, down, left and right in AAM’s advice and in the comments.

      Usually I’m not a fan of HR (or running to them)– they exist to protect the company, not be your shrink — but in this case, they very much are protecting the company by putting a stop to this nonsense. They just so happen to be protecting the complainant as well.

      1. Colette*

        I’m confused about how this is protecting the company, since the OP does not have a medical need not to drink (just a preference). It’s terrible behavior, but it’s not illegal.

        1. Dan*

          While HR certainly does have the reputation of being the company police, the behavior doesn’t need to be illegal for it to be worth bringing to their attention.

          Can you imagine what would happen if the OP relents, and something happens for whatever reason — say she gets into an accident on the way home, and blames the boss and company provided alcohol? Big lawsuit. Maybe by the OP, maybe by the person in the other car. Company has deeper pockets than the OP, so they’ll certainly get named as a co-defendant.

          There are companies who prohibit alcohol consumption on the premises.

            1. Windchime*

              Yeah, I’ve never worked at a company who would allow alcohol to be consumed on the premises at all. I’ve been to a couple of off-site events where wine or beer is served, but people don’t blink an eye if someone chooses to have an iced tea or a pop instead. The whole idea of my boss trying to shame me into drinking is just so strange. I know it’s a thing because people post about it here, but it’s just weird.

          1. Colette*

            The OP could go to HR, explain the situation, and ask for advice, but … her manager has already proven she’s not reasonable on the subject, and she could easily retaliate.

            1. aebhel*

              Yeah, but that’s true of just about any situation in which the boss is being an ass, and I don’t really think that the only two options are shut up and take it or find a new job.

              1. Colette*

                Oh, she definitely can go to HR, but she should be aware that it might make things worse, not better – and not just with respect to events with alcohol. If she’s willing to chance that, she can try that approach.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But the options aren’t shut up and take it, go to HR, or find a new job here either. There’s a middle ground of “getting along” — meaning recognizing the boss has a bizarre blind spot here, smiling, saying thank you, and not drinking the drink.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Do you seriously believe that someone so bold as to force a drink in the hands of someone who’s repeatedly said “no” will be just fine when they see that person just set the drink down without taking a sip?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes. Insisting someone accept a drink is very different from standing over them and insist they drink it while you watch. If the latter happened, I’d escalate.

                3. Cari*

                  I think the boss following up the forced-drink-in-hand-instruction-to-drink insistance with the humiliation of suggesting to the OP’s colleagues that OP has a drink problem (another tactic to get OP to drink – drink and prove the boss wrong to save face) suggests the boss would not be fine with OP accepting the drink and not drinking it.

        2. Dutch Thunder*

          A supervisor forcing an employee to drink seems like an unbelievable abuse of authority. If I were HR, I’d want to know about that.

        3. Mike C.*

          You shouldn’t have to have a medical need not to consume something! What in the hell ever happened to bodily integrity?

          1. J-nonymous*

            Yeah. I wonder if the ‘get along’ contingent’s reaction would be the same if the boss were lighting cigarettes and putting them into the OP’s hand saying, “Smoke!”

        4. Observer*

          It may not be illegal, but the supervisor is absolutely putting the company at risk.

          Firstly, there is a huge liability issue. If someone gets into a drunk driving accident, or has ANY other issue related to this alcohol consumption, the fact that the boss is actually pressuring someone to drink is going to mean that the business could be on the hook.

          Secondly, requiring someone to disclose a medical condition as a condition for something that is totally not work related – ie as a condition for not being harassed to drink – could very well be illegal. So, this time round, the company does not have a specific legal issue, but this behavior could create a major legal issue for the company if he does this to someone who actually does have a medical or religious issue. Better for the company to just stop the behavior, so you don;t run into this issue.

          I do get trying to stop this with as little “official interference” as possible may be in the LW’s best interests, as this could affect their working relationship. But, I can see very good reason for the company to worry about this, regardless of whether they care about the welfare of a specific employee.

      2. This is me*

        Why should HR be “plastered” for this? I don’t see anywhere in the letter from the OP that he/she has talked to HR, or even that the company has an HR dept. HR is not omnipresent.

        1. Dan*

          My brain thinks faster than my fingers… I mean the advice “go to HR” being plastered up down left and right.

    2. JMegan*

      Congratulations to your friend, and good luck with days 54 onward. Recovery is a big deal, good for her for sticking with it.

    3. Mary*

      You are so right! As an alcoholic who has been sober for almost 20 years, I still sometimes find it threatening at social functions when people try to push booze on you!

      1. HR Pro*

        Mary, congrats on 20 years. That’s great! I am so sorry to hear that people sometimes push booze on you, and I have major respect for your continued choice to resist. (I myself am a low-frequency/low-quantity drinker, because there are so many alcoholics in my family tree, so I never push alcohol on people.)

    4. OhNo*

      Congratulations to your friend on making it to Day 53, and good wishes going forward! I have a few friends who are recovering from various substances, so I had the exact same reaction you did to this story.

      Also, +1 for going straight to HR. They need to know that your manager is doing this. Even if they don’t do anything about it right now (which they might not – some HR departments are not very effective), they should have a record so when the next person complains, they have some documentation that this has been going on for a while.

  13. Chocolate Teapot*

    At work sometimes we bring in champagne/sparkling wine for anniversaries, completing a deadline, or bidding somebody farewell, but usually non-alcoholic options (orange juice, cola etc) are provided, and these tend to go far faster! If people are driving, or need to get back to work, then the alcohol gets declined, and nobody gets upset.

    1. rek*

      I was coming here to comment about the driving thing. I never drink and drive, not even a little bit. (It’s a personal thing of mine after 8 years as an EMT mopping up the sometimes horrific results.) Combine that with a 40 mile commute, and drinking at work would not ever be an option. But it’s not something I necessarily want to climb on my soapbox to declaim since I have no wish to rain on anyone else’s parade, so I’d expect a simple “no thanks” to suffice. I agree the OP’s boss is way out of line; I’m afraid I would have escalated way beyond that simple “no thanks” by now!

      1. Jamie*

        I’m not the only one. I enjoy a drink on occasion, but never even a sip if I’m driving. I don’t drink often enough to know when I’m not okay and I tend toward cautious and slightly paranoid as personality traits so I wouldn’t enjoy my drink if I had to drive.

        But if you say this to people you get all kinds of “science” about how I’ll be fine and how much I can have and whatever…I’ve never had people hassle me for declining any drink, but it doesn’t stop if you mention it’s because you’re driving.

      2. Jessa*

        Exactly, I don’t drink at all, medical reasons, but my husband will have the occasional strawberry frozen Daquiri. It drives him nuts that I’m all, okay you can have one but I’m driving (I hate driving his truck but I will.) He’s like it’s ONE drink with a huge meal. I’m like you drank I drive. Period full stop. Honestly my friends used to love me cause they could get soused and I wouldn’t. If we were actually in a bar that didn’t pay for the designated driver’s pop, they always bought mine.

    2. A Cita*

      We do the same in our office. However, all except maybe 2 people drink and really love champagne, which makes it very easy to avoid peer pressure and provide nonalcoholic options: more champagne for us! We want to horde it, so we’re super glad of the folks who don’t drink. :)

  14. This is me*

    Just throwing this out there but, if the employees are drinking in the office then it’s likely that the boss is the owner and/or the company is too small to have an HR dept./person.

        1. TK*

          As someone who will probably work my whole career in government or universities, this is just so hard to conceptualize for me. It’s like bizarro world that a lot of people think this is the norm.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’ve worked in large and small companies; private, government, and public; farm, utility, city, laboratory, and manufacturing; and never have worked at a place that had any sort of a happy hour or alcohol on the premises. It’s sure not standard in my neck of the woods.

          1. Judy*

            I’ve even only found one company (of 3 F500 companies) that you could charge alcohol to the company card when dining on business trips. And that company never had alcohol on the premises, they would have it at company picnics, but it was always BYOB and the managers would bring coolers.

    1. Adam V*

      My first company had monthly parties to celebrate birthday parties and monthly awards, and they brought in two kegs of beer. We also had an HR department.

    2. Dan*

      I can’t speak for your probability theory (the example I can provide is an “anecdote”, not “data”) but my previous employer hosted on-site happy hours every quarter or so, and we certainly had an HR department.

    3. Dutch Thunder*

      Weekly Friday beers here, and a HR department. Happily, no pressure to actually drink said beers if you didn’t feel like it.

    4. A Jane*

      Another option is that they work in advertising/marketing. Executives had liquor bottles out in the open.

      1. De Minimis*

        Worked in a large [global, actually] company that sometimes had alcohol in the office–usually just once a year They had festivities in late summer to celebrate promotions.

        And of course they also had happy hours, and alcohol at company parties, but all of that was outside the office.

        But I think they handled it in the correct way—it was there if people wanted to partake, but there were plenty of options for those who did not and no one really cared whether people drank. And rides home were provided if someone overdid it.

        1. A Jane*

          That definitely makes sense to me. I think our company went a little overboard last year though…there was a major “party” every three weeks from October to December. And by major, I mean starting at 3PM and people could get hammered by 5. Lots of fun, but TERRIBLE work environment.

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        A friend of mine is in marketing. Midweek margarita parties weren’t uncommon in her old workplace.

    5. GrumpyBoss*

      I worked for one of the largest companies in the US. We absolutely had an HR department. We drank in the office on Friday afternoon all the time.

    6. Anna*

      Yeah, my brother worked for a largish company and he would regularly crack open a beer while he was working. They kept it in a fridge in the break room.

    7. Laura*

      Two heads of HR ago, we had a had of HR who served alcohol in an attendance-mandatory meeting. It was at the end of the day, and the alcohol was served after the mandatory part (although who bolts from a meeting with the head of HR at the first chance, without worrying everyone will remember?), and as I recall it was only beer and wine. (Not sure; I don’t drink, and I had water.)

      Oh, and we had a company-wide policy forbidding alcohol on the premises at the time. (I think we still do, but I’m not sure.)

      At least nobody tried to force anyone to drink it!

  15. Mike C.*

    You’re not supposed to push people to drink, you’re supposed to push people to drink more.

    But seriously, this boss needs to stfu about the personal choices of his employees.

  16. Steve G*

    I’d be pissed! As someone who has had issues with alcohol and some previous unrelated health issues, someone pouring me a drink brings about a whole stream of thought that is not entirely pleasant. Not too mention that it thwarts any effort to lose the pesky ten I have been trying to shed.

  17. just laura*

    This is beyond inappropriate. How frequently is there drinking at work? If it’s an unavoidable, regular occurrence, I might have to find a new job. :(

    Also, are there any other non-drinkers you can buddy up with? Share a nice non-alcoholic drink and get a little camaraderie?

  18. Ann Furthermore*

    I have found that just saying, “No thanks, I’m not really a big drinker,” will usually suffice in most situations. Sounds like the OP has already tried that. When someone really pushes it, I always go with saying that I don’t like to drink when I’ll have to be driving later. That usually shuts it down.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      It sounds like even that may not be shutting it down. I’d next try something a bit more pushy: “Boss, you keep strongly pressuring me to drink even after I’ve said no. Why is that?” And then just listen. Let there be an awkward silence, if necessary.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was thinking the same thing. Why is it such a big deal that OP must have drink? I think if the OP can work that into conversation that might be a good talking point, but said in a conversational tone that invites feedback.

  19. Dan*

    While the reasons are probably very different, I have a lot of sympathy for the OP.

    I have an ex-wife (!) who really, really insisted that I partake in a bottle of wine with dinner when we were out. Saying “no” to that was regular cause for an argument. It always lead to allegations such as, “Why, because of the cost?” Now, unlike the OP, I don’ t mind imbibing in alcohol — as long as it’s in the right time and place. And wine when I have to drive home is just not a good idea. Never mind the cost (ex was right about that), as it pretty much doubles the dinner bill, which I really have no desire for.

    In this day and age, I don’t understand why alcohol consumption is nothing but a personal choice. Your SO shouldn’t even care that you chose to say no on any given occasion.

    So, for the OP, I really feel for you.

  20. Another J*

    Have you thought about getting a ‘wing man’ for this kind of situation? Let an office friend who can be trusted know about what is going on and see if they can help you with this. Ask them to see if they can distract your boss when your boss becomes obnoxious with getting you to drink. They might be able to also chime in when you say no and help emphasize that you aren’t a party pooper, just someone who doesn’t choose to drink alcohol.

    Also, I cannot drink due to Meniere’s disease and I don’t get any flack for this. Perhaps you can ‘self diagnose’ yourself with this if you want to have a reason to give out. This would mean that you would have to cut out caffeine as well though :/

    1. OhNo*

      Bouncing off this idea, if you have any friends in the office, could you convince them to not drink as well for a few of these ‘parties’? Having more than one person refusing drinks might take some of the pressure off you until you can find a more long-term solution.

      1. Mints*

        That’s a good idea too. Maybe once the parties end up being “some people not/drinking” instead of “everyone except OP drinking” the pressure will, at least, be spread around to more people and hopefully just fade out.
        The boss is definitely an ass, but I think there are options to minimize damage if that’s the route OP wants to take

  21. Colorado*

    This makes me so furious! I had a father who was 25 years sober (before he passed away) and it was a struggle for him Before he became sober, my childhood was a struggle
    To imagine that someone would actually put a drink in front of him and then make remarks about him not drinking just makes me sick. Your boss is the one with the problem, a BIG problem! No means no, though I’d have some other choice words for her..

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I could feel my blood pressure going up for a similar reason. I would have a hard time with this one. I am amazed that OP kept her cool enough to write Alison. I bet that OP will read down through the comments and find her own set of words to do what she has to do. She has already shown good self-restraint.

  22. Mena*

    The first thing that comes to my mind is that your boss is projecting and she is the closet drunk.
    But any way, keep doing exactly what you are doing. Others will notice her ongoing insistence that you drink and this will reflect poorly on her.
    I would not be tempted into explanations, however. It really isn’t her business so why outline all the possible reasons why someone chooses not to drink.
    I drink alcohol but don’t par-take in the Friday beer cart; at our recent summer outing will full open bar, I stuck with iced tea. Drinking at work just isn’t appealing to me. Your reasonings are your business. I think you are handling this just fine.

  23. nep*

    The suggested response to ‘Jane’ and the act of holding a glass of something so as to participate in the celebration — these strike me as too generous in the face of simply asinine behaviour.
    Seems to me LW owes zero explanation or ‘token drink’ to anyone. Sure, up to LW if that would make him/her more comfortable — but doing it only for oneself, not to put others at ease. (Sounds like boss has got some real issues.)

    1. fposte*

      It’s true she doesn’t owe the boss anything. But it’s also true that she seems to be interested in keeping her job and staying functional at it, and that’s an important consideration as well. Some moral stands are worth risking the ability to buy groceries for the kids and some aren’t, and it’s up to the OP to decide which one this is.

      1. nep*

        Thinking more on this — Agree it’s completely up to the employee how s/he wants to react…choosing one’s battles, etc. But trying to understand what you mean — what would be the approach if employee decided this is not a moral stand worth risking the ability to buy groceries for the kids?

        1. fposte*

          That’s where possibilities like accepting the glass but simply not drinking it come in, or coming armed with a glass of water or something non-alcoholic. The OP’s stated goal is to get the boss to stop bugging her, and those might achieve that goal even if they don’t convey to the boss the error of her behavior.

          I also think the little speech Alison suggests could be even more effective away from the celebration moment when you’re otherwise talking easily about something else and the boss isn’t feeling invested in anybody drinking just at that moment: “Miranda, while we’re talking, I wanted to mention a concern I’ve had…”

  24. BRR*

    Your boss is utterly awful. It’s bad enough to pressure you into drinking, to then call you a closet drunk is very serious. I would report that. I’m pretty sure HR wouldn’t like a boss pressuring a subordinate to drink or calling them closet drunks. The other situation I can think of is one time I worked with a guy who was a heavy flirt and would try and get all of the women to drink.

  25. Cheesecake*

    I am positively surprised there are so many nice people who accept and do not ask “why are you not drinking, are you an alcoholic or something?”. Because i’ve heard this last sentence so many times when i cut alcohol because of my diet. Even though i am not a fan of alcohol as such and never drunk much anyways, this constant pressure and questions made me nervous and i can’t imagine what people in recovery are going through.

    Anyways, i found it easy to say “i am on medication” to avoid more questions and discussions about “life choices” and “being a part of the team”. I worked in quite a young environment where colleagues used to get pissed drunk at office parties together with the management. So when someone was not drinking, it made eyebrows raise. Basically, if you don’t drink you are out of “boys club”. But a serious excuse was tolerated. Stupid, but i didn’t have a nerve to stand up for this in and out of office. This plus a lot of things – i left at the end

    1. nep*

      Seems to me the tendency to go right to making up excuses just perpetuates the stupidity of those who live in that ‘boys club’ mentality. I’m really trying to understand why people let ‘what others might think’ weigh on them in such situations. It’s the other person’s problem. Period.

        1. nep*

          By disfavouring you in decisions at the company, for example? Could you elaborate? I want to understand this. Thanks.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If your manager doesn’t like you, they can make your day to day working life uncomfortable in all sorts of ways: leaving you out of conversations you should be part of, less desirable assignments, less consideration when it comes time to raises and evaluations, putting you first on a layoff list, giving you overly critical feedback, not ensuring you get deserved recognition, and oh so much more.

            And that’s not always intentional. It can just happen without the manager even realizing it if they just don’t like you much.

            1. nep*

              Thank you. I get your point and I’ve seen it in action — i.e. managers not liking people for this or that reason. How truly pathetic when no-drinking is the reason.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                To be clear, I don’t think not drinking would be the reason here. I think that’s only likely to happen if the OP is aggressive/adversarial in how she handles it — and then the dislike about be about that behavior, not the not drinking itself.

                So even though she’s entitled on principle, I think she’s better off going with a softer approach here.

                1. nep*

                  I see. I wouldn’t say aggressive or adversarial would be the way to go here either — Just finding ways to quietly ignore/dismiss. Perhaps there’s a fine line. I’ve just got the sense one shouldn’t have to go to such trouble over such obnoxious behaviour. But, as some have commented here, it’s all about what’s in the employee’s interest and sometimes that might mean to some extent sucking up some sh*tty comportment by a manager.

                2. Nina*

                  But is the very act of saying “no” adversarial or aggressive? I understand about using a softer approach, but it’s not like the OP was screaming “I don’t drink, a$$hole!” They just politely refused.

                  If this woman is actually shoving drinks in the OP’s hand in an effort to get them to drink, then I think she (the boss) would see any type of refusal as aggressive.

          2. Cheesecake*

            It is definitely not “what others might think as such”. I find question “why are you not drinking” reasonable. However, seems alcohol is such a special topic that some people just do not let go, they keep asking, turning the whole evening into “look at this Bob, Kate is not drinking.Come on, blah blah blah…” I’d rather say “i am on medication” to nip this in bud. It doesn’t seem to me like something i want to spend my time debating about.

            Now, the management can make your life miserable in all ways possible AA has explained. And not because manager automatically hates you because you don’t drink. It is because you are not on Friday Night Shots club and not sharing 5am singing and bonding experience – you are just in another bucket of those “other strange ppl”. Guess who will learn about new interesting position first during regular session of “boys club”. And again, i do go and i do drink a glass of wine or two and a cocktail with colleagues from time to time, but that’s it.

            1. Cari*

              I’ve encountered similar (but not as persistent) responses to not smoking or recreational drug use. They’re all things we do that seem to be simultaneously encouraged as The Norm by society (despite the one being illegal in most places), and looked down on. People who push the issue tend to be coming from a place of “you’re not normal” if you don’t join in, and pre-emptively defensive of any judgement for what they’re choosing to do.

  26. Nina*

    This is awful. I definitely think the boss is an alcoholic and wants a drinking buddy.

    Even if the boss actually thinks the OP is a closet drunk, why the hell are they encouraging the OP to drink at all? Wouldn’t you keep them as far away from the liquor as possible?

    I would keep saying “No, thank you. I don’t drink.” and leave it at that. The OP doesn’t owe the boss any explanation, and making something up could be damaging later on.

  27. lifes a beach*

    No only is the boss an A*S, but what about the company liability involved in providing alcohol at work? What happens if a employee has an accident on the way home? I would imagine someone in HR or legal may have some thoughts on that.

    1. Smilingswan*

      I was also wondering that. I had no idea that some workplaces allowed alcohol, with the exception of after-hours holiday parties and the like.

  28. Kinrowan*

    A lot of people are totally uncomfortable with you not drinking when they are – it usually makes me feel that they feel guilty for drinking so if you join in they feel less guilty. But their issues are not your issue so what I usually do is have a drink of something in my glass so they see me with a glass (often it’s just seltzer). But if people are really insistent I say that drinking doesn’t agree with me and that it makes me feel sick. Most people back off then, sometimes feeling sorry for me, i guess it’s not seen as me being stubborn or difficult as I’ve been called on this matter.

  29. Chayele*

    I could see this being a religious issue as well, since I can think of a few off the top of my head that prohibit alcohol.

      1. Jessa*

        Except you shouldn’t have to say that. And some people in today’s insane climate socially do not necessarily want to say they have a medical problem or a religious objection. Some people don’t mention their religions for a reason nowadays. It’s annoying but it happens. And one’s private life is not the business of their employer unless they need an accommodation.

  30. Fucshia*

    At this point, I would accept the glass then always have a “drinking problem” like in the movie Airplane.

    For those unfamiliar with the film, that means the liquid goes anywhere but your mouth. Just toss it back over your shoulder.

    1. A Jane*

      Forgot about that one! I thought you were talking about the “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.” and variations. Great movie

  31. Kimberly Herbert*

    I don’t drink. Seriously you don’t want me to drink. 1/2 glass of wine and I’m out. My cousins found that out when they gave me a spiked drink – we all learned something then.

    After I turned 21 my standard comment Sorry alcohol is contraindicated by my allergy meds. They don’t need to know that those allergy meds are the ones I take on the way to the ER because I am having a potentially deadly reaction.

  32. Chriama*

    Yeah, OP, I think most suggestions have already been mentioned. As a non-drinker, I would hate to be in a situation like yours. Is this the only way your boss is a jerk, or is this just one of the more intolerable ways? I agree that your boss probably has her own issues with alcohol that she’s projecting on you, because you’re not being sober *at* her, just next to her. Anyway, your best course of action obviously depends on your overall relationship with her, what you’re willing to risk, and how much you want to stand on principle. With a peer I would recommend the serious talk about why people would choose not to drink and why it’s a bad idea not to pressure them. However, if your boss’s actions are driven by emotion rather than logic, you probably can’t get them to accept your rational explanation and it would be exhausting to try. I like the idea of accepting the drink and then placing it on her desk (although that’s pretty passive-agressive, so maybe just placing it on your desk is a safer bet, haha).
    Another tactic would be to make sure you have a glass of something in your hand before she even asks. Even if it’s just water (and everyone can see it’s water), just hold it up and say “thanks, but I’m topped up”. Again, not standing on principle, but just defusing a ridiculous situation.

    If your boss gets agressive (watching to make sure you drink, or forcing an alcoholic drink in your hand to replace whatever you’ve got, or adding alcohol to whatever’s already in your hand…), I think it’s time for the serious talk + a meeting with HR.
    Alison, could there be a legal risk of discrimination if OP made the argument that the boss is creating a hostile workplace(against religion, pregnancy and medical disability) by forcing alcohol on her employees and subjecting them to public ridicule if they refuse?

  33. Miss Evy*

    I’m very sympathetic to the OP’s situation. Obviously the dynamics and so on are very different with a purely social situation among friends, but many of my friends enjoy wine or beer and as I do not always partake, I am sometimes (jokingly) pressured to “have a little fun” or “join in” because “it’s just a little bit” and “only enough to get a bit of a buzz!”

    Most hard alcohol makes my body react in a very hostile manner (I get extremely flushed, my heart starts beating like crazy, I get headaches or dizzy) and I’ve never gotten that pleasant buzz that everyone seems to talk about. For that reason, I avoid all hard alcohol and will usually only have a small glass of wine. I don’t feel bad about deflecting my friends or turning down drinks when hanging out, but I can see how this being at work and the pressure coming from Boss Lady can be a different animal altogether.

    I don’t have advice in particular, but one thing a friend told me when we were chatting about drinking and alcohol in general is that when someone pressures you to drink/drink more, that is more a reflection of their own insecurities about how much THEY are drinking. I don’t know if anybody could comment from their own experiences in their youth or anecdotes from friends, but it does make sense in a way.

    1. Cari*

      I know someone with heavy drinking issues who used to pressure others into doing the same. I have the impression they didn’t really acknowledge their issues back then, but I know they do now and also know they’re content to drink how they want and when without putting pressure on others anymore, so that’s one anecdotal comment for you :)

    1. Ineloquent*

      Me too. There’s enough people out there that really, really hate Mormons to make this sort of thing something that I would look at from the angle of possible religious harrassment.

  34. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Somewhat off-topic, but am I the only one here who wishes I enjoyed drinking more? It’s an easily available, perfectly legal, mind-altering, recreational substance that plenty of people seem to enjoy … and I just don’t care about it. But it has all the qualities that make me wish I liked it more.

    1. A Cita*

      No, I like it (but with bubbles–I used to not care for it and went long stretches of years without a single drink; then I discovered champagne). But along similar lines: I wish I enjoyed pot smoking. While not legal in most states, it’s decriminalized to such a degree that an occasional toke doesn’t have too many consequences (as long as you don’t possess salable quantities and aren’t looking to get security clearance for a government job, etc). But I hate it–get stoned, not high, and become a navel gazing self critical hyper paranoid anxiety attack prone cringing zombie. Where are all the giggles and good times???

    2. Cat*

      I like drinking but I always wish I liked beer more – everyone seems to enjoy it so much and yet it all tastes the same to me.

      1. LBK*

        I’m sure people have thrown a million suggestions at you when you mention you don’t drink beer – but if you haven’t already, try Magic Hat No. 9. It was the beer that made me like beer. It has a relatively light flavor compared to some heavy/hoppy beers, but it’s more complex and tasty than a generic Miller Lite or something else bland.

        1. Mints*

          Oh, if we’re playing this game, I suggest hard apple cider. It’s very different from beer, especially sweet the ones (dry means notsweet, I learned recently), but it fits in when the social situation is like “football beer and pizza.”
          (The only beer I like is Blue Moon and Shocktop)

          1. Jamie*

            Not directed at me, but I’m going to try this, too. I’m another one who wished I liked beer and I just don’t get it. Wine also – I so want to like it but it all tastes the same to me and not good.

            That’s why I drink so rarely, I don’t like lighter alcoholic drinks so when I drink it’s hard stuff….and since it’s rare it hits fast.

            I’d love something cider like for those days you want something, but don’t want to be asleep in 20 minutes.

          2. LBK*

            Blue Moon and Shocktop are pretty similar to Magic Hat actually, although MH has a slightly more spiced flavor. Ciders are awesome, I pretty much only drink Angry Orchard from October through January (with some Shipyard Pumpkinhead thrown in as long as it has a cinnamon and sugar rim).

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, me too. I’m a Coors Light kind of girl and I don’t care who knows it. Oh, I’ll have a Blue Moon when I’m getting crazy but other than that, I don’t need a beer so bitter that I pucker up, or one so thick that I have to strain it through my teeth.

          I have a pretty low tolerance to alcohol. I have a strict two-drink limit for beer or wine, and even less for hard alcohol because I’m not only a lightweight and I get drunk fast (which can lead to embarrassing behavior), but I will also feel like crap the next day. It’s just not worth it.

    3. Loose Seal*

      I’m actually sort of glad I don’t really care for the taste of alcohol. Not wanting it keeps me from having to worry about the expense or the calories. But I do sometimes feel like a stick-in-the-mud when there’s an activity that seems to center around alcohol (like a bridal party bar crawl). I have no problem saying no and I wouldn’t hang around friends who wouldn’t accept that but sometimes I think it’d be nice to be as buzzed as they are.

      1. Felicia*

        I feel the same Loose Seal….sometimes I feel left out because everyone seems to like alcohol and always have these alcohol centred events. I say no and my friends don’t judge, but it’d be nice ot be like everyone else.

      2. Cari*

        Same here, though I find when in the right company and situation that in itself is enough to get me happy and hyper :)

    4. LBK*

      Ha! Odd. I’ve never heard someone say they wished they were more into drinking, but I run in pretty alcohol-heavy circles. Although the people I know that don’t drink usually prefer other things – seems if you’re less of a drinker, you’re usually more of a smoker and vice versa.

    5. fposte*

      Yup. I would love to find something tasty that was a recreational equivalent to Xanax. If my state legalizes, I’m interested in pot in food, but it also seems like a bad thing to do to good brownies (ironically, I quite like alcohol in food, where there’s a lot more going on to balance the flavor out).

      1. A Cita*

        Curious: what is Xanax like? I’m always curious about this because for some biological reason, opiates and the like (I think Xanax is opiate-like?) have zero effect on me. My body just doesn’t metabolize them or something, which I found out the hard way after dealing with recovery from surgery without help from pain relievers (docs escalated types of meds as far as they felt safe–none had any effect except to make my stomach queasy, even when they really upped the dosage–4x recommended). But I hear it’s so good for anxiety and such. Well, at least I have meditation. That really is effective for me (and also pain relieving). And it’s legal, safe, and cheap! Plus, low fat! :)

        1. Mints*

          I had Xanax for the first time when I had my wisdom teeth out a few months ago and really liked it. But when I ran out, I was fine (I’m not a druggie, I feel the need to add).
          It feels like when your on a beach or in the forest and you’re simultaneously very calm and very happy. It didn’t throw off my movement like alcohol, but I felt like there was no rush to do anything (in other people I see them move sometimes comically slowly). There was also a pleasant tingly sensation in my legs like a hot bath. Overall I was just totally fine with watching dumb tv or sitting quietly at work, and enjoyed doing nothing.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I think it does make you more an object that tends to stay at rest :-). But I find I can move just fine with motivation, so I have no problems bolting for a changed airport gate if need be.

            I think now the go-to is likelier to be Ativan, but I’ve worked out my Xanax rhythm (ambient music band name?) and wouldn’t change unless I had to.

        2. fposte*

          In my modest experience, it’s got some similarities to being mildly drunk; it’s kind of like walking around in a featherbed, very comfy and relaxing. I can feel it start to work with a very enjoyable freeing sensation, and yet my cognition stays pretty clear (at the levels I take it, anyway); focus goes before cognition, so I wouldn’t try to read a long novel (nonfiction tends to be chunked effectively and is a great read when I’m on it). Interestingly, it makes me more effective at speaking up for myself–my best interaction with a creeper was when I was at an airport on Xanax, because I wasn’t bothered about what would happen when I said my piece but also didn’t feel shaken by what he was doing and couldn’t be bothered to overthink and second guess. I could totally see ingesting something that gave me that at the end of a tough day to reduce stress. (Though Xanax is also pretty slow acting–it takes an hour or so to really hit for me, so that would make it inconvenient.)

          It’s not, like, an enduring quest, but it really would be convenient if I liked alcohol enough for such occasions, because it’s right there! But it mostly goes on the berries and in the stew.

          1. fposte*

            I should mention that I do get a bit of restlessness as a side effect sometimes; it’s very identifiable to me now and very different from the basic “Wow, I’m tired of sitting in this plane” restlessness. But it’s no big deal.

          2. A Cita*

            Thanks fposte and Mints! This is so very interesting. Yeah, these drugs have no effect on me (and anesthesia wears off on me really quickly too). What you’re describing sounds like something I experienced when I recovering from a flu/cold once. I was well enough to go back to work and concentrate, but in that in-between phase of getting better/being functional and still having some symptoms. I remember feeling really relaxed and good–sort of like there was a layer of cotton between all my senses and the world–sort of floating. I wasn’t on any cold medicine (I don’t take it) and I never experienced it again. Sounds like the same feeling from Xanax.

    6. Felicia*

      Me! But mostly because other people seem to like it so much. I hate the taste of alcohol and I hate when people tell me I have to “develop a taste for it” (they never tell me I have to develop a taste for other foods and beverages I don’t like), or they say I can’t taste the alcohol but I always can. So I’d like to enjoy the mind altering affects on occasion and be able to participate in events at bars and stuff without being self conscious, and I try a sip or 2 of anything. But I have yet to try alcohol i didn’t find gross.

      1. Windchime*

        This is how I feel about coffee. It’s bitter and it even smells bad, so why would I need to find a way to make myself like it? And for all of you who say that anything coffee-flavored “only has a little bit” — guess what? A little bit of nasty still tastes nasty to me!

    7. Colette*

      I’m with you. It’s one of those things that lots of people seem to love but I am mostly ambivalent about. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t really interest me.

    8. Mike B.*

      I won’t go on at length about my situation, also referenced above, but suffice it to say my alcoholism is controlled by medication that makes me indifferent to alcohol. And while I love that I can have a life now, there’s a slightly bittersweet quality to the fact that I can’t, say, enjoy a beer on a hot day like I used to.

      So yeah, in a sense I do wish I enjoyed alcohol more. But I recognize that it’s for the best that I don’t enjoy it, and I wish I’d been lucky enough not to enjoy it from the start.

    9. Malissa*

      Maybe you’re not drinking the right stuff? Beer, wine and even different varieties of the hard stuff have different drunk feels.
      I used to drink wine, but really didn’t get the happy drunk out of it. I have switched to Vodka and that is a much more pleasant kind of drunk to me. My favorite drink is vodka and raspberry ginger ale.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I drank extensively in my 20s so I feel like I have a good sense of the possibilities … just stopped caring about it very much somewhere along the way! It’s very annoying.

    10. The Wall of Creativity*

      Ha! If I go slightly off topic or try looking at something from a different angle everybody comes down on me like a ton of bricks and tells me that you don’t approve of this sort of thing. I’m going to point them back to this posting next time that happens.

    11. Cari*

      The attitudes that exist towards women who drink are enough to keep me ever going back to alcoholic drinks, so I’m glad to have dislike of the taste as a legitimate socially acceptable excuse to not drink alcohol :)

    12. Jessa*

      OH I agree with you, when I could drink, I mostly hated the taste, and the one thing I would drink was considered antiquated by my trendy friends (I drank sloe gin fizzes, and one lasted me all night,) but now I can’t even if I really wanted to. And yes it’d be nice to have something like that, but I really don’t like the taste, and I really can’t drink it anyway.

      And on the other end of the sometimes legal spectrum, I can’t smoke pot either, we found out when I was in high school, on the school bus, people were smoking in the back and the driver was being oblivious to it until I ended up doubled over in the aisle. Seems I’m allergic to pot smoke.

    13. Cheesecake*

      It is the worst experience to see drunk people when you are sober!

      I myself drink occasionally and see nothing wrong in a glass of wine or two, bottle of beer/cocktail. I however, can’t get drunk in a “let’s hug, you guys” way; i either don’t feel tipsy or i move straight to being sick. Either way i wake up dead the next day and what is more horrifying – i remember everything and it makes me lose faith in humankind.

    14. squid*

      Funny, I’m the complete opposite of this! (and of most commenters on the subject it seems)
      I enjoy the taste of nearly every type of alcohol. I love making cocktails, and I love experimenting with new and different ingredients. (Right now it’s using herbs and wild edibles.)
      Genuinely wish I could do more of it without losing my faculties / potential health consequences.

  35. Newbie*

    “Your boss is an ass”. Love… this… so… much… I used to work with a lady that was highly allergic to alcohol, so you never know what a person’s reasoning may be for not drinking and it’s not really anyone’s frackin’ business. Hate that this is OP’s boss doing this – sending the wrong message in so many different ways not to mention potential liability issues if someone over imbibes at a company function and something happens as a result… I coordinate events for my organization all of the time, and I love a good drink now and then – but usually not at the office and rarely at company functions. I have the headache of worring about the liability issues for those that go overboard during all of the events I oversee, and frankly – it is not worth it if you care about your reputation and job…but that is another day and topic!!

  36. Malissa*

    My suggestion is to have some of those flavored drops for water on hand. when the party gets started find a wine glass and fill it with water. Add the drops until it looks like wine.
    Decoy drink. Saves a lot of grief.

      1. Windchime*

        This is what my mom does. 7Up with a maraschino cherry. She doesn’t care if people think she should be drinking or not (her father was a raging alcoholic so she has made the decision to never drink), but she likes to have her 7Up with a cherry because it is her version of a fun and festive drink that she can enjoy while others have a drink.

        1. Jessa*

          Yep that was my go to for years. Ginger ale and 7 up are pretty usual mixers. Sometimes with a dash of bitters or grenadine (but only real grenadine, not that coloured syrup stuff they pass off as real pomegranate.)

        2. Cari*

          That’s a wicked thing to do:) non-alcoholic options tend to be so obviously plain and non-alcoholicy (but just as expensive). I did have these awesome non-alcoholic cocktails on holiday last year though. Totally looked (and tasted) as good as The Real Thing. Decorated with fruit and umbrellas and funky looking stick things. It was lush!

  37. Vicki*

    I like: strawberry daiquiris (with lots of strawberry); Japanese plum wine (red, not white); Kahlua, Amaretto & Cream; cognac; Grand Marnier. Shared with my spouse, when we’re out to dinner or in the evening at home. I also like hard cider.

    I dislike the taste of beer. I dislike red wine (musty) and most white wine (sour). I’m not a “drink to party” person.

    Former co-workers have assumed I “don’t drink”.

    1. Nina*

      I’m into the sweeter drinks, too. Daiquiris, rum and coke, amaretto sours, etc. Plus, I’m a real lightweight. :)

      I can handle white wine (I think Moscato is one and I love that) but not into red. Beer…it depends. I can see why it goes great with stuff like hot dogs and burgers, but I never just have a beer by itself. Stuff like vodka, whiskey, ugh, no. Way too bitter.

      1. DMented Kitty*

        I’m more of a wine person than a beer person, as I don’t like hoppy beers, but I’ve found some that aren’t hoppy and slightly sweet that I liked.

        I used to stick to just white wine — the sweeter variety. Moscatos, late harvest rieslings, gewurtztraminer, and mead were my usual. I still tried to look at sweet reds, but they are rare. I found a couple — Elysium and Roscato. They’re red dessert wines that are actually as sweet as moscatos, and I was happy.

        I occasionally mix myself some hard drinks, too — a martini, or a margarita, or even a whisky mix. But I typically stop myself when I feel pleasantly buzzed. After a few bouts years ago of waking up with a splitting headache, I really didn’t like that feeling, so that pretty much controlled my drinking — same with food. I do eat a good amount, but when I’m pleasantly full, I really can’t eat anymore as I prefer to avoid the discomfort.

        1. DMented Kitty*

          Might I add that I also rarely drink liquor straight — it’s usually a cocktail. And I used to stay away from hard liquor before because I thought they were nasty and bitter — when I had the top shelf variety though — that perspective changed. They actually can be pretty good.

          Also, back to the topic — my first thought of OP’s boss was: “What an ass.” But I do agree on at least pulling out your own personal beverage if there’s a need for a toast.

  38. The Wall of Creativity*

    We’ll, I’ve looked all the way through 200+ comments and there’s a word that I expected to see but that has somehow not made an appearance.

    The word is BULLYING.

    Go straight to HR and/or to the boss’ boss. No brainier.

        1. fposte*

          I thought you were suggesting that’s why HR would care. The situation as described isn’t an all-caps level HR thing.

      1. Jessa*

        It’s not illegal per se, unless it’s about protected class, but it’s still something a normal company does not want happening on it’s premises. It’s bad for business, unprofessional and COULD escallate to something that IS illegal.

  39. DogMom*

    Ice water with a twist or slice of lime looks like an alcoholic beverage. Though I’m not sure how well that would work with an all-wine party.

    1. Rachel*

      Pandering to these people by pretending to drink is part of the problem. Before you know it, they’re “just topping up your glass” and forcing some other crap you didn’t ask for much less want in front of you. I’ve found the best policy is just to say “no”, and then be more firm if they persist, perhaps asking them why your drinking if so important to them? They usually back off at that question, because it skates close to some uncomfortable truths. If that doesn’t work (yes there are some people that dense) I never socialise with them again. And when they ask why I’m honest that their nagging insistence that I join them in drinking has made it no fun on previous occasions.

  40. Angora998*

    ? OP … is this a small business where the boss is the owner, or related to the owner or part of a larger corporation? If this is part of a larger corporation I would mention it to HR. Because they would probably frown on alcohol on the premises, drinking on the premises, etc because of liability at least.

    If this is happening at business closing you can also quickly leave and say you have an appointment when you see the wine bottle coming out. Agree with the others … “true horse’s rump” … the individual is most likely wanting a drink themselves and by sharing the wine bottle, it is covering up their own problem. They are wanting a few for the road and companionship in the process.

  41. Kiwi*

    Perhaps the boss is the closet alcoholic – and projecting that closet alcoholism onto OP.
    Alcoholics sometimes prefer those around them to be drinking alongside them as it can make their own excessive drinking appear more normal.

  42. Purr purr purr*

    As a non-drinker, this also bothers me. I’ve had ‘friends’ spike my drink before after I’ve said that I don’t want any alcohol.I think sometimes it comes down to a lack of respect. My friends didn’t respect my choice to not drink and my friends’ desire for me to drink was obviously more important (to them!) than the decision I had made.

    1. Jessa*

      They’d cease to be my friends AFTER they called the ambulance, the drugs I have to take are NOT alcohol friendly in a “oh she’s unconscious, that’s bad,” kinda way.

  43. Cari*

    OP, if you ever take the advice of having your own non-alcoholic drink at future events like this to try and get your boss off your back, don’t forget the clubbing rules for safe drinking:
    Never go back to a drink you’ve left unattended and don’t drink anything you haven’t watched being poured or haven’t poured yourself.
    If your boss is being this much of a pressuring arse about you not drinking alcohol (going so far as to even put an alcoholic drink in your hand after you have already declined), I would not put it past her to take it further by putting alcohol in whatever it is you’ve chosen to drink instead.

    The advice you’re getting seems to be split between strong reactions from folks who don’t drink or do but know what it’s like for those that don’t regarding how awful people can be about it and know what a problem it is, and keep-the-peace reactions from folks who do drink (or non-drinkers who’ve been lucky so far) but appear to have no idea of the problems a lot of non-drinkers face from certain types of drinkers because they’re not like that or haven’t experienced it themselves and seem to think the problem will go away if you just say “no” in the right way or fake drinking to placate the drink pusher.

    Drink pushers are not reasonable people. They won’t be satisfied until you’re actually getting drunk off your face with them, and some will go to ridiculous lengths to get you there.

    However, if your boss is just really into celebratory ettiquette(?) and is motivated by a belief of rudeness on your part by not joining in properly with toasts, make sure you have something to toast with and discard it when done raising your glass (providing it is okay for you to have an alcoholic drink in your hand ofc). In that circumstance it’s generally not the not-drinking-of-alcohol that they have issue with, so it won’t matter what you do with it after just so long as you’ve joined in the toast with everyone else :)

  44. Not So NewReader*

    I had a company party to go to. In the course of just chatting, I mentioned that my husband and I don’t drink. My coworkers decided it would be great fun to spike my husband’s drink. (I guess he would not figure out it had too much kick?) I got pretty upset but as calmly as I could muster I said “Then get ready to call 911. Because you will have to get an ambulance.” I explained about my husband’s health. I felt I should not have to explain, but as we are talking about here, I had to keep a working relationship with the people involved. Explanations are a subtle courtesy.
    Fortunately, that took care of the problem. I do think the fire in my eyes and smoke pouring out my ears tended to drive the point home.

    We (society) have recognized for a while now that it is really not good to keep offering alcohol if someone says no. And it is hard to imagine that some people have not gotten that memo.
    I may have missed some comments, so perhaps this has been covered. But, OP, where are your coworkers at in all this? Is anyone else having a problem? Quietly look around and see if anyone else is refusing or reluctant. Encourage them to stand their ground also. Not necessarily join forces with you, but just as individuals say NO to the boss. And it does not matter if they explain or not. Perhaps if the boss heard the NO word from more than one person it would change things for you.

    I feel like crap when I drink. It’s horrible. And I would love a beer, but forget it. It’s not worth feeling awful. In an odd way, this helps me to strengthen my resolve in these situations. One beer is not worth feel run down and crappy for the next day or so. OP, think about your reason why you say no. (Don’t tell us here, just think about it.) Use that reason to help buoy up your resolve.

    When you approach the boss on the matter, frame it as “This is a small matter. We can have a good solid working relationship that is not contingent on if I have a drink. Our relationship will go smoothly no matter what. ” If you act like it is small potatoes maybe the boss will let go easier.

  45. Fiona*

    When your boss offers you a drink and you decline, do you still participate? Maybe your boss just doesn’t want you to be left out and you could join in with a non-alcoholic drink.

    My work sometimes takes me to China where the businesspeople all drink a LOT. It takes a lot of tact to get out of drinking and even then you might end up insulting a whole bunch of people. But usually non-drinkers substitute with a non-alcoholic drink and ensure their glass is full at all times.

  46. Mitchell*

    I think you need to short circuit the whole situation, because it is happening repeatedly with the same results and you keep reminding your boss that you don’t drink, which bothers him for some reason.

    If the events are happening after you close, can you just go home? Say that you’re sorry to run but you have an appointment right after work. Maybe if you do this a few times, it will diffuse the situation.

    Another suggestion: if you see an event coming up where your coworkers are likely to celebrate, volunteer to bring the treats. So, tell your boss “It’s Carol’s birthday on Thursday, so I thought I would bring in some treats to celebrate.” You could even say, “I know you usually treat, but I’d like to get it this time because Carol has been such a great coworker.” Bring something besides alcohol, but try to make it something that is even better than alcohol. You want your coworkers to completely forget about the alcohol. It will help to break the habit if you can serve it at a different time too. So, instead of after work drinks, take a break midmorning for coffee and donuts. Or take an afternoon break for rootbeer floats.

    Hopefully, next time there is an event, one of your coworkers will say “Let’s have ice cream like last time!” If you think any of your coworkers are on your side, you could even ask them to suggest this.

    I’m only offering these because it sounds like saying No thanks hasn’t worked.

  47. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

    I have with reluctance had to crush like bugs several co-workers over the years who have insisted on food- or bodyshape- policing me, but I don’t know what I would do if it were my manager.

    All the best to you and others who have found themselves in this position.

  48. nicolefromqueens*

    It was so hard to choose between the one messing with someone’s health, messing with someone’s property, getting involved with someone’s family, or sexual harassment. In the end I chose the alcohol one, because once you lose your health it’s a long road to recovery.

  49. Rachel*

    I can attest to the fact that when you don’t drink there is a certain category of people for whom that is a Very Big Deal. It came as a surprise to me when I learned one time that my not drinking was seen as some kind of implicit criticism of their choice to drink. How self-absorbed and insecure would you need to be to allow someone else’s non-participation in something that you enjoy but they do not to be perceived as criticism? And then there are those muppets that think your not drinking deserves some form of explanation or excuse. And that they are entitled to demand one from you. “No thanks” should be enough. The first time you say it. Pressing people for a reason why they don’t drink is like demanding to know why their favourite colour isn’t purple?, or why they don’t play golf?, or support the same sports team as you? Asking the question marks you out as an idiot, because it contains the inherent assumption that you would really want to drink but must have some special reason not to.

    In short, these people are tiresome in the extreme. They don’t get that the reason people avoid them is because of the obnoxious way they behave, not what they choose to drink. People who drink are fine. People who don’t drink are fine. It’s the people that need you to drink for them to feel comfortable that are a pest, and a complete drain to be around.

  50. gsa*

    I used to work with a guy that had kidney issues, we were both mid twenties. He was the new guy.

    Me: Hey J, we’re gonna grab beer after work, you wanna go.

    J: Sure, but I’ll pass on the beer. I have the kidney function of a 70 yo.

    He felt comfortable saying, no alcohol for me and why. Not everybody is…

  51. gsa*

    I was going to post this in the new manager thread, but it applies here too…

    I have been managing contracted groups that built teatops for twenty plus years and was hired right out of college. I worked as a contracted employee in the teatop industry during the summers before I graduated.

    I have made a lot of progress and earned a ton of respect by getting to know the people that work for the groups we hire, as well as with fellow employees.

    I would like to think if I said, hey we’re going to xyz and said she no thanks, I would believe her, and honor her wishes. And not do the peer pressure/respect my authority thing. que Cartman

    Lack of manners is at play here!

Comments are closed.