my coworker wants us to drink at lunch every Friday

A reader writes:

A few weeks ago, two coworkers and I went to lunch on a beautiful, warm, sunny Friday. We sat on a patio of a Mexican restaurant and perused the menu, when we casually mentioned our margarita craving. Well, I can’t remember who dove in first, but we ordered a round of relatively weak margaritas and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before returning to the office. Honestly, it was nice.

But, one coworker now ALWAYS wants to indulge on Friday drinks. I have no problem turning down lunch, turning down drinks at lunch, or going on occasion. But, I worry that it’s become an expected occurrence and this coworker is slightly peer-pressure-y towards me. It’s not a huge issue, just a mild annoyance. What are your thoughts on drinking at lunch? Should I worry that it might grow into a bigger situation than it currently is?

Drinking so much that you’re in any way impaired when you need to return to work is obviously not okay to do. For most people, a single drink won’t trigger that limit, but it’s really about knowing yourself and when you’ll cross over from pleasantly relaxed to tipsy (or worse).

But importantly, it’s also about knowing your office. There are plenty of offices where having a beer or glass of wine or a margarita at lunch wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. There are others where it would be An Issue. So you really want to know your own workplace’s culture on this, as well as your manager.

You didn’t say specifically what your coworker is doing that feels peer-pressure-y to you. If she’s just urging everyone to order margaritas with her again and takes a “nah, not today” for an answer, I wouldn’t worry too much. But if she continues to push, you should say, “I don’t feel right having a drink when I have to go back to work” or “I need to be as sharp as possible for the work I have scheduled when we get back to the office” or, if she’s particularly insistent, “No. I don’t want to drink today. Please don’t keep asking. Does someone want to split fajitas?”

If you want to address the larger pattern, you could say: “I love coming here and it’s fun to get margaritas on occasion. But I don’t want to get into a drinks-every-Friday thing; I’d feel weird about that, and like it might reflect badly on us if people heard we did it every week. Can we keep it special-occasion-only?”

{ 272 comments… read them below }

  1. cheeky*

    How common are jobs where you can get away with having a drink at lunch? I imagine it depends a lot on the industry, but in general, I would still think midday drinking is a no-no for the majority of workplaces.

    1. BRR*

      My work place has two or three events a year where beer and wine is served at lunch with the expectation of coming back to work after. Obviously this is just one data point so it’s not very helpful.

        1. Journalist Wife*

          You have to be sure of who you’re going to encounter the rest of the afternoon — like do clients walk in and talk to you who will smell it? It stays on one’s breath whether it was one or five drinks (obviously the distance at which you can smell it increases with volume), but whoever I encounter after lunchtime might smell it and think, “Oh, well, I don’t have to listen to the instructions she’s nagging me about. She’s been hitting the sauce at lunch. What does she know?”

    2. Beaker*

      I was wondering about that, too. I had a friend who is going to school part time and a manager had seen him having a beer before returning to work. He had to meet with HR and ended up getting written up.
      I, for one, think work would be much more enjoyable if we could enjoy a drink now and then.

      1. Mabel*

        Drinking at any time during the work day is expressly forbidden at my company. Every now and then, when I’m traveling for work (and no one else from my company is there), I might have a drink at lunch if I’m not doing anything special in the afternoon. On the days I’m delivering all day training sessions, obviously I would not have anything to drink until after work! ;)

        1. Vicki*

          I worked at a company that had obviously purchased their “Employee Handbook” from a place that sells pre-written employee handbooks. It had a big section on “No alcoholic beverages on the premises, no drinking on the premises, no drinking during the work day.”

          And yet, the company had a regular “beer bash” at 5pm on Friday and the CEO had a bottle opener installed under the end of the table in the conference room.

    3. OriginalYup*

      Industry and company culture, in my experience. At my last job, having a drink at lunch during the work day would have gotten you fired. (No explicit rule against it, but it would have been considered a *massive* breach of good judgment.) At my current job, having a single glass of wine or a beer at a special occasion lunch might be okay. At my job 10 years ago, they had happy hours in the office every Friday afternoon — seriously, a cooler of beers at the reception desk starting at 3pm and buzzed people leaning against the copier by 4.30pm.

      1. the gold digger*

        My boss had a small fridge in his office. On late Friday afternoons, a few of us would hang out and drink beer. Well, others would drink, I would hang out. I don’t like beer.

        1. OriginalYup*

          I would love a small fridge at my desk. I’d stock it with cheesecake and Dr Pepper, aka “office supplies.”

            1. Mabel*

              This comment just makes me want a soda RIGHT NOW. There are sodas and snacks in the nearby (glass-walled) conference room, and I can see them, but I can’t GET one yet (the meeting inside is still taking place). Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

              1. Mabel*

                FINALLY. The meeting just ended, and I snagged a bag of Doritos and a Coke Zero. Woo hoo!

          1. Buggy Crispini*

            If I did that, y’all would be seeing me on a future episode of “My 600 lb Life.”

          2. The Other Dawn*

            I wish I could have a fridge at my desk, but that would be a disaster for me. As it is, I can’t bring more food to work that what I will eat that day because I can’t control myself. I’m about a year and half out from weight loss surgery and I’m in the midst of trying to curb my snacking impulse. Even if I stocked it with fruit and veggies, I’d be munching all day long and probably eat more calories than if I had a burger.

            1. kac*

              Sounds like you’re doing a really awesome job of taking care of yourself. Congrats on that; I know it’s so hard to figure out what our own limits are. :)

              1. The Other Dawn*

                Thanks! Yes, it’s tough now that the weight loss slowed down and I can eat more than I could a year ago. Still not a lot, but more. I have to exercise and watch my calories now that the honeymoon phase is over, just like everyone else.

            1. fposte*

              Heh. I’ve been doing a recent 30 Rock rewatch. You could populate a food-themed calendar with the quotes.

              1. LBK*

                I am chock full of 30 Rock food quotes:

                “Workin’ on my night cheese!”
                “My trio of popcorns!”
                “You take a hot dog, stuff it with some jack cheese, roll in a pizza, you got Cheesy Blasters!”
                “Sabor de Soledad: ahora con mas semen del toro!”
                “Leave the sandwich? Leave the sandwich?”

      2. Retail Lifer*

        At every job I’ve ever had, having ANY alcohol while you’re on the job (or on a break) would be grounds for firing. But I also work in an industry where we’re never treated like adults.

      3. Mpls*

        Med device company I worked for had an explicit statement in the handbook that no work was to be done after the consumption of alcohol – as in, no going out for lunch/hh and then coming back to work for a few hours.

        Obviously, you could come back to work the next day…

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        …a cooler of beers at the reception desk starting at 3pm and buzzed people leaning against the copier by 4.30pm.

        I never got this…do all of these people take public transportation? Or are they all fine driving under the influence? Now if you have a few at lunch, you’d probably be OK by COB to drive, but afternoon drinking at work seems…poorly planned.

        1. AmyNYC*

          We do happy hour Friday afternoon/evenings, and since we’re in the city I assume everyone is taking mas transit. Also, they don’t pay us enough to have a car :(

        2. Nancie*

          The last place I worked had beer and wine coolers every Friday at 4p. That was in a city with extremely poor public transportation. The company had a policy of paying for a cab for anyone who didn’t think they were ok to drive after drinking at work or any work function.

          I don’t know if anyone actually took took them up on that on a Friday afternoon (I assume most people are good to drive not long after a single beer or wine cooler?), but I’m sure the company must have paid for quite a few cab rides after every holiday party.

        3. mondegreen*

          In my current major city, almost everyone I work with bikes, walks, or takes public transit. We have 5 pm Friday happy hour, but nobody is pressured to drink and soft drinks are the same discounted price as beer.

          Because I tend to stay later rather than arrive earlier to finish work, and because I’m a small person who gets tipsy from a large glass of wine, I tend to avoid the drinking part. But in this particular institutional culture it’s a nice way to connect with colleagues.

      5. Cath in Canada*

        And nati0nal culture, too. It was pretty standard at all of my (student and professional) jobs in the UK, but not at any of my professional jobs in Canada. During my grad school years in Glasgow the entire lab, from the professor to the technicians to the lowly students, went out for lunch together about once a month and everyone had at least one drink, unless they were pregnant or knew they’d be working with radioactive materials that afternoon. It was quite a culture shock when I went for my first lab lunch in Vancouver and everyone ordered pop or water – thankfully the pattern was clear by the time it was my turn to order!

          1. Mabel*

            But not in the lab! :) I don’t work in the lab, but I work in the building that contains the labs, and we all have to take a bunch of required training on lab safety even though many of us are never going to set foot in the lab. So I know: no open toed shoes, no shorts, no food, etc.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        I heard that about a job I had, but it was before my time. I can’t imagine going out to lunch and having a drink if I have to drive back, though–I’m a lightweight. With public transport? Yeah, I might.

      7. manybellsdown*

        My husband’s company will often offer beer at Friday meetings, and I worked for a very successful real estate agent once who told me to help myself to any of the beer in his mini-fridge, during office hours (I didn’t drink at all at the time, though). So yeah I think it’s really a job-by-job basis.

    4. BenAdminGeek*

      My industry doesn’t really go for it- lots of “eat at your desk while surfing AAM” for me. When we do go out, it is a special occasion and a drink is OK. I would definitely feel uncomfortable doing it every week as a planned event- that feels different to me.

    5. KathyGeiss*

      I work in a conservative, old fashioned industry and while drinks at lunch aren’t common, they certainly aren’t frowned upon.

      If I had to put numbers to it, I would say there are drinks at every 4th or 5th business lunch. And there are occasional office drinks too (hr comes around about 3 x/ year around holidays with a drink cart (non-alcoholic options too) and in office events (about 4x/year) often have drinks (champagne for celebrations and beer and wine for others))

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Wow. I work from home, so I guess I can do what I want, but if I worked in an office and had a drink cart, I’d want to put a sign on it that said “This drink cart is Don Draper approved”.

      1. De Minimis*

        Current job I think it would be grounds for firing, though there may not be an official policy–I can’t imagine it being permitted in a government and/or healthcare environment though.

        Prior job [accounting firm] it was perfectly okay for people to have drinks during lunch though I don’t think very many did it that often, and there would be a big celebration once a year [promotion day] with a champagne toast at mid-morning and then a big party afterward with lots of alcohol. Seems like professional services [law, accounting, PR, etc.] still have a lot of leeway on this.

        Never saw any peer pressure though, people could take it or leave it and no one cared. I think they would kind of try to test recruits though by providing alcohol at events just to see how they handled it, mainly to see if they were the type who would use poor judgment and overindulge.

        1. bridget*

          This would be a huge no-no in my law firm, which is owned by religious non-drinkers in a religious, non-drinking city/state. (For example, no alcohol has ever been served at any firm party/retreat/event, but if it was held at a restaurant or something, people will sometimes buy themselves one glass of wine or similar and the powers that be try to pretend it’s not happening).

          But my friend at a law firm in a neighboring state will often text me at 4:00 p.m. something to the effect of “ugh, I have so much more work to do this afternoon/evening but partner is insisting I come to her office for shots!”

          So even within industries, YMMV considerably.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, a friend used to work for a business school and she says it was pretty common to get emails like “Come to the boardroom at four for a champagne toast to our new copy machine!” or what have you. I’ve never had a job where I could have a drink at lunch but I’ve mostly worked in education and human services.

      3. Demanding Excellence*

        I used to work for an ad agency and they would have a drink cart about once a month. It was stocked with different kinds of beer, water, and sodas.

        My former boss at the agency (by far the best, most professional boss I ever had) had a bar in his office (it kept out of sight though) and would have a drink at the end of every day, usually around 5:30. Sometimes others would occasionally join him. He invited me to have a drink a few times, but I rarely drink and have a rule about drinking with coworkers (I just don’t do it), so I always declined. When I explained why, he totally understood. Man, I miss that guy!

    6. Ambitious, but passionless*

      I worked on the trading floor and in tech. Both of which are okay with drinks at lunch. They do expect you to be able to handle your liquor and work after.

      1. Mike*

        Hi there. Your “Name” stood out to me.

        Why do you name yourself Ambitious, but passionless. I’m interested to know your story.

    7. Hannah*

      It’s specifically in our employee handbook that employees just can’t be drunk on the job but having a drink is fine. I think it’s unique that they addressed the question, and I like the policy, because it removes any doubt of where the line is and also assumes everyone will act like an adult and know their own limits.

    8. SevenSixOne*

      Plenty of jobs might do don’t-ask-don’t-tell for employees who have one beer at lunch once in a while or have occasional after-work happy hours, but the idea of regularly going out with co-workers to have drinks in the middle of the day is so bizarre to me that I’m shocked this is an issue.

    9. Amber Rose*

      We have a rule against impairment, and nobody who drives the company vehicles may drink, but from time to time the boss brings in a case of beer and some wine and we all drink together. Usually only on a Friday.

      Retail and entry level type jobs typically carry zero tolerance policies, but I find as you move upwards, that gets a lot more relaxed.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Whoops, add: with the caveat that some company and industry cultures will always be strict at any level.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I find that too — in many (most?) fields, there’s a point where you’re senior enough that you’re basically trusted to make your own decisions about this kind of thing. If you handle it poorly (come back impaired and someone notices), that would be addressed, but there’s a point where you manage this stuff for yourself.

    10. Sunshine Brite*

      Mine – social services – absolutely not. My friend’s some sort of graphic designer and their work has a beer fridge for Friday afternoons.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Transit authority–absolutely zero tolerance. In fact my friend (who is in office administration) was told, “even a sip, and you have to leave the office.” He doesn’t drive vehicles or supervise those who do, but the organization has a blanket policy about alcohol. I believe they have nothing about fatigue issues or other inappropriate behavior (he says he’s seen people sleeping at their desks routinely). It seems that alcohol is a bright line in the transit authority, while a lot of other behavior is just fine or is tolerated.

        1. Laufey*

          Not to be super cynical, but if something happens, it’s easy to prove/disprove the presence of alcohol. Fatigue (while it does impair) doesn’t have a regulated level and can’t be measured in the same way as alcohol.

        2. the gold digger*

          The job where we had the fridge in the boss’ office was financial services.

          Now, I work for a manufacturing company. It is a firing offense to have alcohol on company property, even in my engineering/non-manufacturing facility.

    11. Azalea*

      I’d be fired. I work for a company where a majority of the employees are truck drivers and heavy equipment operators, so there is a blanket policy for all employees.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Same here. I’m not even certified to touch any equipment on a regular day, but if I had a drink I wouldn’t be able to come back on the property.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          Same here, and that’s always my excuse when I’m off and they try to get me to come in. I’m glad they don’t try to call me in too often or else the fact that I kept using that as an excuse would probably result in an intervention.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, ditto. My predecessor showed up intoxicated and that was grounds for immediate firing with cause.

    12. hermit crab*

      In addition to the normal condiments and abandoned takeout, our main office refrigerator is also home to a lone bottle of beer, which has been there since someone’s milestone birthday happy hour about a year and a half ago. I feel like that pretty well sums up our office drinking norms (special occasions, yes; random Thursday, no).

    13. steve g*

      Maybe it’s a ny thing but it isn’t a crazy thing here in the city from my experience, and what I see when I go out to lunch.

      That being said, you need to push back on the people pressuring you to drink! You don’t have to feel bad. On the one hand, I hate puritan types who acts shocked when I order a drink (like someone did when I asked for a beer at a kids party in a restaurant recently. Sorry the kids were at a separate table and it is a party on the weekend where you invited kids!) on the other hand, maybe I’m just weak, but as soon as I have a drink, I kind of feel like the day is shot. I can continue working, doing housework, etc but the chances of getting to that big complicated project or dealing with the pita customer? Very slim. Insanity fitness is definitely not happening. And I don’t like the possibility of getting those things done taken away by someone who feels they can drink and continue to work at their full output.

      Not to mention that so many people have alcohol issues that your coworker is taking a risk asking anyone to do this. I’m sure I’m not to only one to have the rare imbibe with a coworker only to realize that they were a “functioning” alcoholic.

      1. themmases*

        I am the same way, and don’t even like to have a drink during the day on the weekend. Brunch specials with drinks are really popular in my neighborhood, and I love them, but I’ve just stopped going because I value my afternoon more than a mimosa. While I’m not getting drunk or anything, it apparently doesn’t take much alcohol to make me kind of lazy!

        1. Rebecca*

          Yes, me too! My friends love to do brunches or day-drinking (especially if the weather is nice and there’s a patio available), but I will just be useless the rest of the day.

      2. INTP*

        I’m one of those people with alcohol issues and it gets pretty uncomfortable when people are pushing me to drink as much as them. I definitely appreciate when people have the sensitivity to accept “no.” I’m not an alcoholic, I just seem to lose my ability to know I’ve had too much when I reach “drunk.” I can’t get drunk without a significant risk of getting falling down, throwing up drunk, especially in a social setting. So I never, ever have more than 1-2 drinks with coworkers or friends or let myself get past slightly tipsy. Apparently I come across as controlled and even uptight, so I get a lot of “I want to see you drunk,” “Come on, you’re stressed, you need to let go,” “You have to do a shot, we’re ALL doing them” peer pressure. It’s really annoying having to smile and say “No thank you, I don’t feel like it, I don’t like getting drunk, blah blah blah” when inside I’m thinking “Let’s see how you feel about seeing me drunk when you’re carrying me home and washing my puke off your shoes.”

        1. ReanaZ*

          Jesus. Are all your friends teenagers? I’m pretty much positive I’ve neither said nor heard “I want to see you druunnnnk!” since I was about 19.

        2. Steve G*

          I know where you are coming from. I don’t get drunk drunk but I get drunk, and lose control. Not that a lot of people don’t and are just un-selfaware, but it is definitely one of my weakest points.

    14. stebuu*

      One of my most vivid memories of doing a few weeks of consulting in the UK was one of my british coworker’s rule for drinking at lunch.

      “Try to stick to 2 pints… or 3 if it is a bad day.”

        1. Violet Rose*

          Which gets even more pronounced when you realise that British pints are bigger than American pints!

          1. bridget*

            And at least as compared to the beer in my neck of the American woods, our beer has a much lower alcohol content.

            1. Stephanie*

              You’re in Utah, right? Y’all’s blue laws are crazy. (I get the basis for them, but man.)

              1. bridget*

                Right. You can get regular volume beer here, but it has to be at a bar or liquor store, and there are very few licenses and a bunch of zoning silliness so there aren’t a lot of either of those, and even at a bar everything on tap is 3.2%. It’s a serious pain in the butt.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Hah. I assumed it was so restrictive due to the state’s Mormon background. I do not get why Pennsylvania is as crazy as it is.

        2. De (Germany)*

          Working in Bavaria (which I don’t – I am in North Germany) also often comes with beer at lunch, I hear.

    15. LBK*

      I’m curious about this – literally having “a drink” at lunch would probably leave me no more impaired than having a glass of water. Is the concern really about impairment, or is it some kind of Puritanical carry over of just being A Bad Thing You Do Not Do During Work?

      FWIW I’ve never worked anywhere where it was officially condoned/okayed, but I’ve certainly had a couple beers while out at lunch with coworkers before and nothing ill came of it. Then there were the guys that would slam shots during lunch and come back clearly intoxicated…but that was sales and a whole other world as far as I can tell.

      1. Jodi*


        Having one beer at lunch with my sandwich would give me less of a buzz than a large cup of coffee in the morning!

        Also, if we ever order drinks at lunch, we don’t walk back into the office proclaiming “Guess what we did! We’re so rebellious!” As long as we handle ourselves and our responsibilities, others in the office are none the wiser to the 12-16 ounces of beer we had at lunch.

      2. OriginalYup*

        I think different people see it through different lenses — perceptions about professionalism, safety or liability, etc.

        At the zero-tolerance place where I worked, it was about a required bright line between work versus personal life. Drinking alcohol was seen as a social/home/personal time activity, so having a drink at lunch would be akin to showing up at the office wearing your pajamas or interrupting a meeting to call your bookie. The underlying attitude — which affected lots of things beyond alcohol, like using facebook or having flex time — was “grown ups do that on their own time” and anything else was sloppy, immature, or… I don’t know, soft? (Not saying this is how I feel about it, just describing their rationale in answer to your question about why the concern.)

        1. LBK*

          How far does your lunch break extend into your personal world, though? I certainly feel free to use that time to read a book, make some phone calls, play a game on my phone or otherwise do “personal life” things.

          (And I understand that your office sounds particularly Draconian in that regard, I’m just asking generally since this has been on my mind recently – I bring in my 3DS sometimes to play video games on my lunch but I’ve been wondering if I should nix it since it’s too far into unprofessional/childish territory.)

          1. OriginalYup*

            At the Draconian job, you were on the clock practically every waking hour. They were all about “you represent our brand at all times” so they were very into conformity, uniformity, and control.

            Me personally? I doubt I would personally even notice a coworker was playing video games on their lunch break unless they were wearing a cosplay outfit or something.

      3. TheLazyB*

        A) I am a lightweight and would be unable to work after Just One a Drink.
        B) my most recent job was probation (although I was admin). It’s just not a good idea. Can you imagine if a client came in and smelled alcohol on you?! Especially as many have alcohol issues.

      4. Jen RO*

        It would not be a major issue in my company if I had a drink at lunch, but I would definitely be tipsy and/or sleepy after a beer! I’m a lightweight, so I don’t even try to drink anything during work.

      5. INTP*

        I think it’s a liability issue in the US. I don’t know the details of how it puts the company at risk, but I’m pretty sure it’s a bureaucratic thing. My boss at my old job who told us it was against policy to drink at all at lunch would get in a car after two beers, so she clearly didn’t think it caused excessive impairment.

        But then, other placed I’ve worked wouldn’t allow us to return to work if we drank at a work event, but never said anything specifically about drinking at lunch on our own time and dollar and away from company property. So I imagine there are varying levels of liability and it gets complicated.

        I could also see how instituting a universal policy against drinking at lunch (or within 3 hours before working, or whatever) would be easier than policing the individuals who don’t stop before they’re impaired. (Obviously in any case you could fire someone for coming in drunk, but the grey area where someone is just louder and chattier than usual and you can tell they are affected but they claim they are not is harder.)

    16. Colette*

      I’ve always worked in companies where it’s fine. To be clear, I’m talking about a drink with lunch, not drinking to get drunk.

    17. Gwen*

      Drinking on the clock still seems to be pretty common at advertising/design agencies from my experience…I’m in-house marketing at a nonprofit, and word on the street is that Friday beers used to be pretty acceptable under the previous CEO. Now there’s a no-drinking policy, except for special events.

      1. K.*

        Yep. I worked for a mid-sized PR firm and there was happy hour every Friday afternoon. Beer, wine, appetizers. You could go or not, drink or not, but alcohol was always there. In media, a drink at a working lunch was common too, although that wasn’t an every day/week thing – those were usually celebratory.

    18. The IT Manager*

      I think that a mid-day drink with lunch would be allowed at most offices – places that treat employees like adults and don’t monitor their food and drink intake. A drink is “a drink,” and not drinking to point of any sign of inebriation or impairment.

      Place like retail, factories or that deal in public safety very likely have a no alcohol rule (at lunch and a certain amount of times before going on duty) in order to have a clear line so that the bosses do not need to guess about how drunk someone is or their level of impairment.

    19. SanguineAspect*

      I think every job I’ve had since college would have been a drink-at-lunch-is-fine sort of place. These were also ALL places that had either Thursday or Friday afternoon company-sponsored happy hours, where beer and wine was provided to employees for free. I’ve worked in tech-centric companies, where I think this thing is a little more common than say, a Fortune 500 or a law firm.

    20. SnowWhite*

      When reviewing our workplace policies the other day, ours threatens to call the police if an employee is intoxicated at work… hopefully nobody has ever tried to enforce this practice.

      It depends on the culture, our organisation is deadline driven and is very work hard play hard. That being said if the ability to do your job is impaired when you return from lunch – it is not tolerated.

      We hope our employees engage brains and exercise common sense if they do feel the need to have an alcoholic beverage at lunchtimes, but again our structure allows for this. I doubt we would have no issues if we had on average a younger demographic…

    21. INTP*

      If you aren’t impaired, how would they know in the first place to have an issue with it? I get workplaces where it’s important to not impair your reaction time by a nanosecond, but considering a glass of wine impairs me less than Zyrtec or Sudafed, I don’t see how it’s my boss’ business when I’m off site and off the clock or how she would know if I didn’t run around talking about it.

      1. fposte*

        I was trying to figure out if my university would consider me on their time at lunch–I’m exempt, so it’s not like I clock out. They’re very clear about alcohol on their premises being only allowable at official/appropriate functions, but on their time is less clear.

    22. Jeanne*

      My workplace made it clear that the limit was 0. No drinks at lunch. It never bothered me. It’s not unreasonable to ask your employees not to drink at lunch.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I agree. A ‘no drinking” policy is fine, but it needs to be clear. If you are going to punish/fire someone who was spotted having a drink at lunch, it’s reasonable/fair only if the employee knew that that policy was in effect. An unwritten rule in this case is bad because it’s not unreasonable for an employee to assume that she can have a drink a lunch as long as it doesn’t impact her work. (As this discussion proves work place norms vary.)

        On the other hand, I have no issues with a clear workplace policy of no alcohol at lunch. It should not be a hardship for employees. If someone cannot handle not being allowed to drink at lunch then there’s a larger problem.

        1. land of oaks*

          I agree. If you want to have a no drinking policy, just have it written in the employee handbook. There’s no reason to have it be unwritten, and it is a perfectly reasonable policy to have.

    23. Green*

      It’s OK at the majority of law firms. (To have one, max two. You can have way more at many firms, but that should be a “cut out early” type of thing and ethically shouldn’t go back to work.)

    24. JC*

      This is definitely a “depends” thing. Where I work now, sometimes there will be lunch events at restaurants where the president will order wine (e.g., at a retirement luncheon, celebration of a successful board meeting), and it is okay to drink even though we’re going back to work afterwards. But it would not be okay to drink in the office and would be questionable to have a drink at a casual lunch with non-boss coworkers. I could easily see myself being in the OP’s situation, where I felt okay having one margarita at a Friday lunch one time, but not okay with repeating it.

      My former job was at a federal government agency, where drinking at all was definitely Not Okay.

    25. Malissa*

      My current job nobody bats an eye if you order 1-2 drinks at lunch. The previous government job it was a huge no-no.
      At a big-box retail job in my pre-college days, I saw three people get fired for drinking on the clock. It was the three front-end supervisors that were having an off-site management meeting. They came to the store clocked in and proceeded to go to a restaurant in the parking lot for their meeting. While having this meeting and some food they ordered a pitcher of beer. They were a little bit tipsy when they came back to clock out. Tipsy enough they answered truthfully when the store VP asked them if they’d been drinking.

    26. Tinker*

      I’ve gotten to the point of being bored with the company beer fridge. #startupworldproblems

      But that’s an unusual though certainly not impossible to encounter business culture.

    27. Jackie*

      At my old job, it was kind of shockingly accepted… My boss would take us out for lunch every month or two and we would all have a beer/wine/single drink. The first lunch I went to he actually just ordered me a drink (we’d been talking about favorite beers the day before). He would also make rum and cokes occasionally on Friday afternoons and just drop them off at our desks. (I will admit that many of those were poured down the sink because I have a VERY low tolerance for drinking and driving and I started work often 2 hours earlier than my coworkers and thus left 2 hours earlier.)

    28. jhhj*

      A lot of my jobs actually had alcohol on site — one place had a wine guy, so once a month he brought in wine (1 bottle per person) and we ordered lunch, one other place the CFO would make mixed drinks most Friday afternoons (against a lot of vendor agreements, but people on the floor didn’t drink) — and others didn’t really care if you drank at lunch.

    29. Mme Pomme-p-door*

      At my office (finance), it would get you fired.
      Polling my close friends, they all could have an alcoholic beverage at lunch without an issue (as long as they don’t overdo it). Some are in advertising, another few at software companies, and one is a retail trainer.

    30. MaryMary*

      My current office is big on “building relationships” with clients, and there are several VPs who routinely have wine or beer (and more than one) at a business lunch and encourage clients and coworkers to do the same. In fact, some are pretty insistent and I’ve had a glass of wine magically appear in front of me more than once. Magically appearing wine sounds like a dream come true, but I really can’t have more than half a glass and expect to do anything complicated in the afternoon.

    31. Ambee*

      We go out for lunch on Fridays at my office and some people choose to have a beer or glass of wine. Some don’t. I work at a small, laid-back video game developer.

      At my last job I worked for a multinational paint store and we were forbidden to drink while on shift no matter what, although our yearly holiday party was at a restaurant where we could have alcohol if we liked.

    32. MaryMary*

      Oh! And my mother used to teach at a very posh private school. During faculty meetings, the teachers wer allowed/encourgaed to have a glass of sherry. Drinking while responsible for children, of course, was strictly prohibited.

    33. land of oaks*

      In all office-based nonprofits I’ve worked in, it would be acceptable to have one drink/glass of wine, etc at lunch and come back to work on occasion. Not every week necessarily, but not only for special occasions either. There’s nothing dangerous we are doing at the office, and if you are not obviously impaired, no one would think twice about it.

      In more politically-oriented nonprofits, there’s much more of a drinking culture, including sometimes alcohol at the office for celebrations, and frequent going out and drinking activities, with higher-ups drinking A Lot.

    34. Rebecca*

      I have never worked somewhere where this was common(and probably wouldn’t imbibe even if it was, I have a pretty low tolerance and would be terrified of getting in trouble just in case it’s verboten somewhere in the employee handbook). But my husband and his coworkers (including his boss) have a usual Friday lunch spot and they always order beer there (it’s a restaurant with an on-site brewery). It’s a small company, he’s an engineer. From what he’s told me nobody orders more than one beer. I have a friend who works in PR and she said at her current company it’s pretty common to have a cocktail with lunch.

    35. beachlover*

      my first job was in retail, and we often went to the pizza place across the street (this was late 70’s) and we might split a pitcher of beer between 6 of us. But the service guys from the Cadillac dealership nearby, would come in and get blitzed at lunch. I always said, I would never take my car to them for service, unless I could get a Morning appt!

      My current job sells a product that is often mixed with Alcohol, and we would do tastes test (very small samples) using vodka. They don’t frown on having one drink at lunch, but getting tipsy is a no no.

    36. JC*

      In the meetings and events world it’s very common, as it is at startups/many tech environments. I used to work at one of those keg taps at the office startups and am now at an event tech company where we do drinks with lunch for co-worker’s birthdays or if clients are in and we try to do an office happy hour (aka having a few beers or some wine in the office and venting a bit) starting around 4pm on Fridays. The long hours and insane client demands in both these industries lend themselves to the “pat yourself on the back” via a drink or two culture, I think.

    37. Melly*

      Beer on tap served at my workplace every friday at 5pm. I don’t drink so it’s not a thing I care about. I mostly ignore it

    38. bad at online naming*

      ExJob had a no-alcohol-on-work-premises policy, but people would not only drink like fish when offsite, various leadership would even insult the strength/type of your genitals if you wanted to stop after 4. (Ah, so many things wrong with that workplace!)

      Current job is nowhere near those extremes – there’s beer & cider freely available and more types of drinks for special occasions, but it’s generally accepted that people will behave appropriately, and anyone clearly inebriated when they shouldn’t be gets corrected by peers or managers.

    39. LiveAndLetDie*

      There’s no official rule but office culture at my workplace is pretty clear that if you’re out to lunch and you have an occasional beer with your meal it’s not an issue. The only thing that would make it an issue is if a) you make a giant deal about it (which is more of a ‘grow up and be professional’ issue than a ‘omg you had a beer’ issue) or b) if you drink so much that it clearly affects your work the rest of the day. For most people one drink isn’t going to do that.

  2. 42*

    I’d want to hear about what feels “peer-pressure-y”.

    Is the one coworker the only one who presses it? Have other coworkers continued to go out every Friday (ie, are you the only one who passes on the invitation)?

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I’m curious too.

      Is it an offer, then maybe one gentle pushback on the no, like, “We’re getting margaritas, do you want one? You sure? OK then”, or is it more like “What do you MEAN you don’t want a(nother) margarita? Do you HATE FUN??!?! The rest of us are all getting one, you need to get one too. ONE OF US ONE OF US”?

      There’s a difference. The first one is annoying but not especially peer-pressure-y, but the second one is obnoxious as hell, especially if everyone involved is over the age of 12.

  3. Bend & Snap*

    This wouldn’t fly in my current office. Drinks with the whole team organized by the leader–sure, we recently did this at a morning meeting (champagne). Drinking in the middle of a regular workday? Noooope.

    1. Laurel Gray*


      Drinks in the middle of the work day are an absolute no in my company. I could make a strong argument for why I would be a better Laurel Gray if I could have a margarita or sangria at lunch on occasion.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I report to a director who “leads” absolutely excruciating staff meetings 1-2x a month. Those would definitely be improved by alcohol, but I have a low tolerance and can’t imagine being much use after a big lunch with a drink. (I’m barely any use after a big lunch and no alcohol, I’m more of a graze-all-day then eat a big dinner type.)

  4. Kristin*

    A group of us at my workplace actually do something similar, as in, we all go out every Friday for lunch (most other days we eat at our desks) and sometimes we will get a drink, but it varies. (1 woman gets one every time, one never does while the rest of us do depending on schedule/mood etc). Depending on your industry, you should have a sense if something similar would be OK.

    For me the bigger issue is the peer pressure, really. That is not OK no matter what the scenario!

  5. Dasha*

    Hm, I’m interested to read the comments now. I’ve never worked any where that allowed drinking for lunch. The one kind of exception was one company I worked for did a huge customer appreciation event once a year and it was during the middle of the week, middle of the day with beer, wine, and margarita machines. We were allowed to have one drink during the day and as many as we wanted after 3 or 4 PM (they even got people hotel rooms nearby, on the company’s dime, if they so desired). It was a pretty crazy thing and honestly, I hate things like this in general. I think I had one margarita and left as early as I could without looking like “not a team player.”

    1. Cheesecake*

      I agree with AAM – know your office or your employment contract/employee handbook. Sometimes anything with alcohol in during work lunch is forbidden and one beer can get you fired. Sometimes it is not said explicitly, but if in doubt – do not drink. I agree with Laurel Grey bellow – drinking is so overrated anyway

  6. Laurel Gray*

    OP’s coworker reminds me of people who can be obnoxious because they are very uncomfortable and self conscious if they are the only ones drinking. I know a few people like this. If you aren’t drinking for whatever reason – dieting, on meds, privately tackling a consumption issue – they will go on and on and on all night about how no one else has ordered a drink until finally someone orders one. One person in particular admit that they feel like the “boozer” if they order a cocktail and everyone is okay with water or soda (and in some settings beer). Again, it’s obnoxious and I would go with Alison’s advice and be direct with a no and focus on the food.

    1. Allison*

      I totally get feeling weird if I’m the only one drinking. Heck, sometimes I feel weird if I order a cocktail and everyone else has a glass of beer or whisky. But here’s the thing, if I’m gonna feel weird doing something by myself, I have two options: do the thing anyway and try to just own it, or don’t do the thing.

      Unless OP has a problem with coworkers drinking during the day, maybe next time they go for lunch on Friday she should say “I’m not drinking this time, but if you really want one, just go for it. I won’t judge.” If OP’s coworker feels more comfortable being the only one drinking, she may stop pestering others to do it.

      1. INTP*

        Completely agree. I don’t want to be the only person drinking at a coworker lunch but I handle that by just not drinking if others aren’t.

        1. INTP*

          Also, I find it works well to blame my not drinking on a personal issue. “I’m so tired today, I don’t think I could focus if I had one” or “my tolerance is so crappy I don’t feel comfortable with even one” or ” I had to take a Benadryl last night and I’m still a little groggy.” It seems to create less defensiveness than a straight “no” or “I don’t feel comfortable with drinking during X circumstance.” I used to say “no thanks, I’m driving home” at work happy hours but some people reacted weirdly because I guess they thought I was judging them for drinking and driving (which I often am, but it doesn’t benefit me for them to know that!).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I say it anyway. I say it because not drinking if you’re going to drive is a legitimate excuse. If they think I’m judging them, too bad; I’m not responsible for their personal feelings about their own behavior.

            1. INTP*

              I don’t consider myself or others responsible for anyone’s feelings about their own alcohol consumption, especially about drunk driving. I just find that a well-received excuse goes a long way towards preventing any damage to your work image caused by not matching the drinking behaviors of your coworkers. In other words, it’s for my benefit, not theirs. Some people might be in work cultures where you’re seen as a snob or puritan or boring if you don’t drink. My workplace is accepting but I’m already there drinking ice water, declining the bar food, and struggling to contribute to the most common topics of small talk (I know nothing about local sports or restaurants/bars and I don’t have kids) and I already come across as aloof and uptight just by my personality, so it can’t hurt to try to avoid coming off as judgy in that small way.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think saying “I won’t judge” clearly implies that you are judging. Because why else mention it?

        Many, many instance of saying “I don’t mean this” or “I don’t think that” really carry a strong subtext of actually meaning or thinking it.

        Just stick to what you want: “I don’t really want a margarita, but you should do what -you- want.”

        1. Allison*

          Not necessarily, I think it’s all in *how* you say it. You can say it in a totally casual, genuine way that sounds believable and reassuring, or you can say it in a strange, almost sing-song way that does sound judgmental.

        2. Kate M*

          See I think saying “I don’t really want a margarita, but you should do what -you- want” sounds wayyyy more judgy than saying “I’m good but you go for it, I won’t judge!”. Because a lot of times there’s already implied judging, which is why you mention it. Your line, though, seems to me to be implying “well I’m going to be good, but -you- on the other hand…well…do what you want.” I mean it’s all in inflection, and people can take either line to be be judgy or not, but just because you don’t mention the word “judgment” doesn’t mean it’s not implied.

          1. Allison*

            Exactly, OP’s decision to not get a drink may imply judgment, so assuring her coworker that’s not the case is probably fine, as long as OP is genuinely not judging.

          2. LBK*

            Yeah, I always hear “I’m not drinking but you go ahead if you want to” as “I would prefer if you didn’t drink.”

            1. TootsNYC*

              I’d only bring it up in response to a comment, or even pressure, from the margarita drinker, and that pressure would imply that they didn’t want to be the only one drinking. So I’d be saying, “not me, but don’t let that influence you, since you’re implied that you care.”

              In my world, it’s not polite to comment on what someone else is or isn’t eating or drinking.

          3. Ellie H.*

            Agreed, saying “I won’t judge!” is lighthearted and friendly, assuming you say it in the appropriate tone of voice.

        3. Alter_ego*

          I have to say that all the time because I don’t drink at all, and when I’m on first dates and stuff like that, people do tend to assume that I’m judging them, despite a complete lack of evidence, do to the fact that I’m really not judging them at all. So I encourage the other person to drink if they normally would, and ignore my glass of water.

    2. Helka*

      Yeah, I’ve run into those too — and the people who get incredibly defensive about their drinking when they find out that I don’t because my religion strongly discourages it. If it comes up, I make an effort to be pretty blasé about it — it’s not like I’m going to be seeing them at the next service, after all! It can be hard to tell someone you’re not judging them without sounding like deep down, secretly, you really are. (Me, I’m not judging them for drinking, but the more defensive they get, the more I start to wonder…)

  7. MicheleNYC*

    We had mimosa Fridays at one of my old companies. I work in fashion so it is not uncommon to have a little bubbly during the day, it is definitely not just a lunch thing!

  8. Seal*

    At my first full-time job fresh out of college, a similar-aged colleague and I had a couple of beers at lunch after learning a long-anticipated project had been taken away from us at the last minute with no explanation. Aside from being upset about the project, as I recall we felt particularly grown-up and decadent to be drinking in the middle of the day – we showed them! Of course, after coming back to the office a bit groggy and not feeling any better about the situation we decided that drinking your lunch away was vastly overrated.

    1. steve g*

      +1 – it is overrated. +i recall reading that alcohol metabolism peaks at 8pm. I personally do feel better drinking later in the day than during it

      1. Joline*

        Yeah. I choose my day drinking accordingly. It’s why something like a mimosa works well pre-lunch. Or beer mixed with sprite.

  9. Sandy*

    Bailey’s and coffee with the morning meeting (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, whenever) is a regular thing in my office… Instituted by the boss, alcohol supplied by the boss.

    In that case, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that no one would bat an eye at wine with lunch. Except maybe the local religious police.

    1. LBK*

      I’ve heard of plenty of places that have a beer cart or fridge that’s fair game around 4PM every day, but never one that starts off with booze! Man, my morning reports would probably be so much less frustrating…

    2. AnonymousaurusRex*

      I used to do this for my morning French class in college! It always helped me to feel just a bit more relaxed about speaking a different language.

    1. Zillah*

      Are these comments ever necessary? To me, they inevitably come off as being simultaneously condescending and ridiculous.

      1. LBK*

        Yes, I often wonder where the line is. If we’re doing the “big picture, this is petty” thing probably 95% of AAM letters would be rejected. For most intents and purposes this is a #firstworldproblems blog.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Very much so. This stuff is still interesting and worth talking about. (Frankly, sometimes the smaller the problem, the more fascinating I can find breaking it down. I actually think that’s what lots of you like about this site too. So much of what we talk about here is stuff that no one bothers to talk about in detail, and it’s interesting!)

          (That said, I’d think the question of whether it’s okay to drink at lunch falls far outside esotericism.)

          1. LBK*

            I think minutiae is inherently more prone to discussion and dissection. The more severe something is, the less interesting the answers to it are because they’re so clear cut. You’re not going to have much objection over whether a manager hitting an employee is wrong or something of that ilk.

            1. Steve G*

              Tiz true. And there are certainly topics here that I ignore as a frequent reader because I don’t have anything to say on them, but alcohol is definitely a worthwhile issue to discuss. Especially if you’ve ever had a drinking problem, having someone at work of all places (even innocently) asking if you want a drink or two is a big deal and can send you down a rabbit hole. You may have two drinks at lunch, and then it sets in the cravings and you get a bottle of wine at night, and its downhill from there………..

              I feel bad for “making” a past coworker drink once only to find them guzzling 5 drinks in less than an hour, with no food (and they were a small person).

              Also, the comments section make you think “oh this happens to other people too?” again and again

        2. Joey*

          i hope that’s not what this site is turning into. I don’t mind the occassional conversation about firstworldproblems, but what’s kept me craving to return to this site is discussing the more substantive stuff.

          1. LBK*

            Is this letter really any more or less minor than any of the others from today? I don’t think questioning whether you should send a note via email or LinkedIn or if FYI is rude exactly rises to moral dilemma levels either.

          2. A Definite Beta Guy*

            Non first world problems?
            Today, I sent a follow-up email to another department, asking for an update. They sent us a client list, but the client list was obviously wrong. “Oh yeah, Sears is totally owned by Kim Jong Il and the Illuminati” level wrong. I requested a new list.
            That was 3 months ago. Still no response.
            So naturally, in my follow-up email, I mentioned that we have not received an updated client list.

            My Account Manager, who is cc’d in all this, pulled out their original, incorrect client list, in the same email chain, and said we had already received the client list.

            This is just a new level of stupid.

          3. Sarah Nicole*

            But something that has substance to another person may not have substance to you, and vice versa. Yeah, I’ve seen some questions on here that I sort of found boring or just not super interesting to me, and I either skim them for any new info or I just skip them. In a blog like this, not every post will appeal to every person all the time, and that’s okay.

        1. Ellie H.*

          Yes, the question was more or less “is this a big deal, should I worry about it” so offering one’s opinion on that question seems pretty appropriate to me!

  10. Jubilance*

    I’ve only worked for large companies, and each one had a very strict policy of not allowing you to return to work if you had a drink at lunch. My current company won’t even allow you to come back to the office to pick up your things! Very interesting to hear about a workplace that allows a drink over lunch.

    1. Stephanie*

      Whoa! That’s strict! Do you work at or deal with an industrial facility where limbs could disappear if one is too impaired?

  11. Kat*

    Our policy is strictly non-alcohol – mainly because of the legal repercussions of driving while impaired while on the job.

  12. Mike C.*

    Your co-worker needs to understand that you don’t pressure people to start drinking, you pressure them to drink more once they’ve already started.

    /Last time they allowed drinking during work was when I was enrolled at the elementary school down the street.

  13. kozinskey*

    I’m surprised by how many people work in offices where it’s acceptable. Where I work, drinking during work hours is expressly forbidden by the handbook and I’d imagine it’s a fireable offense.

  14. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    It is worth checking your policies about this. There are jobs where, regardless of seniority, drinking and then coming back to work is a HUGE deal. For example, we work with vulnerable kids and have state funding. It would be a major, major issue for someone to have a drink in the middle of the day – it would violate specific state regulations and, best case, would trigger a state-level investigation if it came to light. In this case, that is how it should be. You should not have someone who has been drinking – even with the tiniest buzz – in charge of vulnerable and traumatized children. On the other hand, it is totally fine to go to a late-in-the-day event (one involving fellow professionals or donors) where alcohol is served. Even if it starts at 3pm, it’s okay as long as there is no client contact after that event.

  15. Alston*

    So I work in a building with a bunch of tiny start UPS. There are actually 2 kegs of beer on tap, on each floor all the time. It’s actually one of the main selling points they push when showing the place to prospective tenants. There are also 2-3 happy hour things a week put on by outside groups with actual mixed drinks (which honestly blows, I am so tired of being constantly pitched at in this building). Start up culture drinking at work is actually really common. Same with academic science labs– used to work at MIT, it was really common to go out, grab a beer or two, and head back to lab.

    1. Joey*

      All those perks sound cool until you realize most of them are designed to keep you in the office and with co workers longer.

    2. Calacademic*

      I concur about academic science. The graduate students in my department here put on a 5pm Beer Social every Friday and I’m pretty sure some of the students go back to the lab after that. But things can vary even within that; no one in this particular lab would drink at lunch and then go back to work.

      1. Zillah*

        In undergrad, I had a good friend who always seemed to get in the mood to do his labs on weekend nights when we’d been out drinking. No idea how it turned out for him but another friend and I tended to hang out in the lab while he worked giggling and laying down on tables.

        Good times.

          1. Alston*

            Yeah, I’m in a computer based bio lab, so not much bad can happen explosion wise. We were also the sort of lab that did Absynthe shots at someone’s going away party.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wrote a weekly column for my college paper and one week came home from a night of drinking and realized my deadline had been that night. I wrote the column fully drunk, sent it in, and totally forgot about it. When it was printed a few days later, it was by far my most popular column — strangers were coming up to me on campus and telling me how much they liked it. I had to get a copy of the paper to see what I’d written.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I drank way too much the time I did Nanowrimo and in my fanfic days. My liquid muse! When I looked it over the day after, without fail, the actual writing was fine but my typing was horrible. I’d always have all these typos to fix.

          1. Alston*

            In undergrad I had a screenwriting class–professor said she couldn’t instruct us to drink and write–as a number of us were undersage–but did stress that some of the best creative work she’d had in the class came from a buzz.

            1. catsAreCool*

              Some of my most creative (and odd) ideas came to me when I hadn’t had enough sleep.

          2. MaryMary*

            I’m impressed you could type! I was in college in the early days of AIM, ICQ, and other messaging systems, and discovered a steep drop off in my ability to type after 3-4 drinks.

          3. OfficePrincess*

            Ha yes. Realizing on Thursday night that a bunch of response papers were due on Friday always left me with the choice to either write tipsy or get up early and write slightly hungover. The tipsy papers got As, but the early morning groggy papers were hit or miss.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          I did some drunk science once. A friend and I had been out at lunchtime watching an England rugby game in the pub, and had plans to hang out later that evening. She announced that she had to go to the lab for an hour to tend to a long-term experiment, and I decided it was a good opportunity to start some overnight cultures of my own so I’d be ready to start processing them on Monday morning instead of Tuesday. Well, I labeled the lids of my tubes, rather than the tubes themselves, and realised about an hour in on the Monday that they’d got mixed up and I had no idea which one was which. I had to throw the whole thing out, which luckily only cost me a day. Never again, even though it was kinda fun being tipsy and giggly in the lab together!

        3. Ellie H.*

          I get so anxious about my schoolwork that sometimes having a glass of something helps me calm down enough to actually work. I wish I could do that now but it’s 2 in the afternoon :/

          1. catsAreCool*

            Sometimes when I feel anxious, I turn on some music or maybe the TV (preferably something that isn’t too interesting :) ) to distract myself a little. It can help.

  16. illini02*

    I agree that it depends on what the actual peer pressure is. If its a good natured “come on, wouldn’t it be great”, thats fine. If they are really going all in, that could be annoying. But then I don’t see why you just don’t go to lunch with this person on Fridays if you know this will happen. Trust me, I have co-workers who I don’t like. If they are going with my normal lunch group, I can find a way to politely decline.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I actually think that a good natured “come on, wouldn’t it be great”, is not fine.

      I think it’s rude beyond words to comment on what someone else is eating or drinking. And to try to influence their choice–when they haven’t indicated any interest in your opinion–is also rude.

  17. Technical Editor*

    We have sanctioned drinking at my work. Every Friday afternoon “beer:30” and having a beer or a glass of wine at work wouldn’t cross any lines. We have a keg that is always tapped next to the game room (with billiards and ping pong). Friday afternoons are like going to a bar without having to drive anywhere.

    Of course, driving home impaired is A Huge Issue and everyone acts like adults so as to keep our Friday fun.

  18. EmilyG*

    I think this person wants to have a drink and feels it’s unacceptable to do it alone. You’re under no obligation to help them. It might help to say “I don’t want to today, but you go on ahead.” Then you’re giving them “permission” in a way other than joining in.

  19. Meg Murry*

    I’ve always worked in manufacturing or a lab, so drinks at lunch are pretty much an absolute no, even weak ones. Being seen having a drink at lunch and then coming back to work would probably be an immediate write-up, weak drinks or no. Maybe the C-suite and upper level sales or accountants could get away with it, but no one else.

    The exceptions to this is that occasionally there will be a lunch meeting at a restaurant (often a bar/restaurant) to go over things like the quarterly results, and after the official meeting is over we are allowed to stay at the bar and drink and socialize, or go back to work. Never alcohol on the premises or anyone returning to any kind of work (even desk work) after drinks. After work happy hours are also common, as are drinks receptions in the late afternoon/evenings at conferences.

    My concern for the OP and her co-worker is that it looks bad for the company if it became “here comes the women from XYZ corp for their Friday lunch margaritas” – it just isn’t a good impression to make on the community, IMO, and no one besides their waiter will know they are drinking weak margaritas and not regular or extra strong ones.

    Besides – I’m a lightweight now. Even a “relatively weak” margarita is going to result in me being not at my best for the rest of the afternoon. My test would be – how would OP feel if her boss walked in to the restaurant when they were having margaritas at lunch? Or the bigger bosses? If it would just be a no big deal situation, then carry on. But if you would have to try to hide it from the bosses, or get the side eye – probably not a good idea.

    1. the_scientist*

      Ha, at one lab I worked at the director had a fancy catered holiday party that included a bar. I’m pretty sure some people went back to work after? I can’t remember now; though I know I didn’t drink. That lab group was really interesting- people from all over the world, and my PI was from Northern Ireland. I’m just now recalling him pounding at least three Guinesses at a work lunch like NBD and then heading back to his office (not, granted, into the lab)!

      Now I work in chronic disease prevention and since alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cancer, I would go with a hard no for drinking at lunch in my current job. I don’t believe it’s officially spelled out in company policy, but I certainly wouldn’t do it.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Heh, I know tons of cancer researchers who drink a lot. People will publicly mock you if you work in this field and you smoke, but alcohol always seems to get a pass.

  20. Stranger than fiction*

    Yes the Op should check the policies. If it’s forbidden it’s usually for a good reason like the company would be liable if anything were to happen

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Oops forgot to add I knew of some former coworkers at a former job that were let go due to this policy (and that they were dumb enough to come back half hour late)

  21. TheLazyB*

    I am in the UK. It was ok in my first job in the late 90s. I think my second job 1999-2002 it would have been ok, but I never saw anyone. Since then – absolutely no drinking at lunch.

  22. Stranger than fiction*

    I really think it’s due to newer laws on liability these days, in the US at least. Anyone know more about that?

  23. Miss Erin*

    “My budget doesn’t allow me to indulge in drinks at lunch every single week, I’m worried that might add up over time. I’m happy to do lunch and skip the drink, or just do drinks once in a blue moon.”

    As for the drinking during work hours thing – I do absolutely agree it depends on the specific culture of your work atmosphere and what you’ve seen happen in the past.

    But as a general rule of thumb, I’d say no more than one drink at lunch. If it goes to two that’s too much. For later in the day/happy hours, two drinks should be okay. Again, this is a general guideline as everyone has different tolerance levels. Just use common sense and good judgment.

    Also! I read somewhere (can’t remember where or I’d cite it) that people are more likely to feel intoxicated when drinking in situations you normally wouldn’t, with people you normally wouldn’t, where you’re out of your comfort zone. I believe the article was specifically talking about the potential dangers of drinking at holiday office parties.

    In other words, you’re more likely to feel just one two drinks drinking with coworkers at work, than you are three or four drinks sitting on your couch at home or at a bar with friends.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      “Also! I read somewhere (can’t remember where or I’d cite it) that people are more likely to feel intoxicated when drinking in situations you normally wouldn’t, with people you normally wouldn’t, where you’re out of your comfort zone. I believe the article was specifically talking about the potential dangers of drinking at holiday office parties.”

      That’s so interesting, and makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t feel drunk after one beer with dinner with friends but I bet I would feel conspicuously giggly if I had one before a meeting.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I’ve never heard this before but I believe it! I also think I feel more “full” much more quickly when I eat out than when I eat alone at home.

    2. Zillah*

      I’ve heard that, too! I’ve also heard that people have overdosed on amounts they normally wouldn’t because they’re in an unfamiliar setting.

    3. oranges & lemons*

      I’ve read a study about how binge drinking is more common in unfamiliar locations and situations–I think the examples they gave were travelling and starting college/university. I’m having trouble finding it now, though. I don’t think it mentioned that people feel more drunk than usual in these situations, just that they’re more likely to drink to excess, but I could be misremembering.

  24. NJ Anon*

    It definitely depends on the industry. I’ve worked for brokerage firms where it was totally acceptable and social services where it was taboo.

    1. A Definite Beta Guy*

      My friend works in architecture and they have drinking competitions Friday afternoon. By “they,” I mean every single one of the four firms he’s worked at in the last 3 years.
      Very odd industry.
      They adopted fake accents and then did the Red Bull flying challenge thing or whatever, too. Very odd.

  25. Gandalf the Nude*

    This has opened my eyes to a new perk of being a lightweight: it’s a really easy out in this situation.

    1. fposte*

      Ditto. If I had a drink at lunch my afternoon work would be interesting. More creative, perhaps, but interesting.

        1. LBK*

          It’s amazing how much more I connected to The Sun Also Rises while reading it Hemingway-level drunk.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I can’t day-drink without wanting to take a nap. I’d just tell them I didn’t want to faceplant in my desk at 2pm.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s always my excuse now! (And it’s true.)

      I think I’ve written here before about how I wish I were a bigger drinker. It sounds awesome — being able to hit up 7-Eleven, get your wine coolers or whatever, and spend the evening legally changing your consciousness.

          1. LBK*

            Ha! Well I enjoyed reading it, it sounded like a teenager trying to be cool by repeating something they heard on Party of Five :)

        1. Nina*

          I used to. I thought WCs would be a good “beginner” drink, but they put me to sleep every time.

    4. Xay*

      My current employer loves having pre-meeting/post-meeting/celebratory/networking/whatever reason happy hours. Being a lightweight is a blessing.

  26. Allison*

    My two cents on drinking at work lunches (or any lunch during the workday):

    – it’s generally frowned upon in most industries, so when in doubt, order something non-alcoholic and save the drinking for after work.

    – take cues from others: if other people drink, feel free to join in, but your drinking behavior should closely match theirs. If everyone orders one beer, then you order one beer or hard cider, maybe a glass of wine, but stay away from the mixed drinks unless someone else orders one.

    – know your limits. the point is to relax, not get drunk or even tipsy, and it shouldn’t be obvious that you’ve been drinking when you go back to the office.

    – if you’re working from home, there’s probably some grey area since no one will see it; but again, make sure that it doesn’t impact your work quality, your productivity, or how you come across over the phone.

  27. INTP*

    I don’t think it’s a big deal as long as it isn’t against policy and you aren’t impaired (being loud, silly, or extra chatty count as impaired – any change in behavior). Like I said above, nondrowsy cold and allergy meds leave me more impaired and are more of an ethical issue for me, excluding liability concerns.

    That said, a handy excuse for dealing with people like this is to say “I’m so tired today, if I had one drink I honestly think I’d get too sleepy to work.” It gives a solid reason for declining without anything that will make you look like a hypocrite when you do imbibe.

  28. qtipqueen*

    I work at a software company with a strict no drinking policy because the owners do not drink. This kind of stinks as this field is usually ok with it, but not here!! Not even at the Christmas party. Totally dry!

    They are so against drinking a client once purchased an expensive bottle of wine at a buisness dinner, and they refused to even have a glass. Client was not happy.

    1. JoJo*

      Some of us hate the taste of alcohol, no matter how expensive it is, others are recovering alcoholics. The Client should lighten up and not get offended because people don’t want to drink alcohol.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Exactly. Some may have struggled with alcoholism, not drink for religious reasons or may have health and medication issues that you cannot have alcohol.

        1. JoJo*

          Or just hate the taste. I think it tastes like poison. It’s about as appetizing as drinking drano to me.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I hate the taste of alcohol, too. When I was in college, and a bunch of us went to a bar and shared a pitcher, I might manage to drink half a beer in an evening, trying not to make a face at the taste. Now I just have water or a soda.

  29. hayling*

    I work for a pretty laid-back company. We have beer in the fridge, and it’s not uncommon for people to crack open beers around 4 on Friday.

    I have a couple coworkers who go often go out to lunch at a particular restaurant that’s known for it’s martinis. I was chatting with one woman after lunch one day and she mentioned they went there. I casually asked if she had a drink and she said yes. I gently told her that I already knew that because I know her well enough to recognize when she’s been drinking. She wasn’t wasted or anything, but her speech patterns and mannerisms change in a particularly telltale (and honestly, rather annoying) manner. She was embarrassed but thanked me for telling her.

    Moral of the story is…if you’re going to have a drink at lunch, make sure it’s not obvious when you return. Even if drinking isn’t frowned upon at your office, acting a bit drunk is going to reflect poorly on you.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It would be REALLY obvious if I did it, because when I’m even the teensiest bit buzzed, EVERYBODY knows about it. I can’t stop myself from saying, “I’m buzzed! I can’t feel my face!” LOL

      1. B5SnowDog*

        My “I’ve been drinking” tell is that I announce to one and all, “My brain is warm!”

  30. You Have Been Warned*

    I work for a large law firm. Before I go on our next business trip I’ll have to tell the partner I work for that I’m pregnant, because NOT drinking at working dinners (every night) would be so abnormal otherwise.

  31. Middle Name Jane*

    I’ve never worked at a place where it was okay to have drinks at lunch and return to work. The only exceptions is that I’ve worked places where a time or two we had happy hour at the end of the day or the holiday party where wine was served–and we were not returning to work after those occasions.

    I’ve never been out to lunch with a group of coworkers where anyone thought it was okay to order a drink.

  32. LBK*

    This topic reminds me of a story I read on Tumblr where a new employee was at a fancy business lunch with a bunch of C-levels and one of the execs ordered an Arnold Palmer. The new employee thought that was an alcoholic beverage so he ordered a whiskey, turning quite a few heads in the process.

    1. Rebecca*

      Haha, I thought of that, too! And I think of it whenever my husband gets an Arnold Palmer.

  33. Cath in Canada*

    This might be too off-topic (if so, I’ll re-post in tomorrow’s open thread), but what would you guys think about someone drinking non-alcoholic beer or wine in the office?

    This question came up as a hypothetical in a conversation with a pregnant colleague. She said that the only good thing about non-alcoholic beer is that you can drink it in situations where drinking real beer isn’t allowed, like on the public beaches in Vancouver. So I said she should start drinking it at her desk to see what happened. (She didn’t do it – she thought she’d get in trouble).

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Oh, wow, people actually do that?! That is definitely weird. For one thing the taste is terrible, at least for the few types I’ve tried (when offered sips by pregnant friends – I don’t spend my own money on that crap :) )

        1. Rock*

          Some are actually okay! My brother is an alcoholic and our family has had to adjust a bit. I’ll have to look up the brand I had that was dece

          1. afiendishthingy*

            My dad, for reasons I’m not clear on, usually keeps O’Douls in the house for times he wants a beer but… doesn’t to be sleepy or something? He calls it “placebo beer”.

    1. GeekChic*

      Not quite the same – but perhaps a close enough story:

      I drink craft root beers and I brought a four-pack of bottles into the office one day. I was drinking one at lunch at my desk and our risk management officer caught sight of it and came storming over. She:

      – drew herself up,
      – opened her mouth,
      – read the actual label (I could see her eyes going across it)
      – visibly deflated
      – walked off muttering “never mind”

      We all laughed. :D

      1. land of oaks*

        Ha!! I’ve sometimes brought a fancy Reed’s ginger ale back from lunch, also in a bottle that looks like a beer bottle. I got one double take once, but nothing that obvious.

        1. Saucy Minx*

          I returned from lunch one day w/ my bottle of Thomas Kemper ginger ale in hand. As I walked down the long corridor to get to my desk, I was in full view of the COO, who looked up, registered surprise, & said in tones of astonishment: “S. M. — are you drinking a beer?”

          “Ha-ha!” I chortled, “yes, I am drinking a beer, Todd!”

          As he continued to stare, I clarified for him that it was actually ginger ale. At least he had shown that he couldn’t believe his eyes, rather than that I made a believable boozy suspect.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          I’ve had a glass San Pellegrino bottle mistaken for a beer at work, but yeah, not so dramatically

    2. Us, Too*

      It’s perhaps worth noting that many “non-alcoholic” beers are actually just very low alcohol beers (0.5% or less). I doubt you’ll get much of a buzz off these, but they may actually be prohibited in places that prohibit ALL alcohol.

      1. fposte*

        I’ll bring in my vanilla extract–35% alcohol–then and mess with their heads.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          haha and do shots… intellectually I know that would be disgusting but it just sounds tasty

          1. FD*

            Ever tried vanilla extract? It’s gross.

            (I know because I tried it as a kid. Ewwwwwwwwwwww. It doesn’t taste like vanilla at all, which is really weird.)

    3. Erin*

      I do think that’s weird. It reminds me smoking vapor cigarettes everywhere – you’re not *technically* doing what you’re not supposed to be doing, but you will draw attention to yourself. And it’s weird.

  34. Seashell*

    My coworker drinks minimum one glass of wine every day at lunch (not in the office).

  35. brightstar*

    I’ve worked in different environments so some it would be okay (at a law firm I worked at drinking was pretty common and the annual Christmas party was at restaurants with an open bar. This lead to some interesting stories) and a lot of people would have a drink at lunch. I never did, to me drinking is an end of day thing where I don’t feel like being productive afterwards.

    An exception to my own rule was when I worked in the wine industry and we had “Thirsty Thursdays” where the new inventory was sampled so we could help customers with recommendations. But that was just a taste, there was a spit bucket provided, and it was important to be able to make recommendations to those who asked for one. At my current job drinking at lunch is verboten.

  36. gsa*

    I have worked in home building my entire life. Definitely a no no for us.

    For me it’s more about perception in front of clients and trade partnets. I would be mortified if somebody told me I smell like alcohol at work.

  37. Angela*

    I just double checked my handbook and any alcohol during the workday (including all break/lunch periods) is grounds for immediate termination. So, I would definitely double check that you aren’t violating a policy by having a drink on lunch. Now, after working hours is a whole other story. I’ve been out with co-workers multiple times :)

  38. Elesse*

    Ah, this brings back some (not so) fond memories of my training! When I first started, I was being “trained” by an elderly gentleman who, everyday at lunch, went to the local bar for a tomato sandwich and quite a few beers. He’d come back completely hammered and kind of mean! He was let go shortly afterwards for something else. I must admit I was kind of relieved.

  39. TootsNYC*

    In my profession, I am the final proofreader of our product.

    One day, when I was much younger, I brought lunch back to my office. Including a pale yellow-brown drink in a tall-neck bottle.
    One of the senior people walked past my desk and said, sort of enviously (not chidingly), “I wish I could have a beer at lunch–I wouldn’t be able to read.”

    I couldn’t say “It’s apple juice!” fast enough!

    I always made sure to buy the apple-shaped bottle after that!

    I wouldn’t have gotten fired, I don’t think, but it sure wouldn’t have made me look good. And that’s why I wouldn’t really want to go to lunch regularly w/ someone who drank regularly at lunch. People might not realize that *I* wasn’t having alcohol. Perception can be important.

    I have NO patience for people who get the tiniest bit peer-pressure-y over alcohol.

    1. fposte*

      I like root beer. I’ve had people misread it on several occasions. (Including once when an underage cashier started to get somebody who could legally ring up booze until I explained.)

      1. CMart*

        Totally off-topic, but now that “build your own craft 6-pack” is a thing at a lot of grocery stores the newest way my brother in law’s underage friends will buy beer is to use a root beer 6-pack holder and put brown actual-beer bottles into it. Find a young cashier, fluster them with “oh not it’s just root beer, lol” and voila! A double success of not only acquiring alcohol, but also for the low low price of some IBC.

    2. Beezus*

      When I was a kid, I found it amusing to pour myself glass mugs of well-shaken apple juice, because it foamed up and looked just like a mug of beer. My mother would do a double take and frown, but wouldn’t say anything, which was a small victory for my rebel little self.

  40. waffles*

    I’ve worked for a few performing arts orgs and the stagehands usually had beer thirty on Fridays (beers in the office/backstage at 4:30) and kept hard liquor in their work areas. It’s definitely a company culture thing.

    I work for the government now and I can’t even imagine what would happen if I had a beer during work hours. I think whatever happened would require three stamped forms, five signatures, one memo, and a report, though. So I’d have time to look for another job.

  41. Student*

    If you have significant doubts about whether it’s be acceptable, then you probably shouldn’t do it.

    When I’ve held jobs where that would be acceptable or normal, it was very obvious and quite open, with no shame associated. When I’ve seen it happen at places where it isn’t culturally acceptable, people kept it on the down-low and acted ashamed of it.

    Right now, I’m working someplace where it’s a fire-able offense. Previously, I’ve worked jobs where I actually had to explain to both my boss and co-workers that drinking while performing dangerous lab tasks was unacceptable (and bust out the handbook) because they were so casual about drinking during work hours.

  42. Us, Too*

    I mostly work in software/startups and drinking on the job is fairly common. We have company-hosted happy hours pretty frequently, and at least one team does a weekly beer function with beer served while they work together in a conference room all afternoon. As long as you can still get your work done, it’s pretty common.

    That said, it is about being context aware. I’m not going to bring a beer in with me when doing a presentation to the C Team even if the day before we were all chatting over a keg in the company kitchen.

  43. Mz. Puppie*

    Most of my friends work in tech. Every Friday afternoon my Facebook feed fills up with people’s pictures of their beer bottle next to their computer at their cubicle. The caption is always something like “Love my job!!!”. To me that sounds awful. “This spreadsheet would be better with the addition of alcohol!” is not really a thought I’ve ever had.

    1. Stephanie*

      To me that sounds awful. “This spreadsheet would be better with the addition of alcohol!” is not really a thought I’ve ever had.

      LOL. So true. Boss at OldJob said there was some beer in the fridge one afternoon. I partook (because I <3 beer), but it was just sort of awkward as we all just kept working anyway.

  44. John R*

    Margaritas at lunch? Sounds great. At my last job the policy was to fire anyone who had any alcohol AT ALL and also to fire anyone who saw someone drinking but didn’t report them. It did sometimes work in our favor, though, such as getting a call at night to come back in to work and being able to say “sorry, I can’t come in, I had a beer an hour ago” which effectively meant I was forbidden from returning to work that night.

  45. Valar M.*

    I’ve worked primarily in state/local government, and drinking is a huge no at lunch or work events, for obvious reasons.

  46. Mena*

    It depends entirely on your office culture. We have a beer cart every Friday at 3pm. And there is beer and wine pretty much everywhere (all kitchens, all times). BUT, people don’t seem to drink at lunch-time. But something may be opened at any time during the afternoon (spur of the moment celebrations, mostly). People hang out and socialize for a short while, then return to their desks (sometimes with drink in hand) to finish the day’s commitments. Our culture is very casual, we get a ton of work done, and most importantly, people are treated like adult professionals and we get our jobs done.
    This may be why we have unlimited vacation also, to go along with the unlimited alcohol.

    1. Erin*

      This is excellent. It sounds like the employees get their s*** done, so the employers don’t feel the need to micromanage and babysit. If there was a problem, then a new policy would probably be put in place, thus ruining it for everyone. But people know how to handle their alcohol, so they allow it. Same with the vacation time – clearly people aren’t abusing that privilege. It’s nice to hear about a working environment like that.

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