my team keeps coming to work hungover

A reader writes:

What’s your take on being hungover at work? Specifically in an office situation where nothing truly bad will happen if someone has reduced concentration.

I have a team of six reports at the moment, and over any given month, one or two of them will have a hangover each week. In my city there’s a culture of going out drinking after work, and in some of the worst offices I’ve worked previously a hangover is even seen as a badge of pride.

Mostly the hangovers are just the mildly sweaty slumped over their desks sort, and I’m not worried that anyone in the team has an alcohol problem (having experienced this in a previous job/colleague, I understand how this is different and is much more serious and my question does not relate to that).

Sometimes the hangovers are work-related, if there’s been a work event with lots of free alcohol, either provided by the company or by other organizations that we are expected to network with.

Added to this is that I’m a teetotaler and have been for over a decade, and I worry that I’ll be seen a prudish or judgemental, which I’m not; I just can’t drink for medical reasons.

Is it reasonable to say anything to my team about my expectations of them considering the need to be clear-headed when they come to work each day? Or am I interfering with their personal lives? And on a final note, why can’t bars and event venues provide something nice that’s not alcoholic or full of sugar to drink? But that’s not your problem!

It’s not okay to come into work hungover.

It’s one thing if it happens very rarely by accident; sometimes people just drink more than intended or didn’t realize their stomach was so empty or so forth. But one or two people on a team of six coming in hungover every single week? So on average each person coming to work hungover every three to six weeks?

That’s really not okay. And the fact that they’re apparently open about it around you, their boss, is troubling, because it says that they don’t care how cavalier it makes them look about their jobs.

It’s not interfering with their personal lives to expect people to show up at work clear-headed and ready to work. If someone were, say, playing video games all night and coming into work on no sleep — and it showed in their demeanor, energy, and ability to focus and be productive — you’d be on firm ground in saying, “Hey, it’s up to you what you do in your off-hours, but when you come to work, I need you to be awake and focused.” It’s the same thing here.

And you don’t need to relax those expectations just because the drinks were consumed at a work event. It’s reasonable to expect people not to drink to excess at a work event, and to control their drinking to whatever extent is necessary to ensure they can still function at work the next day.

So yes, the next time someone comes in hungover, take that person aside and say, “This has been happening frequently, it’s impacting your work, and it can’t continue. I need you to show up at work clear-headed and ready to work, and if that means you need to manage your drinking differently, consider this notice that you need to do that. You can’t keep showing up at work hungover.” Repeat as needed with the others.

{ 420 comments… read them below }

  1. Leatherwings*

    I can see someone getting a pass for this once because stuff happens. But multiple times every week? That’s a really disturbing pattern and it’s not okay. Even if there was a work event, it’s not that hard to be an adult and monitor your intake so you’re able to work the next morning.

    1. Snark*

      Yeah, once or twice in a very great while, perhaps. Regularly? A rotating cast of groaning, slumped zombies? Yeah hell no.

      1. Amber T*

        This. “Shit happens” is a good rule, so if it happened once per employee in a loooong time, I’d chalk it up that they’d learn from it and it wouldn’t happen again (it happened once when I thought I could handle “two” glasses of wine at dinner on a Sunday night (and by “two” I mean the glass was refilled, but it was more than the two drinks), and it was the worst Monday ever and I absolutely learned my lesson). But coming to work *multiple times* hung over? And it could be considered a badge of honor? That’s a work place culture thing that needs to be stamped out. You can’t control the office culture overall, but you can make it clear to your team that coming in hungover is inexcusable (because at this point for them – it is) and it can’t happen again. And don’t worry about coming off prudish or whatever – people who drink responsibly don’t go to work hungover, so whether you drink or not in your spare time, or whatever the reasons are that you don’t drink, is not relevant to them.

      2. Specialk9*

        This is so weird. Is this a frat house?! It’s NOT normal to see co-workers regularly hung over! I have maybe seen it in a blue moon – once in a handful of years – after a super stressful proposal that required work over major holidays. But as a normal part of life, hecks to the no! OP, please let my shock make it clear how far out of the bounds of normal professionalism this is.

        1. Specialk9*

          My college coach used to punish all of us if one was hungover at practice. More suicide sprints than I could quite remember after. It drove the partiers off the team, and made the rest of us really careful about drinking during the season. (Which, given the very high rates of drunk rape, was likely a very good thing.)

          1. Demon Llama*

            Ooooh you’ve just brought back bad memories of early morning hungover sprint sessions at university. Everyone made that mistake at some point, but you normally only did it once. We had a designated vom-bush that the afflicted party would disappear behind at a certain point. (This being women’s sports, it was on an outside track with no access to washrooms or other facilities. The joys of almost-zero funding…)

    2. a1*

      I agree. And it’s more about work performance and demeanor than being hung-over. Like Alison said, if they were repeatedly coming in overly tired or sweaty for other reasons, you’d still call that out. So, for me, the drinking isn’t even part of it. You happen to know why they are acting like this at work, but it’s still a “work” thing and not a “drinking” thing to me.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Yeah, I find a few glasses of wine doesn’t bother me, but if I eat crackling I’m useless the next day. All because it’s from crackling and not alcohol doesn’t mean it’s less or more ok for me to come to work a groaning quivering mess.

        1. Julia the Survivor*

          As a person with a long history of managing my food allergies, I’m just mentioning if you consistently get sick from a food it probably means you’re allergic to it. By cracklings you mean fried pork rind, right? It could be the pork, or the oil it’s fried in, or the seasonings, that you’re allergic to. It could be a type of allergy called non-IgE, which the medical establishment barely acknowledges and doesn’t really address.
          I’m just mentioning in case you didn’t already know because knowing what you’re allergic to helps a lot! You can probably figure out which ingredient is making you sick and then you’ll know to avoid it in other foods too. :)

    3. Koko*

      When I was 25 I went out with a visiting out-of-town friend on a Wednesday night, drank way more than planned, and had a HUGE hangover the next day.

      At one point I was waiting to get documents off the printer and felt so nauseated that I was crouching down on the floor with my head down while I waited for the printing to finish, and one of my coworkers came back to the printer area and asked if I was OK.

      This was such a mortifying/come-to-Jesus moment for me, realizing that I was so incapacitated at work through my own foolish choices, that I didn’t drink any alcohol on a work night for the next 2 years or so.

      1. Samata*

        The thing that made more than one drink a hard stop on weeknights for me is when I got hit by a wave of nausea and had to run to the bathroom during training for a job I was in for only a few months. A little dysfunctional “c’mon just have another” by the (same sex) manager and team I was joining when they took me out. I had 3-4 drinks spread out over about 5 hours but boy did they hit me wrong and I was mortified.Pretty sure it was the shared appetizer but no dinner combo. No one ever mentioned it but I still shudder…and limit myself to one drink on school nights.

        1. MidwestRoads*

          One morning at work I was so hungover I barely made it to the bathroom to puke — I was non-functional. I walked into my boss’ office, and she took one look at me and just said, rather disgustedly, “You’re sick. Go home.” The shame, it burned. It was a good lesson for me to learn.

          1. Life is Good*

            Oh yeah. I once had an employee who came in so hungover she was useless. She reeked of booze. Kept yelling that she had a ‘headache from hell’. I sent her home and said I’d count it as a sick day, but if it happened again, she would be sent home without pay and that there would not be a third chance. I guess the shame of being sent home the first time was enough because she never did that again.

    4. Czhorat*


      I’d also question the assumption that the employees in question do not have an alcohol problem; if your drinking regularly effects your ability to work, then you have a problem.

      1. Koko*

        I kind of agree with your last part, but kind of disagree.

        I think that there are places where unhealthy drinking habits are normalized. That’s a drinking problem, but it’s more of a little-p problem. The person in question isn’t dependent on alcohol and their drinking would fall off dramatically under different cultural conditions, but it’s still a problem in that it hurts their work and possibly other areas of life.

        Then there’s people with a Big-P Problem who are dependent on alcohol, and it is definitely screwing up their life in big ways – financial, legal, familial, and so on.

        People with a little-p drinking problem are really common in certain sectors that have a lot of “work hard, play hard” office cultures–start-ups and nonprofits staffed largely by 20-somethings, for example. I also hear things about the drinking in the legal/financial sector here in Washington DC, but I also hear we’re the drunkest city in America so that may not be true elsewhere.

        1. Junior Dev*

          But also there are people with a big-P Problem who are attracted to environments where drinking is normalized because it basically means the entire office is enabling them.

        2. Wintermute*

          I liked your breakdown of “big-P problem” and “little-p problem”.

          Though for humor’s sake I’d add I know someone who realized they have a big-P problem when they had a little-p in the clothes hamper.

    5. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      We had a colleague who always got drunk at work functions. Everyone chuckled about it until someone pointed out that he was represented the company and it was not a good look.

  2. namelesscommentator*

    Hard pass to drinking enough at a work party to be hungover the next day. That needs to be addressed.

    1. Dawn*

      Exactly- that’s what I was thinking too! It’s part of being a professional to know your limits and stick to them at a work party, doubly so if you have to go to work the next day. I think it goes beyond just “hey don’t come to work hungover” and turns into a larger conversation about professionalism in general.

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, all of our office events have an open bar (apparently some will protest if we don’t?), but everyone manages to stick to whatever amount they’re comfortable with. I might joke that it would be hilarious to see some of the upper management (and uptight) colleagues drunk… but I don’t actually want to witness that.

        1. Mabel*

          My company uses drink tickets, & each person only gets 2. Of course someone can give you one of theirs, but it does limit the alcohol consumed.

          1. copy run start*

            Mine too, though you can purchase additional drinks. They also moved the party to Thursday nights instead of Fridays.

      2. Wintermute*

        There is a different dynamic SOME places and work cultures, in some industries, when it’s clients doing the entertaining. Which might give a bit of an OCCASIONAL excuse.

        Though to be frank in a situation where you are out with clients and can’t politely refuse all their drink offers learning to be gracious while avoiding becoming impaired is PART of your job skills set and a professionalism must– pounding water, knowing how to make your drinks low-octane like ordering them extra-shaken, slipping off to the bathroom and slipping the bartender a 20 with the request he make all your drinks virgin for a few hours, eating heavy meals beforehand, even downright subterfuge like handing a half-full glass to the bus boy cleaning up as he passes as if it were empty. There are lots of tactics to weather a client that keeps trying to pour booze down your throat while avoiding souring the mood or your relationship to your client.

      3. Special Snowflake*

        I used to work in an office which had an entire department of heavy party animals. I mean they were heavy partiers – not that they were overweight, but they never came in hungover the next day. They just didn’t come in at all!

    2. pumpkin spice.*

      I’m guessing that most of these people are young so they may be drinking to excess/partying, but just to add another perspective, I’m nearly 40 and not a hard drinker (I was a binge drinker many years ago so I do know what it’s like to drink my face off all night then be barely human the next day, but that’s not me now).

      Now, if I have 2 drinks, I have a hangover the next day. I think 2 drinks is pretty reasonable for a work party, but the day after 2 cocktails, I’m sluggish, tired, and nauseous – I’m not sweating, puking, crying, unable to function, and stuffing my face with egg mcmuffins (like the hangovers of my youth) but I’m definitely not well the day after drinking even minimally.

      1. Amber T*

        It could also be the “getting older” effect – the amount that I could drink in college and feel fine the next day is much, much higher than the amount now (as someone in their late 20’s). Once I hit 25, anything more than 3 drinks in a night will make me hungover the next day, regardless of what I ate or any of the other factors. 21 year old me could knock back… well, many more than that, and be fine the next day.

      2. many bells down*

        Yeah, at 44 I can get through two beers or a couple glasses of wine before I just physically cannot drink anymore. It stops tasting good. Which is in my favor, since I have a weird adrenaline reaction whenever I drink enough to get an actual buzz.

      3. Just employed here*

        Yup, I think that just happens to a lot of people as they get older (possibly coupled with the fact that their bodies are subjected to alcohol less often when they are older).

        I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but certainly knew how to party in my youth. Now, at nearly 40, it’s just not worth it: I don’t really achieve that buzz anymore, just get tired, and am ridiculously tired the next day.

    3. Canton*

      Here, here. A work event is the one time you definitely should not want to drink that much. People at my firm do that and I don’t know why. I’ve had super drunk people come up to me and I feel second hand embarrassment.

    4. Annabelle*

      Yeah, this stuck out to me too. I get that there are work cultures where this wouldn’t be an egregious faux pas, but I can’t imagine having more than one or two drinks at a work event.

    5. JessaB*

      Although if this is a regular thing, I’d wonder if the party was serving enough food and also non alcoholic drinks. I know sometimes people who plan those things don’t realise that you have to have food or even a couple of reasonable drinks can get someone drunk. That being said, nobody should ever be getting drunk at a work event. Especially enough to get hung over the next day, even the big drinkers should be taking extra care because “work event.”

      1. Hc600*

        Piggy backing, if people are drinking a reasonable amount but ending up hungover, I’d wonder if your drinks were just cheap. Really cheap red wine or vodka will give me a hangover no matter what.

        But as someone who has gone to work hung over, I wonder about how OP knows? A mild to medium hangover should be invisible to everyone else, right? Are they announcing that they are hungover or are the so hungover they have visible symptoms (sweating, throwing up, etc.)

        1. CMart*

          My interpretation of the letter makes it sound like both.

          “…the hangovers are just the mildly sweaty slumped over their desks sort” sounds like a slightly more major than the “having a headache and wooly mouth, hoping the ibuprofen kicks in soon” type of hangover that many reasonable people might have following overestimating the size of their wine pour the night before. But someone just being a little glossier than is typical and being quietly hunched over their keyboard wouldn’t ping anything out of the ordinary for me, so I have to wonder if they’re also moaning about it.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Ugh. Definitely. I had a crappy, wine based frozen margarita when I went to a World Series game last month. 1 drink, probably about 2 servings of wine.

          I felt terrible the next day. Like the most hung over I’ve ever been save for one other day years ago (which I think was a New Years Day, maybe. I was so annoyed. If I knew I was going to be that hung over I would have drank more, or better alcohol.

          My mom says she’s allergic to the preservatives? or something like that in some red wines, which is what gives her a headache. I wonder if it is the same for me as well.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Drinking lots of water and downing several huge evening primrose oil capsules does help me with hangover symptoms, which I field-tested one New Year’s Eve. But not on work nights!

    6. The OG Anonsie*

      Might need to be addressed on the company side, too. I swear every work-sponsored happy hour I’ve been to is somewhere with no real options food wise and where you are heavily expected to be there for a couple hours. I would feel gross later having even just a beer or two without some extra food and hydration by the end of the day, so I usually don’t drink, but depending on the environment that might be its own problem re: “Why is Jane being boring.”

      1. Artemesia*

        Food definitely and water definitely. I have no capacity for alcohol and rarely have more than a drink, but especially if I have more, matching glass for glass with water makes all the difference. I have noticed that when ice water is provided that lots of people alternate booze and water in an evening long event.

      2. Geoffrey B*

        I went to one work event where they were bringing around free booze on a tray, but if you wanted soft drinks you had to go order and pay for it. Not good!

    7. Blah*

      I was gonna say. Like, I know I’m big, young, and a seasoned drinker, but I can easily put away a bottle of red wine or several beers, or an equivalent number of shots plus a couple, and function normally at work the next day. What the hell are these guys drinking?

      1. Basically Useless*

        I wonder if they even realize how often they’re coming in this hungover. If it’s a habit they might not even be thinking about it.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP, folks cannot be coming in hungover (let alone visibly hungover). Basically 33% of your team is not performing at capacity and is visibly out of sorts. And flagrantly so. That’s not normal.

    Your being a teetotaler doesn’t change the analysis. I’m in a field where drinks are at every event and flow copiously. None of us get drunk, let alone show up for work the next day hungover. And depending on your ouster, this raises real concerns about judgment, confidentiality, client safety, etc.

    Lay down the law. It sounds like your team needs it.

      1. Blue Anne*

        My iPhone unfortunately has started picking up on my contextual use of words. It has made things interesting when I’m switching between talking to different groups of people… and also any time I want to mention my fiance it autocorrects his name to either NICKBUTT or NICKFACE.

        We live in the future, truly.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I knew I had arrived when my phone stopped autocorrecting to “duck” and instead to “f***boys”, because my dating life is a disaster.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            My predictive text knows the sentences “I can’t afford bail money” and “There is no tea or internet in jail”.

          2. Susanne*

            I texted a friend who happens to be a redhead. She mentioned something and I texted “all fingers crossed” to wish her good luck. It autocorrected to “all gingers crossed.”

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        “likely word in context” = this is language use. This is artificial intelligence. And we only barely have artificial stupidity at this point. (This is an amusing turn of phrase that I picked up somewhere, but it’s also true.)

        I just miss actual typos. I could usually figure out what it was supposed to say. Back in the days of Usenet, we used to speculate that with enough examples, a person could recognize an author by their typo patterns alone. (Mine is that “ing” endings tend to become “ign” endings.)

        And so, I am an old, and I hate autocorrect. Because it rarely is. (Correct, I mean. It’s got the “auto” part down pat.)

    1. KarenT*

      “Lay down the law. It sounds like your team needs it.”

      Seconded. I’m also in a booze heavy industry, and people should not be getting drunk at work events. That in itself is a problem if people are misbehaving.

      But the OP definitely needs to lay down the law about the hangovers, and doesn’t need to make it about drinking. Next time one shows up hungover, take them into your office and call them out on it. Tell them they needed to be functional and clear headed at work, and that frequent hangovers look sloppy and unprofessional.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word sloppy. We all know when we have to work the next day, so we can decide ahead of time what our limit will be. You could go with “poor planning” and that might get the point across, OP. We do have an obligation to have a plan that will insure we get to work every day and do our best each day. That is pretty basic stuff.

        I had an interesting situation where the owner’s son came to work too hung over to function. He asked for a lighter duty. On paper I was his boss, so it was appropriate to ask me. I handled it by granting the lighter duty and telling him, “Being hung over is not an excuse for failing to do the job. Don’t ever ask me this again.” Like I said I was the boss on paper, the owner came through and reassigned his son to the more demanding duty. oh well.

  4. Snark*

    I’d like to focus on this sentence: “Specifically in an office situation where nothing truly bad will happen if someone has reduced concentration.”

    I mean, no, OP, they’re not going to crash a bus or let a midair collision happen, but I personally think being unfocused, unproductive, sweaty and slumped over their desk is a performance issue at the very least, and probably disruptive to boot.

    And just speaking personally….getting so hammered on a week night that you arrive at work on a weekday hungover may not be clinical alcoholism, but it’s not a healthy, proportionate, and appropriate relationship with alcohol. And I say that as an enthusiastic partaker of fancy beer.

    1. Snark*

      And, like, maybe there’s a culture of going for drinks after work, but if there’s a culture where getting shitfaced is the norm….well, be the change you wanna see, OP. My definition of “drinks after work” is a pint and some nachos every once in a while, not getting hammered.

      1. Lance*

        Not to mention, it’ll be doing them a service at any future jobs, where this sort of thing will be less tolerated. They’re doing this so far because they’ve gotten away with it; there’s nothing wrong with telling them to stop going as far as they have been. Some drinks are fine; coming in hung over is not.

        1. Orca*

          This! My first full time job was in a college town, after I dropped out after my sophomore year. My job before that was on campus and we all consistently came in hung over. I am very grateful my manager at the full time job wrote me up when I came in hungover because it was exactly the breath of fresh air I needed to be like “oh right, job, ok, here we go.” Was it mortifying? Yes. Did I moderate my drinking when I had to work the following day from then on? You bet.

        1. Leatherwings*

          I would hope not. I live in a city where there’s a big happy hour scene but plenty of public transportation so it’s really not ever an issue. I’ve never once seen someone drive home after drinking at a happy hour.

          1. Snark*

            Depends on the city. I did my of my happy-houring when I still lived in Denver, which is a thoroughly cosmopolitan city, but the public transit is hit or miss. Uber is obviously a thing, but I see enough shit on Friday night to know there’s a lot of people driving with five or six under their belts.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              Indeed. I lived in Denver in the 90s and it was not that great. It’s impressively better now but I still wouldn’t be able to get public transportation from my old job to my old favorite bar to where I used to live after closing time.

        2. still drunk*

          There’s also the issue of driving to work next morning, while you’re still drunk and/or viciously hungover. If you’re hungover enough to be wincing at sunlight and moving in slow-motion, you’re hungover enough for it to affect your reaction time and ability to focus on complex tasks.

        3. Bagpuss*

          I wonder if they are driving to work drunk the next morning. If you’re drinking enough to have a bad, obvious hang over the following morning you may well still be over the limit for driving the following morning – and you are almost certainly *impaired*,whether or not you are legally over the limit.

          I recall seeing stats here (UK) that about 20% of people prosecuted for drink driving were stopped amd arrested the morning after their drinking.

    2. paul*

      That sort of behavior would lead to us referring to an addictions counselor with our clients.

      I’m not a teetotaler, but I get really uneasy with how many people view this sort of casual substance abuse as A-OK and not problematic.

      1. Snark*

        Like I said, though, there’s a certain bar to clear to consider something alcoholism, as contrasted with casual alcohol abuse.

        1. paul*

          The DSM-5 merged abuse and dependence into “Alcohol Use Disorder” and ranks the severity of AUD based on how many diagnostic criteria have been met within the last 12 months. Legal problems were removed as a diagnostic criteria, cravings were added…I think there were other changes but honestly I can’t remember all the exact differences between the DSM IV and DSM-5.

          I’d wager that getting drunk enough to get hung over on a weekly basis means at least two of the criteria are being met (specifically an increase in tolerance, and spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking).

            1. CMart*

              I’m assuming that’s a good thing: that you can’t hide behind “I’ve never been pulled over for a DUI, I don’t have a problem” if getting into legal trouble isn’t even part of the diagnosis.

              Similarly, the “diagnostic criteria” for hangovers to be a problem at work need not include “job where safety is a concern”. Just because I’m not operating on people or directing planes doesn’t mean my being hungover isn’t a work problem. Remove it from the equation.

              1. Wintermute*

                On the OTHER hand, however, it is a relevant criteria. As someone who considers themselves a risk-aware-use proponent and harm reductionist one of the biggest criteria that the harm reduction movement uses for whether “use” has become “abuse” is whether someone’s life is being negatively impacted by their choices. The bright, giant red flags there are legal issues (including debtor issues), lost relationships and lost jobs.

                Legal issues are a very bright line that tells you “your ‘occasional use’ has started to have real consequences, you need to dial it back.”

                Removing it from the DSM criteria makes people like me nervous because we see it as an unhealthy step away from medical acceptance of a difference between users and abusers and towards prohibitionism and an intolerant view of non-pathological substance use.

            2. paul*

              They removed it because it wasn’t a particularly useful criteria to indicate if someone habitually abuses alcohol; people that rarely drink can and do get DUIs, and lots of people that drink like a fish don’t get them.

              I’m not arguing that DUI’s shouldn’t be punished, but you’re effectively relying on how good enforcement f the law is to decide if someones’ got a problem and that’s really iffy.

              1. Geoffrey B*

                Especially when we remember that racial profiling is a thing. I’d rather not have diagnostic criteria that translate racially-influenced policing into racially-influenced mental health diagnoses.

              2. Wintermute*

                On the other hand “impact to your daily life and the balance of your priorities” is the bright line that the risk-aware-use community uses to separate ‘use’ from ‘abuse’.

                You’ll notice that few of the other criteria in the DSM make any distinction between a user and an abuser and that’s not medically useful, because there are many (in fact I would argue the MAJORITY of) drug and alcohol users that do not have a medically significant problem but do have many of these criteria. Tolerance and cravings have nothing to do with whether your use has become problematic to leading a balanced life.

        2. Safetykats*

          I see a fair amount of excusing this behavior as *not alcoholism*, but substance abuse is certainly part of the road to addiction. By definition, your use of anything becomes problematic when it starts to interfere with your everyday life/responsibilities. This is clearly the case for these folks. Put another way, anyone who can’t reliably stay sober enough for five nights in a row to preclude regularly showing up to work hungover has a drinking problem.

          1. Snark*

            In any case, you, paul, and I don’t disagree; this is a disordered use of alcohol regardless of whether or not it meets DSM criteria, and whether or not it’s dependence.

            1. Wintermute*

              That’s why I prefer the risk-aware-use movement. To them this *IS* the problem, simply using or even being substance-dependent isn’t the problem, the problem is how it impacts your ability to handle your business, maintain meaningful relationships, and live a happy and balanced life. It’s more of a problem to be at work hung over than it is to spend every Friday night blacked out, in my opinion.

          2. RVA Cat*

            Whether or not this kind of binge drinking is alcoholism, it’s obviously a problem. The fact people are coming in hungover on such a regular basis proves that. I’m also wondering about the work culture at this employer. It’s a workplace, not a fraternity.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Yeah, the specifics of the word choices are kind of irrelevant.

              OP, are your workers performing at their best when they’re hungover, compared to when they’re not? I suspect not. That’s what you address.

              “Fergus, you’ve had your head down on your desk all morning while I’m waiting for those TPS reports. Get them done.”

              “Jane, you handed in these TPS reports with flagrant errors.”

              I don’t care so much the *why*, as a supervisor, just that it’s happening and that’s hurting the business.

              Obviously I’ll be sympathetic if underperformance is due to illness or emotional distress or something out of the workers’ control. But they’re *repeatedly* making the *choice* to drink more than they should and then go to work and underperform the next day. (Or it’s not something they can control, and they are addicted.) They either admit they have a problem and get treatment or they just stop doing that behavior.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Agreed. It’s not up to OP to figure out the root of the problem. It’s just up to OP to say this is not acceptable here. If the person feels they need additional help, they can ask OP, HR or find their own sources.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      Bingo! I am personally partial to a good glass of whatever, but hangovers aren’t for school nights. I defer to the one good piece of life advice I ever got my father (delivered when I was eight years old): “The best cure for a hangover is not to drink too much. The second-best way is to take two Advil and as close to a gallon of water as you can drink before you pass out.” And if, in spite of all this, you are still hungover at work: discretion is the better part of valor. Grab a coffee, drink a ton of water, mutter something about “feeling a bit run down” and never, ever let it happen again.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        “Discretion is the better part of valor.” THIS. The fact that you have to act like you feel well when you don’t is punishment enough to make you not want to do it again! Also, there’s a difference between feeling sluggish and headachy and being “mildly sweaty slumped over their desks”. One is not visible (or smelly, for that matter).

        My guess is the team is mostly young (mid-20s ish), but still acting far too cavalier about this.

    4. Daria Grace*

      Maybe the OP needs to consider if their expectations for work quantity and quality are too low if being frequently hungover doesn’t make a difference

      1. Decima Dewey*

        My take is that OP *hopes* that productivity isn’t affected. A look at the work done while employees are hungover might point to a different conclusion.

    5. Elfie*

      I do think that YMMV (I’m in the UK, where there’s definitely a heavier drink culture than North America), but I also think that whilst nothing bad might happen AT WORK, what about on the way to work? How many of these employees might still be over the limit, and have they had to drive in? By all means, address the professionalism, but there is a safety element in play as well.

  5. Cassandra*

    In my experience as a non-drinker, bars and events have fizzy water on hand, and at least a few sugarless sodas. I tend to go the cranberry-juice route myself, but I get that fruit juice isn’t everybody’s tipple.

    1. ClownBaby*


      I drink, but not usually on week days, and sometimes I just don’t feel like it. If I drink at all at a work event, it’s never more than one beer.

      When I don”t drink, I usually get a soda water and a lime. It’s nice because it looks like an alcoholic drink so I don’t have to deal with the “Why aren’t you drinking?” or “Just have one drink!” People probably just think I’m the queen of downing gin and tonics.

      1. Artemesia*

        I drink vodka tonics or GTs and so when I would have tonic and lime or soda and lime, it didn’t look any different.

    2. a1*

      Yes. I tend to get Club Soda with Cranberry. Fizzy, colorful, but not too sweet, and no alcohol. Sometimes I change to a “splash of lime juice” instead of cranberry, and sometimes I combine it all – club soda with cranberry and a splash of lime.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      Heck, I’m a drinker who’s on a diet, so I’d rather save my calories for cheese. I’m a big believer in the glass of soda water with a wedge of lime–fizz makes me happy, and the jerkier members of my grad program just think I’m partial to a vodka soda (I know I don’t have to justify it to them, but I’d rather not engage with them at all and this lets me avoid it).

      1. Snark*

        This is my dilemma whenever I’m trying to lose weight. “Cheese! But beer. But cheese! But beer. Also, cheese.” And then my head explodes.

        1. Just employed here*

          I’m a huge fan of non-alcoholic beer. It’s just so light and refreshing, without making me tired like normal beer does. I wish there were more dark ones available, though.

          And, I remember reading a summary of a scientific article once many years ago (but wouldn’t be able to find it anymore, I think) where they had women drink either normal beer or alcohol free beer every day. It was quite a lot, maybe three beers a day or so. The women drinking the alcoholic kind (of course) gained weight over the course of the experiment on average, but the women drinking the non-alcoholic stuff actually lost weight on average! Not just kept their original weight!

          My theory is that it’s still quite a filling, satisfying drink (compared to water or unsweetened tea, for example), so that you end up nibbling less. And it has about half the calories of semi-skimmed milk or so.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Thankfully, no–but DC is a big drinking city. I spend a lot of time at home watching Netflix.

          1. Basically Useless*

            I’m a lifelong Wisconsin resident and a non-drinker. You can imagine my college social life.

      2. Bryce*

        I got through college parties with a large cup of coke mixed with grapefruit juice. People see you carrying that around they assume there’s some sort of alcohol in it and leave you alone.

    4. Naomi*

      Ha, the mocktail suggestions are reminding me of the radio sitcom Cabin Pressure. There’s a character who’s a recovering alcoholic, so he no longer drinks alcohol but keeps up his reputation as a hard drinker by pretending his water is vodka, or refilling a whiskey bottle with apple juice.

      1. Star*

        To be fair, Douglas often has the apple juice on hand so that he can steal and then sell the expensive whiskey. Although he does claim to like apple juice.

        If I’m not drinking, I tend to go for lime-and-soda, and most pubs and bars (in my experience, at least) are starting to have a decent variety of other non-alcoholic options.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I never understood that Dean Martin always drunk thing. I guess it was just his trade mark?

            1. Wintermute*

              In that era drinking scotch was a manly thing, it was considered cool and the Rat Pack were the epitome of that era of cool. It would be like Clint Eastwood having a lollypop instead of a hand-rolled cigarette or a rapper with a ring-pop instead of diamonds to be known to be drinking non-alcoholic drinks.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      So, do people ask the bar to use the cocktail glasses for “mocktails”? Seems most places I go, you get a different glass for non- alcoholic drinks. Even a “tall” alcoholic drink glass is different than a soft drink glass.

      1. I just might*

        Depends on the bar. Most chain places have one type of glassware for alcohol beverages and another type for non alcohol drinks. In my restaurant days we also put black straws in alcohol drinks and regular striped straws in non alcohol.

      2. a1*

        My response was more of a suggestion as to what you can drink that’s non-alcoholic and also not super sugary. I personally don’t care if I’m “fooling” anyone. I’m not trying to. That said, I have found a lot of people don’t notice the different glasses that much. Some do, of course.

        1. Susanne*

          Right. I have no interest in trying to fool anyone with a fizzy drink. The person who is soooo invested in making sure I’m drinking alcohol, for whom it matters that I chose to have iced tea or lemonade or Coke as opposed to an alcoholic drink — that person is the one with the problem. Not me.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that that was your intention. : )

          I’ve seen it brought up in other discussions (perhaps a pregnant woman not wanting to disclose), and being able to blend in with the drinkers, simply to keep them from being nosy, was important.

          I’m with you. . .if I want a diet coke I’ll order a diet coke, and I don’t care if it’s brought in a 24 oz plastic cup or whatever. I save my drinking for nights I don’t have to get up at 5 am the next day.

      3. ket*

        At the bars I’ve been to with really nice mocktails they tailor the glass to the drink. So if it layers into three colors, you get something that will show it; if it’s bubbly, you’ll get something more like a flute — but that’s unusual. I like those places. It tells me the bartender is really thinking about flavors and experiences, not just getting hammered, because you can get non-alcoholic flavors :)

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      There really need to be better non-alcoholic drinks. I’m not really all that keen on fruit juice and frozen drinks, and soda and lime gets boring after a while. I’d like non-alcoholic real ale. I wonder if there is anything like that out there?

      1. Natalie*

        Some of the more Craft Cocktail type places do have better N/A cocktails that have more complex flavors than just sugar-sugar-sugar. (Although in my experience a lot of them do have some bitters in it, which adds an extremely small amount of alcohol, and so might not work for someone who wants completely zero alcohol because of an allergy or religious reasons.) And there are a number of N/A beers of varying qualities. If you want to experiment, I’d say try the European stuff before the American ones. (And again, N/A beer isn’t 100% alcohol free, I believe it has about 0.5% alcohol in it)

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

          Yeah I do that sometimes but often British pubs don’t have bitters behind the bar.

          Maybe I should talk to some local brewers and see what they have. I mean, I love good beer but sometimes I just don’t feel like drinking much.

          1. Wintermute*

            It’s strange how British bars can be very specific in what they don’t have. A Scottish friend of mine joked that if you go into his local and order a lager and lime they’d tell you “we don’t do cocktails”.

            1. Mary*

              There are quite a few drinks that pubs won’t serve because of the particular clientele or behaviour that accompanied them, though. Every pub has the ingredients for snakebite, but it doesn’t mean they’ll serve it!

    7. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’ve been to so many really nice restaurants who have *nothing* for non-drinkers aside from the Coke or Pepsi soda line. Frevvin’s sake, people! At least offer me some fancy artisinal soda! I know you make more money on drinks than on food. I’m willing to pay for it, honest.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yes! As a pregnant lady this has been really frustrating. My husband and I went to a Michelin-starred restaurant and they didn’t even offer me a drink list – no mocktails or anything on the menu :(

        1. Bagpuss*

          that’s a shame! I’ve seen a couple recently which have non-alcoholic gin on the menu.
          I haven’t tried it myself, but a friend of mine who was the designated driver when he went for a meal out at a Michelin starred restaurant said it was extremely good. Maybe you could suggest it to the one you went to? If it’s good enough for the Fat Duck….

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

            Huh, that sounds interesting! Any idea what the brand was?

            1. Bagpuss*

              I think it was Seedlip.
              I think that they are UK based but it is available in the USA. I haven’t tried it yet but am considering buying some to experiment with.

      2. Sarakatawen*

        I went recently to a very fancy restaurant that had a set menu (15 tiny courses) with matched wines but also had matched non-alcoholic drinks and they were eye-opening and amazing. They had different teas and infusions and juices and fizzy drinks and all of them, literally all of them, perfectly matched the course they went with. I was so deeply impressed.

  6. Temperance*

    I have ended up at work hungover on a handful of occasions. Here’s the thing, though: my boss was not aware of it, because it was my own stupidity causing the issue, so I kept my head down and got through the workday.

    I do drink after work, with friends … but almost never to the point of getting hungover, and certainly not on a weekly basis.

    1. Snark*

      And whether hungover or tired or under-caffeinated or just grouchy because the world is too peopley, that’s the correct response. If anybody notices it, you’re doing it wrong.

      1. hbc*

        Yes! I have a soccer game on Thursday nights that’s often way too late for me to not be affected the next morning. I do my best to not show how sleep-deprived and exhausted I am the next day.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeeeeeah, this is an excellent point. The fact that OP has an office culture where it’s seen as acceptable to not only come in hungover, but to discuss it is troubling.

      1. Bookworm*

        Also, there are degrees of hungover. I once foolishly overdid myself to the point that I would have a been a very ineffective employee (slumped over, etc.). So I called out. That sort of behavior HAS to be the exception, not the rule. (And frankly, it’s awful to feel that hungover. I have no desire to repeat the experience.)

        On the other hand, I’ve occasionally woken up after weddings or holiday parties feeling more groggy and achy than usual. If I have work, then that means Advil and a brisk walk around the block. There’s no reason anyone needs to realize I’m out-of-sorts.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Yes the one time I did call in sick because of a hangover was less to do with the hangover and more to do with the concussion I sustained while creating the hangover… That was definitely a category 5 hangover.

    3. SansaStark*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. I was hungover more often than I should have been back in my younger days, but I never told anyone that I was working with how I felt – certainly not my boss.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I am entertained by the username “Temperance” sharing stories about coming to work hungover mutiple times. Hee.

    5. Artemesia*

      Yeah this jumped didn’t it, that the boss KNOWS everyone is hung over. That suggests a bunch of drama queens who think it is cool to talk about how much they had to drink. If I came in hung over, I would have been doing the utmost to appear normal and alert. That they feel free to slunge and moan — not cool. I do think it should be specifically addressed, not just addressed in terms of the performance. Lead with the performance but make clear the drinking that impairs work the next day needs to stop.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Exactly. The days I feel the most worse-for-wear are often the days people think I’m especially alert… because I’ve gone to so much effort with the concealer!

  7. limenotapple*

    Even if happy hours are a part of organizational culture, it’s entirely possible to go and drink responsibly. I’m sure a lot of folks go and manage that just fine.

    1. Snark*

      My personal strategy is to order the biggest, gnarliest, bitterest imperial IPA on the draft list. That slows my roll right down. I just nip on that sucker for an hour and a half.

      1. Birch*

        +1 Same! I can’t imagine *wanting* to come in to work hungover on the regular. Sounds miserable. But yeah, in context, it’s not ok to be a zombie at work, for whatever reason.

      2. Annabelle*

        I do this with dry wine. It’s the easiest way for me to nurse something for most of the evening while focusing on the company and conversation.

      3. LizB*

        Oatmeal stouts are great for this, as well. A pint of that stuff is like drinking half a loaf of bread (in a good way), and I rarely want a second one when I’m that full.

  8. Alanna*

    I’m amazed that anyone thinks this is A) okay and B) okay to tell the boss. I had a student worker once tell me he was hungover and I was like “for future reference, NEVER say that. You’re sick. Also, don’t be hungover at work, but if you are, you’re sick. That’s it.”

    1. Lance*

      Personally, I would’ve left it at ‘don’t be hungover at work’; everything else is just giving him a possible excuse, which is really not needed.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        It’s like abstinence only sex ed. You know he’s probably *going* to (or at least likely to) drink, so give him a tool to handle the almost inevitable hangover professionally. Just like you know teens are fairly likely to have sex, so give them tools to do that safely. Expecting angelic behavior just sets them up for failure.

        1. Alanna*

          Yeah, and he was a young college student, so I was trying to give him advice he would actually use. “Don’t say you’re hungover” seemed more applicable than “don’t be hungover.” But that’s a whole different world than the real world office that OP ostensibly works in – and heck, i’d have fired my student worker if they’d come in repeatedly hungover!

    2. Future Homesteader*

      Saving this in case one of my student workers ever tells me that. Thank god, I seem to have a group of non-partiers on my hands, or at the very least, they do a good enough job not talking about it that I can blithely just assume that, whether it’s true or not. Which I appreciate.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, I once worked with a woman (probably 40+ yrs old at the time) at a grocery store service desk. So, public-facing. She would frequently come in hung over and bragged about it. I worked with her one particular Sunday morning when she had a very bad hangover. She was complaining how hung over she was, going on about her headache and stomach ache, and also very obviously puking in the waste basket behind her. She was out on the front service desk, which means she was waiting on customers and puking at the same time. In front of them. And next to me, since I was at the other register. It was lovely.

      1. Basically Useless*

        When I worked fast food a group of employees had a big party. Some of them were dumb enough to show up the next day extremely hungover. When I saw a couple of them at 9 AM looking and acting hungover I grabbed the employees already there, lined them and me up on either side of the employee door (we weren’t open yet), and made everyone stand at different angles as they passed by.

        They weren’t happy but it got the message across.

          1. basically useless*

            Having the employees stand at different angles made the hung over ones feel even worse when they looked at them. They got the message that I wasn’t amused and that next time, ask for the next morning or day off.

    4. Snark*

      I had a lab tech come in bragging about how hungover he was, and I was like, hope you feel better, okaybye. And he’s like huhbuhwha? I’m here! And I told him that he’d touch my $175-a-shot custom PCR primers sober or not at all.

    5. The OG Anonsie*

      There have been a bunch of times I wasn’t feeling great the day after an event because I didn’t get very much sleep and had people insist at me that I was hungover and just trying to smooth it over by saying I was tired.

      No guys, I’m tired. Good lord.

  9. Allypopx*

    I’m personally less concerned that it’s happening and more concerned that they seem comfortable being so open with you about it. Do you see other signs that they don’t take you seriously as an authority figure? A relaxed environment is fine, but to me that teeters on disrespectful.

  10. Mike C.*

    Does this advice change when we’re talking about business drinking culture in places like Japan or South Korea?

      1. Justin*

        You are expected, a lot of the time, to go out from, oh, 4 pm to midnight and then show right back up at 8 am.

        In fact, it was more frowned upon to miss work from being actually ill than to show up hungover.

        (I worked at a school in SK. The Americans partied a lot, but not harder than all of my colleagues. I was, however, 21, so I kept up. Sometimes.)

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yep. I’ve worked in an overseas office in a drinking-heavy culture, and my brother has worked in several, and the rules are not only different but complicated. Getting drunk at a work event and being hungover is different IME from coming in hungover from a non-work event; you’re expected to still come in hungover after the not-really-optional drinking outing (calling in sick would be worse) but you’re expected to not be awfully vocal about it; there’s a whole slew of other rules about when you can and cannot accept a drink and what about the outing you should and should not mention the next day, and on and on.

          And both gender and foreign-ness play a part: when I was discussing the trip with a female colleague from the country in question, I was discreetly but firmly warned that my male colleagues might get completely smashed, including the other (male) coworker visiting from the US office if he so chose, but that as a woman I should not. (Not for safety reasons, but because what’s considered charming camaraderie in men is frequently perceived as crass or gauche from a woman–they get more of a ‘pass’ for drinking with colleagues than I would.) And IME foreigners are de facto exempted from some social rules like “you can’t turn down drinks from certain people” and “you must drink during each toast,” because we’re… I guess for lack of a better word, not expected to know any better.

          But that’s still a perspective from the outside. I suspect that at a Korean or Japanese or Chinese or Russian blog, this could be the topic of a multipart series on Drinking, Drunkenness, Hangovers, And Your Workplace, whereas in the US it can sum us as “probably just don’t?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like it from what I’ve read, but I’m not equipped to advise here for cultures other than the U.S. (which is always the case, not just with this question).

    2. paul*

      AAM is pretty explicitly US based, and I think most of the regular commentariat is as well. I don’t know that anyone here would be qualified to really give advice on business drinking norms in South Korea or Japan.

      1. Myrin*

        At least Julia and matcha could, and I believe others (like Chinook?) have worked there in the past. Certainly doesn’t mean AAM as a whole is a good place to look for that kind of advice, though.

        1. Merci Dee*

          It’s true that there’s a big focus on going out together after work in Korea. But from the way that I’ve experienced that during trips to Korea, and then during interactions with my Korean co-workers in the US, it’s not so much about boozing until you pass out, as much as it’s about the fact that you’re there and spending time with the group.

          I’ve never been a big drinker (we’re talking, like, a no more than 4 beverages in any given year), so I was concerned about the “drinking culture” when I went on a business trip to Korea. We had a huge formal banquet one night, and people from the different global locations were all mixed up together at each table so that folks could get to know each other a little better. One of the senior managers for the headquarters office was placed at each table to kind of “officiate” the proceedings. And there were so many toasts going on . . . . let’s toast my location, let’s toast =your= location, let’s toast our kids, let’s toast our parents, let’s toast our dogs and cats, let’s toast your new house, let’s toast my new car, let’s toast how we’ve only just met each other but we’re now friends forever! Over and over again. I drank soju for the first two toasts, and then I stuck to Pepsi for all of them after that — and nobody cared. They didn’t care =what= I was drinking during each toast, just that I was participating and having as much fun as everyone else. I think most people ended up doing what I did, too, by switching to something alcohol-free so they weren’t in danger of slumping over into their soup.

          Same thing seems to apply for the Korean employees working here in the States. They go out for dinner together quite frequently, but the amounts of alcohol that they’re buying are really quite minimal. Maybe 2 bottles of soju and 1 beer each for a group of 6, and then sodas of some kind that come with free refills (it was weird to me when I switched from governmental auditing to accounting in the private sector, and it was okay that there was alcohol on the receipts for the reimbursements I was processing!). I’ve worked for this company for 7 1/2 years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the expats or the Korean-American staff come in hammered the next day. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened . . . . just that, if they’ve done it, it wasn’t to the level where I noticed it.

      2. Taffygrrl*

        In Australia work culture the behavior OP describes is the norm. My Aussie colleagues are appalled at the hypocrisy of Americans that won’t admit they’re hung over. Having a “big night” once a week is not abnormal, and people are upfront the next day.

        1. Coffee*

          It varies in Australia though. In my workplace, turning up hungover would be frowned on. Having a big night, sure, go ahead, but don’t be hungover.

          I also wouldn’t expect people to have a big night on a work night.

        2. ZucchiniBikini*

          I’m Australian, and I’m going with a hard disagree on this statement. This behaviour is NOT the norm in almost any office work environment and is becoming less so in other workplaces as well. It is true that we’re more likely to cop to it if we ARE hungover though, but no, it isn’t seen as normal or acceptable and I strongly challenge the idea that most Australians have a night where they get shitfaced *and have to come to work the next day* every week or most weeks. (Saturday night is a whole ‘nuther ball of wax).

          1. taffygrrl*

            Ha! Thanks for this. Maybe it’s just MY workplace. I’m an American working at my first Australian company and my Aussie coworkers have all tried to tell me this is the way things are done here!

    3. Antilles*

      No, I don’t think so.
      Cultures where business drinking is just part of the deal ALSO usually have a strong expectation that you can handle yourself and hold your liquor appropriately. So even in those sorts of cultures, regularly showing up visibly hung over (sweating and slumped at the desk!) would not be acceptable.

      1. TardyTardis*

        I was at a military function where the booze flowed freely (the pilots’ table created a rather nice pyramid with their wine bottles) but you could *not* be too visibly drunk, especially around the two-star general we were honoring. And this with all the toasts (we started at the top, and worked our way down to the guy who answers the phone in our office). I really should have switched to the water sooner than I did, even though I took tiny sips of my wine. But…you had to still behave in a proper manner; there is a true story about a midshipman being sick on the shoes of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy after the Navy won the Army-Navy game. We all figured he was buried beneath the statue of Mother B there in Annapolis (or so my brother said, who witnessed it). Bearing that in mind, I made frequent trips to the ladies’ during that function to space out the drinking some, though I was glad I was able to witness the Samurai Crew Chief and Loadmaster sketch offered as part of the entertainment.

        But it was on a Saturday night, and the Russians didn’t invade the next day, and probably just as well.

    4. Amber Rose*

      I don’t know about South Korea, but the advice is the same more or less in Japan. It’s expected that they come to work fully functional, or at least appearing fully functional.

      The after work drinking thing in Japan has changed a lot recently anyways.

    5. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I’m an anthropologist and I actually used to train the military on how to handle these kinds of situations. In heavy-drinking cultures, the goal is to drink the minimum acceptable amount. In places (for example former Soviet Central Asia) where there’s a lot of toasts given (vodka shots), you take a sip of the shot at every toast, rather than downing the whole glass.

    6. Susanne*

      I have had at least half a dozen business meetings / conferences in Japan in the last few years. It is unacceptable to come to work (or show up at the conference) hungover. One is expected to be an actual adult and know one’s limits. And while it is hospitable to offer a drink, it is by no means required to take someone up on that offer. People *can* decline for whatever reason – personal preference, medical condition / medication, religious reasons — and the world won’t come to a screeching halt.

    7. Catherine*

      Japanese-American, living and working in Japan. It varies widely between industries and also by immediate supervisor’s preferences. One of my elderly, male supervisors is very pushy about the drinking and showing up to his research room the next day hungover earns you his respect. (I may have feigned a hangover with clever makeup tricks.) Another doesn’t drink at all and has tea parties instead.

    8. Anon*

      Yeah, speaking as a US citizen who lived/worked in Japan for about 8 years (and in fact had never worked professionally outside of Japan until about two years ago), including working for some very traditional, Japanese companies, the advice is quite different in general I would say.

      Now, the industries I worked in were primarily sales and HR which was incredibly heavy on the drinking and we in fact had a healthy expense account with which we were expected to take clients out on and get them quite drunk. At the office, no shame around being hungover- it was more a badge of honor in some ways.

      I did a brief stint in luxury fashion and did go out several times with the top leadership and we got very drunk- was hungover several times but it was fine because the boss was equally so. That said, it wasn’t as rampant in that industry.

      However, generally I would say getting very drunk/hungover is considered a sort of bonding/camaraderie experience. I’ve read papers on it by academics where it’s proposed because Japanese are so straight-laced, being drunk is one of the few times they can let loose without “consequences.”

      I have countless examples of that. A Friend of mine worked for a huge, famous traditional Japanese company (recently it’s been in the. News for the death of young workers who committed suicide because they were overworked) and he would be required to go out to drinking events, and his coworkers’ Favourite thing to do was aggressively tweak his nipples. I’m not kidding.

      The only time I ever really heard anyone say “that was too much” was at my first company where I was an HR intern. There was a party a couple weeks before I joined. One guy got very drunk, and started taking his clothes off (pretty standard drunk salaryman party standard) but normally people would only take off a shirt or maaaaaybe pants.

      This guy took off everything. And ran around the party for awhile completely nude and trying to dance with people.

      But that was the only time I can really remember anyone ever thinking some drinking at a company event had gone too far.

      Looking back, I’m like ???? I can’t believe I thought this was normal. But it was. It was a huge culture shock for me when I relocated to my current country, still Asia but much more western.

  11. nep*

    Beyond not OK.
    OP, you are not being prudish or judgmental. Just because you don’t drink, it’s in no one’s interest to enable people who are supposed to be responsible adults coming into their jobs hungover on a regular basis. These employees are acting stupidly and they’re being allowed to continue doing so.

  12. MuseumChick*

    I agree with the others. Its a very normal thing to expect your employees to not be regularly hungover at work. Start holding them accountable, make it clear that it’s unacceptable and if it keeps happening let there be consequences.

    1. Accounting is Fun*

      I had an employee that regularly showed up for work hungover. I addressed the performance issues, but the employee didn’t make the connection. I started termination just before lent. He gave up alcohol for lent, and his performance improved significantly. But, I really didn’t want to deal with it anymore and still terminated him. OP, this is about performance and if you keep the discussion to that, you are not being prudish, you are being a good manager

      1. JM60*

        I think that addressing the work performance should be done by connecting it to showing up bing over, rather than leaving it to the employee to make that connection. I would think that if you explicitly mention that the employee’s or performance might have something to do with how they show up to work, I would think they would be more likely to try to show up in a better condition.

  13. Roscoe*

    I really think it depends on what their hangover symptoms are. Like, if I just have a headache, but some asprin can get me through after it kicks in, I don’t think that is something that needs to be addressed. If someone is throwing up in the bathroom all morning or sitting at their desk with their head down, then that is different. Also, it may be one of those conversations to have about how discussing your hangover at work isn’t professional, just as I’d argue most health issues aren’t necessary to discuss at work. Also, I’d say be realistic about what is/isn’t going to be impacted. My job now, my hangover isn’t really affecting much of my work, and I can kind of reschedule things as necessary. Other positions, like dealing with financials, it may make much more of a difference.

    1. Snark*

      They’re described as slumped and sweaty. That’s well past the “gulp some tylenol, hydrate, and soldier through” stage.

    2. Leatherwings*

      But even if one needs to “reschedule as necessary” that would mean rescheduling things at least a couple times a week! That’s insane. That plus not working as diligently on work as they would otherwise is almost certainly causing a real business impact.

    3. LBK*

      I’m with you on this one. I agree with most commenters that it’s certainly not the most professional thing, but the OP doesn’t say it’s actually affecting their work. It seems like more of a perception issue than a productivity one, which is certainly valid but I also think it changes how it should be handled. At the very least they probably just need to learn to fake it better and not be so open about it; if you can’t tell that they’re hungover then I don’t think it’s inherently bad.

      I think plenty of people come to work tired or with mild colds or in other conditions that might not make them at 100% mentally (or, hell, some days I’m just feeling lazy and not totally committed to work). As long as people can still get done what they need to get done, it would feel a little intrusive into someone’s personal life to question their choices like that (again, with the caveat that this is only the case if it’s not actually affecting their ability to get their job done).

      1. Snark*

        “but the OP doesn’t say it’s actually affecting their work.”

        I’ve been so hungover as to be sweaty and slumped. They’re significantly more impaired than someone with a cold or just feeling lazy if that’s how hungover they are.

        1. LBK*

          I’m a pretty regular drinker and I don’t think those things are indicative of a particularly bad hangover, but I guess agree to disagree. That sounds in line with how I am when I just have a standard headache/queasiness hangover that can be handled with some Pedialyte and a greasy breakfast sandwich.

          1. serenity*

            Hmm. It sounds like that’s your personal experience and tolerance speaking, and not necessarily the wider population.
            Agreeing with Alison on this one – showing up to work hungover regularly or semi-regularly is not cool. Comparing/contrasting of people’s personal drinking preferences and tolerance seems a little moot, if it’s happening this regularly.

            1. LBK*

              I would think that if these people are regular drinkers their experiences are probably more in line with mine than most other commenters here, so I think it’s a useful perspective. When you have a hangover pretty much every weekend you have more practice being productive despite them.

              1. Turkletina*

                There’s also the fact that hangover symptoms (headache, nausea, etc.) are SO subjective. What’s a “bad” hangover for me might not be a “bad” hangover for you, just like a “bad” headache for me might not be out of the ordinary for you.

              2. Susanne*

                I would personally re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol if I were to go on record as being “practiced” in how to handle hangovers. They are such an unpleasant experience that most normal people learn after a few frat parties or whatever that it’s not worth it, and consequently drink in moderation the rest of their lives.

                1. LBK*

                  Eh. I’m in my 20s, I live in a city with a lively drinking culture, it’s more or less relegated to weekends and I’m rarely so hungover as to be incapacitated; usually I’m just more tired than anything. I’m not overly concerned.

                2. Childless Single (Old) Millenial*

                  Most “normal” people do not learn after a few frat parties… There are plenty of binge drinking statistics that disprove that. You’re fortunate it was so easy for you to learn how to regulate. But your “personal” experience with alcohol is very different than many people’s, and you’re passing judgement disguised as advice.

              3. serenity*

                If the boss is aware of frequent hangovers among her staff and troubled by it (as OP is here) then I don’t think it matters if the employees are regular drinkers, think they can minimize hangover visibility, are in a hard-drinking social circle, etc. It just doesn’t matter at this point and occurring with this amount of regularity. The boss is aware of it and doesn’t like it, maybe it does impact performance (being “slumped” over as she mentions in her letter doesn’t speak to high employee engagement), and other factors we may not be aware of it. How and where she addresses it is another matter – I’m not sure what’s best, although there are good suggestions in other comments.

                I just don’t think you can slough it off by saying “eh, people get colds and come into work and the symptoms are kind of like hangovers, so this is kind of the same thing”. Nope, it’s not.

                1. LBK*

                  I just think productivity does matter otherwise you can cross into managing someone based on your own personal preferences rather than actual work. Particularly since the OP is concerned that it won’t be well-received since she herself doesn’t drink, I think it’s worth making sure she has a strong argument about how this is affecting their work beyond “I don’t like the idea that you were out drinking last night”.

                2. Snark*

                  And since when is managing someone based on my personal preferences a bad thing? I prefer my direct reports to be cheerful, engaged, and professional, not sweaty, glassy-eyed, and plodding through. If it’s a once-in-a-great-while lapse of judgement and they do their best to power through without it affecting their interactions and productivity, okay, I can tolerate that. But if it happens on a regular basis, I think that’s a professional conduct issue and as valid a thing to manage on as an error on a deliverable.

                3. serenity*


                  I think this part of Alison’s message isn’t getting across – and it showed in their demeanor, energy, and ability to focus and be productive. I’ll leave it to OP to judge effect on productivity, as that wasn’t addressed. Maybe it’s significantly impacted and maybe it’s not. It’s absolutely her prerogative to address perceived or actual demeanor, energy, and ability to focus and from the small stands of info included in her letter it appears there is an impact on these areas. And being a manager *does* mean imposing your preferences regarding delivery, appearance, and professionalism on your staff, whether that’s to the good or to the bad. I don’t think that should come as a surprise to any regular readers of this blog.

                  I’m thinking that you’re not amenable to viewing this from the other perspective as it sounds like you are a more regular social drinker and you’re bristling at the perceived intolerance you may be feeling here regarding personal drinking habits. While that’s absolutely fine, it’s also the workplace behavior that’s problematic here and not what employees are doing out of the office (whether they’re playing video games all night, as in Alison’s example, or drinking).

                4. LBK*

                  To be clear, when I say managing based on personal preference I mean basically telling them not to drink because you don’t like it, not because it’s affecting their work. I fully agree that if they’re regularly unable to perform their jobs sufficiently, that’s a problem, but frankly I have been hungover at work before and was still able to get through my work pretty normally, just guzzling more Gatorade than I usually do. I’ve definitely had days that I was more impaired just from not sleeping well and being tired.

                  My point is that we usually have such a laser-sharp focus here on making sure conversations are centered around work impacts, not just what you personally prefer (eg requiring non-shift employees to show up at a certain time because you personally are a more punctual person/early bird). I can’t see why this situation is different aside from people feeling more comfortable making moral judgments about drinking.

                5. serenity*

                  @ LBK

                  Ok, I think your definition of “work” is what I’m pushing back on. From your other comments and here, it feels like you’re saying “deliverables are all that matter at work, and if people are hungover or whatever that’s secondary as it doesn’t seem to be impacting their ‘work'”.

                  For me, “work” means completing deliverables as well as maintaining decorum and being professional, working well with and being considerate of colleagues, being punctual and also reliable, a consistent level of honesty and integrity, and on and on. “Work” isn’t just completing a sales goal or submitting a deliverable, and end of story. It’s a much more nuanced and complex series of behaviors, achievements, outcomes, decisions, and judgments exhibited by any given employee. If someone (or more than one person) is continually showing up to work hungover (mild or more severe examples being inability to focus, tiredness, lowered productivity, increased moodiness or irritability, or whatever), then it’s absolutely okay for a manager to address those behaviors and it’s not about legislating an employee’s personal or social life.

                6. serenity*


                  That’s fine, but your input was that being hungover often doesn’t affect (or you think it doesn’t affect) your work output. That doesn’t mean that’s the case for everyone, and in this situation OP is concerned that there is in fact a work impact. And no one is saying that she should tell the workers “Hey, stop drinking” – as I’ve said multiple times now, the work impact is what the manager could and should be addressing.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I think the concern for me would be frequency more than the impact of that specific day. As a teacher, I can get away with “Hey students! It’s movie day! Write down three things that you learned!” a few times a year (due to feeling under the weather – the kids _will_ notice if you’re hungover) but if I was doing that weekly I would never make it through the curriculum and my class would be an absolute zoo.

  14. Angie G.*

    I don’t think this is okay at all. I do drink and I will limit myself to 3 drinks max on a weekday. Coming to work hungover is unprofessional, usually the culprit will wake up 5 minutes before the have to leave, half ass a shower or possibly not shower, throw on some clothes that might be wrinkly or not even clean, etc. Hungover people are gross (and I do say this about myself when I’m hungover!). Even if you’re not client facing, you want to appear professional and put together. Drinking enough to have a hangover at work once a week is not either of those.

  15. NW Mossy*

    OP, your comments about you being a non-drinker yourself have me wondering if you’re expecting pushback on your stance on the grounds that your non-drinking status undermines your credibility/reasoning for pushing back.

    Here’s the thing: that kind of argument from your employees boils down to them making a case for why they should be allowed to be hung over at work with no negative consequences other than the headache that’s aggravated by the fluorescent lights. You do not need to entertain arguments that are this patently ridiculous.

    If you get the defensive it’s-no-big-deal-you’re-such-a-square reaction, it’s entirely reasonable for you to say “It sounds to me as though you’re arguing that being hung over at work is a professional and appropriate thing to do. It isn’t. Your drinking is your own business, but when it shows up as you not being able to give your work your full focus and attention, it’s the business’s problem. Do what you need to do to ensure that you can show up clear-headed and able to give your best effort.”

    1. Cassandra*

      Good catch and good advice. I missed this implication — but yes, I can definitely see where “oh you uptight puritan you!” would be a concern for OP.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, some people really do get defensive about drinking when discussing alcohol with a non-drinker. And that’s even when their own relationship with alcohol is perfectly healthy! It’s good for the OP to strategize how to head that off at the pass.

      2. Wintermute*

        Maybe I’m from the old-school or just have had authoritarian bosses but if I dared to make an ad hominem attack like “oh you only feel this way because *insert boss’ personal attribute here* you’re just a puritanical tyrant!” the response I’d expect would be “Yes, I am, but I am also the puritanical tyrant who signs your checks, don’t be hung over again.”

    2. my two cents*

      My coworkers routinely will go out during the week, either with traveling sales guys in the office or just meeting up with each other. I don’t give two sneezes what they do in the off-time. I *do* care that they are able to coherently answer questions, make eye contact, and stand upright without heaving – the same level of ready-to-engage that I would expect out of a co-worker being deemed “well”(staying in office with sniffles) vs “sick” (and taking PTO and going home).

      If your hangover is making you less-useful than a coworker with a head cold, go home, suck it up and eat the PTO, and stay out of everyone else’s way.

      1. Safetykats*

        Yes! You don’t have to be drunk to be unfit for duty. If you’re sick enough for it to affect your work, you shouldn’t be expecting to come in and get paid. It’s entirely possible that if you start just sending people home and making them take PTO when they are unable to perform, some of this problem will solve itself. (For the cases where it doesn’t, at least you won’t have to wonder whether those folks are alcoholics anymore.)

    3. SignalLost*

      I agree with you. Another way to frame it is “would it be acceptable for your employees to show up at work in their club clothing they put on the night before?” That wouldn’t fly in most offices (I’m sure five people will point out they work in industries where that’s fine) so the issue is not “I don’t drink and am worried that’s coloring my credibility,” it’s “this is categorically unprofessional regardless of whether I do it or not and I can enforce expectations my team will comport themselves professionally at work.”

  16. Sara without an H*

    If you’re hungover enough to be noticed, it’s not good. OP, Allison’s script is pretty good — you need to put them on notice, for their own sakes, as well as yours.

  17. JBpuffinstuff*

    Hungover at work – hard no. My company does a lot of open bar events and the culture is such that no one admits to being hungover or shows signs. If someone is ruined enough to show it, they might even still be drunk, and should call out sick, IMO. All the more reason not to drink to that extent, and for the company culture to not normalize being hungover.

    Low sugar mocktails: diet tonic or club soda with a splash of juice. Fancy places will offer muddles of fruit or herbs like mint or basil topped with club soda or water. My go to for looking like I am drinking along and not consuming a ton of carbs.

    1. Lumen*

      A former coworker of mine had to spend a lot of her time around hard-drinking oil exec types. She was in marketing and sales, and they were often rather… douchey, to be blunt. So if she wanted to, say, take care of her own health and adhere to her own limits, they’d get offended, or make fun of her, etc. Since her job depended on good relationships with these people, she resorted to taking waitstaff aside at these meetings and asking them to interpret her request for “another gin + tonic” as “another glass of soda water with lime.”

      I was horrified when she told me this, because she felt like she had to lie (and get others to lie with her) just to do her job. I wanted her to talk to our bosses about who they were sending her to do business with, but she insisted it was no big deal. And frankly, given our bosses at the time, I don’t think they would have thought it was a big deal, either (one of them would regularly hand out beers at 2pm on Fridays).

      So no. It’s not okay for offices, or entire industries, to allow and encourage an atmosphere that requires drinking, or a culture that relies on alcohol to the point that people hesitate to even mention that they don’t want to (or can’t) drink.

      1. my two cents*

        I’ve done that!!! At OldJob, the field team members were notably heavy partiers.
        I’d excuse myself to the restroom, and then find our waiter/waitress/bartender and tell them what’s up… My favorite instance of this working to my favor – had done 1 round with ‘the boyz’, but had subbed seltzer for energy drink which made mine very obvious. Old guys seem to believe ‘no carbs’ over ‘don’t want to drink’, for some reason. Afterwards, I had stopped the cocktail waitress and asked that they sub water for the booze – that I didn’t care if they charged them for it, I just wanted water+seltzer. At least 5 rounds later, I looked like a CHAMP and the rest of them team piled themselves into their cab for their sad cab ride back to their hotel.

      2. Cochrane*

        A friend of mine clued me in on “the stripper trick”; how the dancer at the club hanging out with the guys is keeping up with them drink for drink and stays sober as a judge throughout. Get a beer in a dark bottle and drink it down nearly to the end. When you take the shot, you surreptitiously spit it back into the beer bottle when you go for the “chaser”. With a little practice, it looks natural.

  18. Antilles*

    In an office situation in the US, yeah, this is pretty weird. There are industries where it’s commonly accepted that people might be a little hung over – restaurants (extremely common), retail, and construction. And there might be situations where even conservative companies sort of let it go (e.g., conferences or major once-a-year level networking events).
    But not in an office setting and definitely not on a weekly basis.

    1. Naomi*

      I’m alarmed by the inclusion of construction in that list. They’re operating heavy machinery! That’s a scenario where someone actually could get hurt if an employee comes to work impaired.

      1. SilverRadicand*

        I was going to say that I believe that construction workers who are hungover would generally do tasks other than actually operating heavy machinery (so, hold the “Slow” sign, dig the holes, that sort of stuff), but I realize I don’t actually know why I think that is the case.

    2. Tableau Wizard*

      Am I crazy that I assumed it would be especially NOT OKAY to be hungover and work construction? You’re dealing with heavy machinery and building things that need to be structurally sound. Is it true that it’s commonly accepted?

      1. Antilles*

        Sadly yes. On the job random drug and alcohol testing are common…but mildly hungover is often overlooked –
        especially if it’s more along the lines of “headache, aspirin and water” and not something like OP describes with sweating, slumping, etc.
        It’s gotten rarer over time, but it’s still more common than it really should be given the risks and danger involved.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        Kinda depends on what your actual job is, but unfortunately it does happen.

        1. BF50*

          Yep. I don’t think it’s tolerated for the crane operators, but yes, this is my understanding as well. If you aren’t operating a crane, pretty much, mildly to moderately hungover is overlooked.

    3. Ainomiaka*

      This is mostly what I was thinking. If it’s literally their job to go schmooze/drink with customers or donors, I’d treat it as managing work risks. If it was something like once a year after a major work event I’d probably look the other way as a cost/benefit analysis. But neither of those sound like what is going on.

  19. Amber Rose*

    I don’t understand why anyone wants to do this. I did it once, when I was an inexperienced new drinker invited to an after work party, and I was so miserable the next day I thought I would actually keel over and that would be OK because I would stop suffering. From a more objective perspective, I know that my job performance sucked that day. I looked like a jerk in front of all the customers I’m sure, and there were mistakes that needed to be fixed later, and I was moving so slow it was like I was in molasses.

    It’s reasonable to expect that people who are being paid to do work are not impaired. Being hungover is impaired. Lay down the law.

  20. stitchinthyme*

    “Added to this is that I’m a teetotaler and have been for over a decade, and I worry that I’ll be seen a prudish or judgemental, which I’m not; I just can’t drink for medical reasons.”

    Pet peeve of mine: people assuming that just because someone doesn’t drink, it automatically means they’re judgmental about people who do.

    I happen to have a very strong sensitivity to the taste of any alcohol, to the point where it literally makes me gag if I try to drink any. Despite having been told it’s an acquired taste, I decided a long time ago that I did not care to put myself through the torture it would take to acquire it. (A family history of alcoholism contributed to this decision, but I’d probably drink socially if I could tolerate it.)

    However, I really don’t care if other people drink. I do have alcohol at parties I give at my house (though I usually encourage my guests to bring it, as I have zero idea what people like to drink at parties — but none of my friends are hard drinkers, so beer and wine are usually about the extent of it). I resent the implication that my decision not to drink has anything to do with anyone else’s choice to drink.

    Back in college, I had a boyfriend who chastised me for telling his parents I didn’t drink when they offered me wine — he seemed to think they’d take it as a judgment, while I just figured it would forestall further offers during our week-long visit. I still don’t get that attitude at all. I guess it’s similar to omnivores taking it as a judgment when people tell them they’re vegetarians. (I eat meat, and and when someone tells me they don’t, which is usually in the context of me giving a party, I generally just try to make sure there’s something they can eat.)

    So seriously, why is “I don’t drink” so often seen as some kind of repudiation of people who do? As long as you’re not puking on my floor or endangering other people, knock yourself out as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Amber Rose*

      There is a large-ish subset of religious or otherwise extremist folk for whom “I don’t drink” IS a judgement. I knew a couple of otherwise nice people who would become pretty awful when alcohol was even mentioned because of their religion. Once at a party they told me they didn’t drink, and when I told them there was plenty of juice and water available, became quite upset.

      When you encounter enough of that kind of thing, you start to get a bit defensive as soon as you hear “I don’t drink” before you even get to the reason, or maybe you really don’t want to hear the reason in case it’s a lecture. Not that I’m saying that’s OK, just that’s probably where it’s coming from.

      I couldn’t drink for a while due to a medical condition, and the line I used was “alcohol and I don’t get along” just because it implies medical instead of religion and people’s hackles don’t get up as much.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        Oh, I tend to get defensive, too, and explain why I don’t drink when the subject comes up. I just resent feeling like I have to do that. The exchange SHOULD go more like this: [host offers alcohol] “Thanks, but I don’t drink.” “Oh, well, there’s juice and water instead.” “Thank you.” Period. (Or even just a simple “No, thanks” with no elaboration.) Because there are several reasons why someone might not drink that don’t involve religion, including taste issues like I have, recovering from alcoholism, or even just having an alcoholic parent or relative and being cautious about repeating the cycle.

        But instead, I usually say some variant of, “Thanks, but I really can’t tolerate the taste of alcohol.” That usually tends to head off the people who think my not drinking is somehow a judgment on them.

        Thankfully, I’ve known most of my friends for years, so they know me well enough by now to know why I don’t drink and that I don’t care if other people do. (By some miracle, I also managed to marry someone who has a similar aversion to the taste of alcohol, so it helps that we’re both that way.)

        Anyway, I think it’s more than just the assumption of judgment. I have heard of people who get actively offended when someone at a party doesn’t drink. There are lots of stories of people getting a glass of soda or something that *looks* alcoholic just to fend off people who see someone without a drink and act like their mere presence is a buzz-killer. It’s always pissed me off that in some circles just not drinking — even if you don’t call attention to that fact — is apparently offensive. (Not in any friend groups I’ve ever been in; but then I wouldn’t consider people like that my friends.)

        1. Amber Rose*

          Oh, yeah, there’s the opposite too. For every uptight person who can’t even be in the same room as alcohol without throwing a fit, there’s the other end of the spectrum, a person who throws a fit if there’s even one person in the room who won’t drink. Then everyone in the room is defensive, which is great fun. :/

          It’s a symptom of the larger “can’t mind their own business” problem that people suffer from.

        2. Oranges*

          I think there are two main causes of this. The judgement-y people who warp “I don’t drink” into “I don’t drink and you are a horrible person for doing so” which has been covered.

          But there are people who are… worried… about the amount they consume. They want to normalize their consumption since then they won’t have a problem. These people lean on you because your not drinking makes them feel scared.

          Also, this behavior can be picked up on by people who don’t have a problem but have been socialized that the correct thing to do when someone doesn’t drink is to pressure them. I’m saying this as a Minnesotan who’s culture is very subtext dependent (the asking three times just to make sure your guests don’t want things, the not wanting to take the last of an item– EVEN in retail stores — to prefacing everything with “could you” and “maybe”).

          1. stitchinthyme*

            Hmm, this actually sounds similar to the comment I made below about how I used to be defensive about eating meat when I’d encounter a vegetarian/vegan — my attitude stemmed mostly from guilt because I *do* think that how we treat animals raised for consumption is completely horrible and wrong. Once I realized that, I was able to drop the defensiveness. But that required owning the fact that I *am* contributing to a practice I find reprehensible (although I do make an effort now to buy my meat from places that treat animals humanely). And that’s not an easy thing to do.

        3. Annie Moose*

          Ah, my favorite conversation.

          “Do you want [insert alcoholic drink here]?”
          “Oh, no thanks, I don’t drink.”
          *exaggerated startle reaction* “Whaaa-a-a-a-a-t? What do you mean? Do you not drink at all?
          “No, not really.”
          “Why not???”
          “I don’t really like to drink.”
          *leans in conspiratorially* “But you have drunk before, right?”
          “Mmhmm.” (this is 95% a lie–I’ve really only ever had wine and a bit of a friend’s mead once–but you learn quick to never admit this)
          “But you don’t drink?? Why don’t you drink??? Do you have a medical problem?”
          “No, I just don’t like to drink.”
          “So why don’t you drink??”
          *continue until I get really really tired of repeating myself and make up an excuse to escape*

          “Wow, you don’t drink? You’re so good. I wish I could do that.”

          uhhhhhh have you tried stopping buying alcohol? It’s actually really easy to not drink alcohol when you’re ordering drinks at a restaurant, for example. You just… ask the waiter for something other than alcohol, and then they bring you a drink that doesn’t have alcohol in it. Very straightforward.

          1. REd 5*

            This sounds like a version of the conversation I get whenever I tell people I can’t have anything caffeinated. “But, how do you survive?” “I wouldn’t be functional without my six cups of coffee a day!” etc. etc. etc.

            It actually really creeps me out at this point.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        This was so mystifying for me when I went off to college. I don’t drink, for religious purposes; since my faith has a lot of strongly encouraged guidelines that we would never expect people not of our church to follow, when I said “oh, my religion doesn’t allow it” I always felt my own subtext was ‘this is a rule I follow that you don’t, it only applies to me’ and it weirded me out so much when people would immediately launch into defensive tirades about alcohol.

        It stinks that some people are so crappy about it.

      3. LA*

        This. People get so weird about whether someone does or doesn’t drink alcohol, and said availability of alcohol on both sides of it. Due to medical reasons, my husband has to avoid alcohol, even though he enjoys it. His script has become “I can’t drink,” because it helps stave off some of the people who would otherwise interpret “I don’t drink” as implying judgement. On the flipside, on not one, but two separate occasions, I’ve had different teetotaling friends go off on me because I had exactly one glass of champagne or wine at a party (with a meal, and water the rest of the time) and wanted to drive home a couple hours later, because they have zero understanding of how much different amounts affect someone or how long a drink takes to wear off. I had a coworker have a shitfit about going to an evening work event because there was going to be wine available (along with many other non-alcoholic drinks!), because she “just doesn’t want to be seen as someone who approves of that.”

        I straight up do not care if someone wants to drink or not drink–it just isn’t my business, and there are so many reasons why people can’t drink, but there are a lot of non-drinkers who make it just as much a problem as some of the drinkers can make it for non-drinkers. If people could just let people drink or not drink what they want without it having to be some kind of referendum on drinking as a whole, it would be nice…but alas.

        At least we can all agree showing up to work visibly hung over is Not Good.

        1. Salamander*

          Yesss. I had to let a couple of friendships go because the friends were very, very pushy about alcohol…like public-shaming kind of behavior. And these friends were in their thirties and forties! I drink, but not when I’m taking migraine medications or when I’m driving. Alcohol interacts a little unpredictably with some of my medications; the effect can be magnified. I’d rather be hosting a party at home or having a ride home when I drink than run into issues.

          I honestly don’t care whether other people drink or not. What other people put into their bodies is generally none of my business, and I wish people would extend the same courtesy to me, as well.

          And, yeah, showing up to work hung over is not a good thing.

      4. Turtle Candle*

        I do remember a long period of time where every party I threw, a “Would you like something to drink? We have coke, diet coke, root beer, chardonnay, or Guinness?” would result in at least one person replying with “Oh, I don’t need alcohol to have fun.” Usually while I was standing there with my wine glass in hand. Dude, it was an offer, not an invitation for a snide put-down. I would not stare at your plate of nachos and announce that I don’t need carbs to have fun.

        Not that the alternative doesn’t happen too! But I think it’s probably true that both drinkers and non-drinkers have had their share of kneejerk judgments and pressure, and are prickly thereby, and probably everyone could do with some deep breaths.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Anecdotally, I have encountered far more people pre-emptively lashing out at theoretical lecturing vegans, than I have actual lecturing vegans. Same with people who get immediately and lengthily defensive at a “No thanks” to their offer of a slice of cake, or beer, or diet soda.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, me too. Way more prevalent with vegetarianism/veganism than alcohol, even. There’s so many jokes about how you’ll know a vegan because they’ll never shut up about it but I’ve never encountered that, and I’ve seen way more people get shit for not eating bacon than for the reverse.

        People are very weird about food.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          I used to get defensive in the past when someone would tell me they were vegetarian/vegan. Eventually I figured out that it was because deep down, I *do* have a lot of problems with how food animals are treated — the factory farms, horrible living conditions, inhumane treatment, and so on, so my defensiveness really stemmed from guilt over my contribution to the problem (since after all, if no one wanted to eat meat, it wouldn’t be an issue). Since I am not willing to go vegetarian myself, my compromise in this dilemma has been to try and buy meat from sources that treat the animals humanely while they’re alive, and try not to inflict too much pain when they’re killed. But anyway, recognizing the reason for my own defensiveness has helped me to drop that attitude and just take it at face value when someone tells me they don’t eat meat. (And, of course, try to accommodate them if I’m having a party.)

          However, I can’t see how this would apply to judgments about drinking, since it doesn’t involve living creatures being killed. I guess that’s more a religion thing.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Alcohol is an addiction/indulgence thing. For one thing, it’s expensive. I used to get a bit defensive about buying alcohol because quite frankly, there are other things I should be spending money on.

            Some people are worried about having or being seen to have a drinking problem.

            Other people may have been close to someone who had a drinking problem and now have fear or other negative feelings around seeing people drink.

        2. Snark*

          I think there was a weird little snap of “won’t shut up about how meat is murder” when vegan got mainstream enough to be visible, but I concur, vegans get a lot more crap for it lately than they dish out.

          One time, I mentioned at work that I was having some friends over for dinner, and a coworker went off on a rant about how unreasonable it was for them to expect me to cook for them. I waited until he took a breath and then calmly interjected, “It’s not a problem at all, I love cooking vegetables and a vegan meal is a fun challenge for me.”

          1. Turtle Candle*

            My personal theory is that, oh, around 10-15% of people are SUPER OBNOXIOUS about their diet, regardless of what that diet is. Omnivores who make fun of vegetarians, paleo people who feel superior to everyone, sugar-kills people, aspartame-kills-worse people, do-you-know-how-much-fat-is-in-that? people, “meat is murder” people, internal fights between vegans about whether X is really vegan or not because Y, raw foodies, you-will-grow-more-hair-and-get-a-promotion-if-you-eat-bee-pollen-and/or-fermented-beets people, processed-foods-are-the-literal-devil-no-really-he-will-arise-from-a-pentagram-made-of-Pringles-and-destroy-us-all people, people who cut all their vegetables on a 45 degree angle to preserve nutrients, etc.

            The difference is that there are many more standard diet omnivores than any of the rest of the bunch, so vegetarians/vegans run into the obnoxious 10% of that community a LOT more than the rest of us run into obnoxious people from any other community. But communities consisting entirely of vegans/vegetarians still have their 10% that create those same obnoxious fights; they’re just a smaller number overall because it’s 10% of a smaller population.

            I think, anyway.

          2. Amber Rose*

            I wish I loved cooking vegetables. I’m so bad at it. :(
            Still, as long as nobody is expecting to have their minds blown by an elaborate dish, even I can make a basic, decent meal without animal products.

    3. Been there*

      I always wondered why people who don’t drink need to say the words “I don’t drink” I’m not picking on you but wonder if you in the case of the boyfriend’s parent’s glass of wine you didn’t say “No thank you, but I would love a glass of water or a pop/cup of tea/whatever” instead of “I don’t drink”

      There’s nothing wrong with not drinking, and most people* don’t care what others are or aren’t drinking. Using the phrase is jarring to me. To be fair I think it’s just as jarring when you offer someone coffee and they say “I don’t drink coffee”. I think it’s mostly because the statement is abrupt and there isn’t a natural flow to the alternatives.

      I’m sure there’s a reason, it’s just not one that I’ve ever figured out.

      *There are always the good time charlies of the world that will make a big deal, but they aren’t all that common, are they?

      Back to the LW, It doesn’t matter if they drink or not. They are well within their rights to not want hungover employees. I think the standard script of “what you do on your own time is your business, but when your off hour activities affect your work then it’s a problem, we’d be having this same conversation if you were coming in several times a week unable to use your keyboard due to your overzealous weekend knitting, tired and cranky from your midnight gardening sessions, or hungover because of your extended happy hours.”

      1. stitchinthyme*

        I will sometimes say that I don’t drink just because it should forestall future offers of alcohol, same way I might say, “I don’t like orange juice” if someone offers it to me — saves them the hassle of offering it to me in the future.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Because people don’t usually get the point and stop offering alcoholic drinks until you actually say “I don’t drink”. They’ll ask you stuff like what your favorite drink is, or what kind of beer you like, or tell you about this hot new microbrewery down the street!, or try to get you to try this drink or that one, or whatever, and it’s just like, dude. I don’t drink. I don’t have an answer to any of these questions, and I’m not going to try any of those drinks, no matter how many of them you offer me. Let’s save all of us some time and awkwardness up front.

        It’s kind of like if you’re offering a vegetarian chicken, and the vegetarian sees you also have beef and lamb and pulled pork, and the vegetarian tries to head you off by going, “oh, no, I don’t want chicken, just some vegetables”, and then you’re like “oh, well, how about this nice beef?” and the vegetarian says (again) “I just want those nice vegetables down there, they look really great”, and then you go “but I have this great lamb here, it’s got mint, this lovely sauce, you’ll love it”, and the vegetarian is like “please, I just want the vegetables, can you get me some vegetables please”, and you’re like “oh but we also have this pulled pork, would you like to try some?” and the vegetarian goes “seriously, just give me some vegetables, that’s all I want” and you’re like “oh, but the pulled pork is really really good! Here, do you want to try some? Just try a little bit, it’s super good, you’ll love it”, and the poor vegetarian is still just trying to get their vegetables.

        Or the vegetarian can save everyone some time and be like “oh, no thanks, I don’t do meat, but those veggies look really good” and skip the whole rigmarole.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Agree, I think in most cases saying “I don’t drink” is simply like saying “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian.” You just assume good faith on the other person that they’re offering you any type of drink of your choice. In my experience it’s not necessarily because people will keep pushing alcohol on you if you don’t declare it. However there are also a bunch of cases when someone starts with water and then will have wine or beer later or something like that so I think that might be a reason that the extra clarification might be warranted. Although often when people are doing that they’ll say something like “I think I’ll start with just water but will probably have a glass of wine later” or something like that.

          I think it’s polite to also offer guests either nonalcoholic or alcoholic beverage in the same breath – like “would you like something to drink, I have water, seltzer, ginger ale, a couple kinds of beer, some white wine, or tea?” is something I would normally say to a guest if I were just offering in general.

      3. Susanne*

        I agree with you, Beenthere. I rarely drink – not because of medication/medical condition/alcoholic parent/alcoholic past/religious objections — but because I just generally don’t care for the taste and it’s not worth the calories to me except on very rare occasions. But if someone offers me alcohol, I’ll just say “no thanks, but I’d love a Diet Coke (or lemonade, or iced tea, or sparkling water, or whatever).” It’s just not necessary to the conversation that they know that I don’t drink.

        Just like if someone offers me pie (which I don’t like!), I don’t need to say “I don’t eat pie.” I can just say “no thanks, I’d prefer the cake (or the ice cream, or the strawberries, or I just don’t want any dessert but thanks anyway). ” There’s no reason this has to be difficult. People who don’t want to drink alcohol shouldn’t be quizzed on it, but neither is it necessary for them to feel they need an “excuse” or reason.

        You drink what you like and I’ll drink what I like and that’s the end of it.

        1. ggg*


          Sometimes I do not feel like drinking, and usually, “No thank you, I’m driving” is a good enough excuse. There’s always that one jerk in a hundred who will argue with you, though.

        2. Bagpuss*

          I agree absolutely that you should get to drink or eat what you like without pressure.

          I can also the benefits of saying you that you don’t eat pie, rather than simply turning down the particular kind of pie, that you’re offered. Not least because if someone know you don’t like pie they know not offer it to you again, whereas if you simply ask for cake, this time, they won’t (hopefully!) try to force pie on you, but may offer it to you again later, as you might have changed your mind. Or maybe it’s just that chocolate cake is better than apple pie, but strawberry pie would be tempting..

          Or might offer you white wine instead of red, or apple pie instead of strawberry, because they don’t know if you might like those varieties.

          None of which means you have to tell anyone that you don’t like pie, but equally, what you see as being quizzed may in some cases someone trying to be a good host and find what you would enjoy, so they can give it to you, or get it in for next time you visit.

      4. REd 5*

        A podcast I was listening to recently was talking about a situation where a person had a friend who didn’t drink, took them to hang out with other friends, and didn’t tell anybody that her friend didn’t drink. Other friends made an assumption, poured alcohol in the friend’s soda, and served it to her without telling her it had any alcohol in it.

        The fact that people like that exist is why people who don’t drink think it’s easiest to just put a simple stop to any and all parts of the conversation that could happen next by making a blanket statement. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve simply said no thank you to a drink and been offered a different alcohol. Sometimes even after I’ve said “I’d like water” or something like that. And sometimes the people mean well, they’re trying to be good hosts, etc. But a large percentage of the world really can just be that pushy and it does get that annoying that most people through experience have learned to just shut it down. It also keeps you from having to answer the question at every single outing.

        Plus there’s the added fact that in a lot of situations, you don’t actually know if the person you’re talking to is a pushy drinker or not. Why chance it by waiting to see if they take your polite no thanks if you’re not in the mood for the rest of the conversation? If they’re pushy, it’ll be coming anyway, if they’re not, then you’re done and can move on to enjoying your juice.

        1. Basically Useless*

          I’m a lifelong non-drinker because that alcohol aftertaste is extremely nasty in my view. I’ve been to parties where people who know I don’t drink (and I don’t make a big deal about it) have actively tried to give me spiked drinks. When they were called on it they just giggled.

          1. Red 5*

            People are such jerks so often. In the podcast situation, it got even worse because the person who poured the alcohol got super defensive and rude about it when they were called on serving somebody alcohol without asking, like it was the non-drinker’s fault for not drinking.

            I’ve heard of people joking about intentionally sneaky food people don’t eat into their meals too, and whenever anybody says that I am always appalled and they never understand why.

    4. Wintermute*

      of the group “people that don’t drink” a very large subset is either “former alcoholics” or “the very religious” and of those two subsets a large number of them are very judgmental about drinking. If someone tells you they don’t drink in my experience you can expect more often than not they will judge you if you do drink.

  21. Helpful*

    This is a really big deal, and I’m afraid you aren’t able to see that clearly because of your concerns about how you’ll be perceived. I’m glad you wrote in and hope you will be confident about dealing with this. It’s not appropriate, especially at the frequency you’re describing. Please send in an update.

  22. Justin*

    We had a culture at my last job to go fairly hard at the office party.

    We did not come to work if we were hungover the next day.

    I once or twice came in a little wobbly, but I most assuredly would never come in if I were “sweaty and slumped.”

    I get that you’re worried about being judged, but it’s they who are eliciting judgment. Come down on them accordingly.

    1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      Yeah, this is my opinion too. I work at a pretty hard-drinking office, and even then it’s maybe once a month that someone in my large office is clearly hungover. And even then it’s on the level of “Person was fine after a couple Advil,” not “Person’s productivity was shot for the entire day.”

    2. cncx*

      yes, i work in a place where there is an “alcohol culture” and frequent after work networking events with booze, and while people have come in late or a little wobbly from work events…hungover is a hard no if it happens more than say, once a year (and we do have people who come in roughly once a year worse for wear).

      What bothers me with OP’s team is more the frequency of the hangovers…weekly is way too much, even at my reasonably alcohol-permissive office.

  23. Akcipitrokulo*

    It’s not about the booze. I once said “just one more…” a few too many times when Netflix queued up the next episode and was NOT at my best the next day at work. I don’t know if boss noticed (I tried to keep up!) and it was a one-off a while ago… but if I were doing it regularly? I’d expect to be on receiving end of a chat.

    It’s not what you are doing that’s affecting your productivity – it’s the effect on the productivity.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I was thinking about other situations where this would apply, too. Good example. All night gamers would be similar.

      I was actually thinking about people who overdo their workouts. I’m personally used to it now, but when you start a new workout routine at 5 am and destroy your quads, it’s hard to be on point at work.

    2. Kiki*

      >I once said “just one more…” a few too many times when Netflix queued up the next episode

      Stranger Things 2 did this to me. I sat down with the intention to watch 2 episodes and ended up marathoning the entire season. The next day was a bit rough, but I powered through! And if people noticed I looked sleepy then they were kind enough not to mention it.

    3. Amber Rose*

      “One more chapter. OK, one MORE chapter. I mean, I’m almost done the book, I might as well just finish it. Oh god, why is it midnight, I have to be up in a few hours!”

      – Me, through most of my teen years.

      1. SarahKay*

        Oh, me too. Vivid recollections of Dad looking at the bags under my eyes and telling me he was going to take away my torch and bedside light if I kept reading so late.

    4. SignalLost*

      I think it’s always important to consider whether an unwanted behavior is occasional or habitual. I wasn’t at my best when I had to work two days after putting my cat to sleep, and my manager understood I wasn’t routinely staying up all night. (I don’t mean to suggest there are people who habitually put cats to sleep, but an exceptional circumstance should be handled as such. What OP is describing is clearly not exceptional.)

    5. Roscoe*

      I agree with this. The reason why doesn’t matter (although I think some people may argue that). If they really are less productive, its fair to bring it up. Bringing up the reason for their lack of productivity isn’t the point.

  24. rosiebyanyothername*

    An important piece of advice I got from a lot of adultier adults as I was headed into the workforce is that everyone remembers the drunk/hungover employee, and rarely in a good way. I’m petite and always limit myself to one nursed beer per company happy hour. Even two can make me a little too tipsy.

    1. Allison*

      In general, being significantly more drunk or hungover than everyone else around you is going to draw negative attention to yourself.

  25. Lumen*

    This really should go on any list Allison might be keeping of “workplaces that warped your view of what was and was not acceptable professional behavior”.

    It’s regularly amazing to me how ingrained it is in so many of us to not be a buzzkill, not be a ‘scold’, not be naggy, not disturb anyone’s fun (no matter how inappropriate or outright criminal), that we question our own good sense. I really feel for you, OP! And I’m glad you wrote to AaM.

    Once or twice in a great long while for any employee is forgivable, but regularly coming in hungover (and bragging about it, which should be shocking but I’ve also worked in those offices where it is ‘part of the culture’) is a problem. And even if no one is currently struggling with addiction, there is no guarantee that won’t develop as time goes on… and if it is seen as normal, then it’s a danger zone. It’s not scoldy or naggy or out of line for you to not want you workplace or team to become an enabling, unhealthy environment.

  26. mAd Woman*

    I’ve definitely worked in ad agencies with this culture… Normalizing being super drunk at work events (I’ve seen co-workers pass out and throw up), coming in hungover and others seeing it as a badge of honor to “survive” a party. In one case, the VP even joked about the DUIs received on the way home from work events. It’s a pretty gross environment.

    It definitely affects work, even if they aren’t dealing with life changing circumstances like bus driving or medical care. No one is doing their best work hungover. No one is pleasant to deal with if they are visibly suffering and sweaty from hangovers. Absolutely push back on the professionalism if they try to cite your abstinence as a reason to disregard your orders.

  27. Not Today Satan*

    I get hung over easily. Even if I don’t get properly drunk, I can feel like absolute crap the next day. (I possibly have some sort of allergy, but idk.) As a result of this I a) drink a lot less than I would if I didn’t get hung over so I can avoid the problem in the first place b) call out sick on the very rare occasions (i.e., once a year) that I feel too sick to work or c) drink coffee, take Advil, have a big breakfast, and put my best cheery face on. I never let coworkers (let alone boss) know that I’m hung over, and we have a pretty casual/close relationship.

    1. puzzld*

      Me too. I can start to feel “hung over” before I finish my first drink. Thanks but no alcohol for me. I don’t care if others drink, but I don’t enjoy spending time with people who are drunk, so I’ll slip away if the party gets too lively for my taste. I’m lucky to work in a place that NEVER has an open bar at work. Nothing intoxicating allowed at any function on campus, and spirits are disapproved of at off campus events too. Makes it really easy be a non drinker. We have on occasion had staff/students come at less than their best. I’ll usually ignore it once, but if it seems to become a pattern we have a chat “I don’t know or care what you did last night, but when you get to work, you need to be ready to work…”

  28. boop the first*

    It’s really unfortunate that current (or at least recent past) culture dictates that binge drinking is just so “cool”. That it’s an all or nothing thing. I feel like a Fancy Adult when I have a drink. A glass of wine feels special somehow. Emphasis on “a drink” and “a glass”.

    It’s so easy for me to say no to binge drinking, since wine immediately messes me up (half a glass makes me dizzy and flush), and cocktails are too sweet in multiples. I’m sure it’s way harder for some others, for some reason that’s beyond me. But still. Everyone knows about the drinking water “trick” by adulthood. Rehydrate! Don’t make morning illness a Future You (and everyone else) problem.

  29. Anonnnymouse*

    I agree with the advice but I also don’t.

    Does this need to be addressed? Absolutely. Do I think that you should pull aside the next guilty victim? No. If everyone is at fault then I think it should be addressed with everyone otherwise you’re going to look like you’re singling that person out (and thus it doesn’t apply to the rest of the group), or that you’re just having an “off” day.

    I would send out an email to the effect of “It’s come to my attention that some employees are arriving at work hungover. While your are welcome to do whatever in your free time, I expect you to be productive and present while you’re here etc.”

    1. Allison*

      Agreed. Best to warn everyone you’ll no longer be tolerating it, and then deal with it on an individual basis if/when it continues.

      1. Bostonian*

        That’s what I was thinking. This might be one of the few cases in which talking to *everybody* at once makes sense because everybody is the culprit. If it continues after that, then you take that person aside and ask what’s up.

        If you go straight to taking aside the next person who does it, not only does it seem like singling out 1 person for something everyone does, but that also means you have to wait until every single person does it again to get the message to everyone.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Definitely. Address an observation you’ve made in a non-person-specific way first… if it’s been tolerated for a long time, it’s only fair to give warning.

    3. Anna Held*

      That was my thought too. Also, I’d check the employee handbook for guidance, and, if you think it’ll be helpful, speak with your boss. Treat this as a department-wide crackdown on unprofessional behavior instead of focusing on one or two persons’ drinking.

    4. LCL*

      Yeah, the being so hung over you are slumped over the desk is oftentimes drama as much as actually feeling sick. Talking about and displaying how hung over you are was what the cool kids did when I was in junior high school. (Hey, it was grade 7-9, and the 70’s, times were different.) I wouldn’t send an email, but I would tell everybody that it is unprofessional and stop it. And start greeting everybody with a loud, hearty, cheerful greeting and ask them how they are feeling. And don’t hesitate to manage for performance.

      You want to make sure you aren’t trying to diagnose anything then using it as a basis for discipline, because unless you have training in this area you aren’t qualified. I believe what you post, but that is way different than being provable, and other medical issues can make one pale, sweaty, off balance and cause digestive symptoms.

  30. Laura*

    Not a manager but yea no this isn’t ok.

    I have a hard limit of one beverage ANYWHERE. The one time I had two and had to do something after was enough to convince me of that.

    I can’t imagine even entertaining the thought of going into work even mildly impaired.

  31. Thlayli*

    Hi OP I come from a culture that drinks a lot and work in an industry where drinking is considered acceptable and expected (it’s a pretty macho industry). I understand where you are coming from and also where your team are coming from. I amnt actually that good at handling my drink so I used to just not drink at work events at all.
    However I had a mentor once who advised me (just advice not instruction) that it would be useful to my career to learn how to to “work drink”. He suggested I stick to two drinks. That fulfils both expectations of drinking and also keeps you from getting too drunk. I was not offended by this advice as I understood what he was saying – in our industry/culture not drinking at all is far more unusual than getting too drunk, but getting really drunk would hold you back. I took his advice in the spirit it was meant and since then I try to drink “work appropriately” rather than having none at all or too much. Maybe try introducing your team to the concept of “work drinking” as opposed to the all or nothing attitude they seem to have at the moment.

    1. Observer*

      In this context, I think it would be a mistake. At this point, there is a work behavior problem which needs to be addressed and the OP’s focus needs to be on that. Any attempt on his part to manage staff’s drinking is going to run up against arguments about how the boss has no idea what he’s talking about. And that’s a total derail.

  32. Hmmmmm*

    I used to have to host a lot of cocktail hours and receptions with wine for a previous job. I also had to frequently point out to people that “the drinks are free, but that doesn’t mean you have to drink as much as humanly possible.” I know it sounds weird, but so many people would look at me like they had genuinely never considered that they didn’t have to keep going to bar every time their cup emptied, and even if they did, they could just have some soda or something. The same logic applies even if you do have one of those jobs where getting the client sh-tfaced is part of your job. The client can drink as much as they want, but very rarely would they care if you were drinking seltzer.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I mean, the advantage of mixed drinks is you can have a cola and pretend it has rum in it when it doesn’t. Nobody’s going to know.

      1. Hmmmmm*

        Unless someone is drinking your drinks, a seltzer and a gin+tonic are indistinguishable . Oh and PS, most waitstaff and bartenders will immediately understand if you ask them to keep your drinks nonalcoholic. Particularly if they are making plenty of money on someone else’s drinks. The bar or restaurant actually needs someone to be designated soberish adult in case things go sideways.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Some of them will even give the designated driver free drinks. Even just saying you aren’t drinking because you’re driving – that happened with a friend, and even when he explained that he wasn’t driving any of the rest of us, they still insisted on not charging for his soft drinks.

  33. Anon for This*

    Honestly, if you are hungover then call in sick.

    I’ve had a couple times in my career when I’ve been hungover when I was on the road. I still had to show up on time the next day and perform reasonably well. And I managed, but it was horrendous, and I quickly learned that in order to perform to my best I could not be nursing a hangover. These days if I over indulge then I call in sick the next day.

  34. Jennifer Thneed*

    > Specifically in an office situation where nothing truly bad
    > will happen if someone has reduced concentration.

    This is also true in a retail setting. I mean, very few situations are “hearts in coolers” level of important, but do you enjoy stopping into a shop and the workers there are visibly hung over?

    Are you a new manager to this group? Has there been turnover, perhaps of people who didn’t like the hungover culture? What is your group’s reputation with other parts of the company?

    > I’m not worried that anyone in the team has an alcohol problem

    Why not? Just because they’re not stumble-drunks? And for that matter, do you *know* that they’re not drinking at lunch?

    1. LBK*

      That seems like a leap, I think plenty of people can maybe go too hard for a weekday but still keep their drinking relegated to after work.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I was just pointing out that she doesn’t actually know that none of her team “has an alcohol problem”, just because they aren’t as bad as the former colleague she mentions. Lots of people who have alcohol problems only drink after work. It’s a range, not an on/off thing.

        I also wonder how productive the team *could* be if they were all healthy every day. And I still wonder about drinking at lunch.

    2. Aerin*

      Would it be inappropriate for a manager to offer some specific tips on avoiding hangovers if they’re in an area where drinking is very common and expected? Things like alternate alcohol with water, make sure you’re eating, don’t do multiple shots in a row, set a time to leave and stick to it, etc. The message of “I’m not telling you that you can’t do this at all, but you need to be more thoughtful and responsible about how you do it” might be received a little better and more likely to be taken to heart. In the US we have a bad habit of telling people to drink responsibly without giving them any idea of what that actually looks like.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I think it might be viewed as overbearing to give them those kind of detailed suggestions, unless the employee shows interest in how-tos.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, and I’d worry that it would come across as condoning/enabling heavy drinking, and that that could be especially problematic if something bad happened as a result of the drinking.

          I don’t disagree that we need to do a better job of talking about what responsible alcohol/drug use looks like, but I don’t think a manager should be doing it.

      2. NW Mossy*

        I’d keep it at a higher level than this, and more in the realm of asking questions rather than telling. Asking them if they have a plan/strategies to address the issue is absolutely fine, as is asking if they’ve tried different approaches and understand what works for them. It’s likely also worth asking if they think the work culture at the office encourages them to drink more than they would otherwise, since that may point to steps the OP can take to reduce a cultural pressure to drink. The idea (as with many areas where we give feedback) is that meaningful change tends to come when someone develops strategies that work for them personally, rather than following someone else’s advice and not getting what they need from it.

        If an employee specifically asked for strategies to manage drinking, I’d certainly help them find appropriate guidance, but with the caveat that I’m their manager and not an expert in the topic myself.

      3. Susanne*

        “Would it be inappropriate for a manager to offer some specific tips on avoiding hangovers if they’re in an area where drinking is very common and expected? Things like alternate alcohol with water, make sure you’re eating, don’t do multiple shots in a row, set a time to leave and stick to it, etc. ”

        No way would it be appropriate. Drinking to hangover-ness (more than once in a blue moon) is tacky and low class. It doesn’t need to be encouraged by “showing” people how to do it better. The way to “do it better” is to drink like an actual adult, enjoying the taste of a craft beer, or a margarita with Mexican food (and consequently only having one or two drinks) — not drinking like you’re an overgrown frat boy.

        1. Gabriela*

          This is awfully judgemental. People over-indulge for many reasons, sometimes more often than other times (the holidays, vacation, etc) and they are not all overgrown frat boys, tacky or “low class”.

        2. Courageous cat*

          Super judgmental and frankly ridiculous. The adult thing to do is to respect other adults’ ability to make their own choices.

    3. Mary*

      >>Why not? Just because they’re not stumble-drunks? And for that matter, do you *know* that they’re not drinking at lunch?

      Well, if she doesn’t *know*, it’s none of her business. Managers can’t go around speculating on their employees’ health problems unless they’ve got evidence for it *and* it’s affecting their work performance!

  35. Amy*

    “This has been happening frequently, it’s impacting your work, and it can’t continue. ” But the OP didn’t say it was impacting their work. Are they missing deadlines? Turning in less quality work? Does it interfere with how they interact with customers or other staff? Or are they just hungover? If they are still otherwise good employees and not openly vomiting in a trash can by their desk I see this as a non-issue. And for the record, I am also a non-drinker so it’s not me saying this as a reason to justify my own drinking habits.

    1. nep*

      As a manager or employer, I would not keep on board people who were regularly coming to work hungover. (Or perhaps I’d give them a chance to address if there’s a problem to address — but I wouldn’t just leave it be because no impact on work.

      1. LBK*

        But why? I don’t see how it would be your business if it’s not impacting their work. Feels like crossing a boundary into controlling their personal life.

        1. Amy*

          This exactly! And if the manage wants to address it there should be concrete examples…because if there aren’t any, nothing will change.

        2. KellyK*

          There’s more to work than just what you get done, though. Someone who’s noticeably hung over isn’t exhibiting a professional attitude or appearance, even if they’re getting all their work done correctly. (If their appearance, attitude, and performance are fine, and the only way you know they’re hung over is that they talk about it, then sure, just tell them to quit talking about how hung over they are.)

          It also shows sort of a cavalier attitude toward work to drink so much the night before that you come in horribly hung over, unless you have the sort of job that’s *extremely* constant and repetitive, where you always know exactly what you’ll be working on the next day. You might be able to do your normal tasks acceptably while hung over, but will you be able to handle problems, or unplanned meetings, or tasks that require a ton of focus on a quick deadline? For example, I could probably do my routine tasks with a bad headache, but if I had to take minutes for a highly technical meeting, or review an important presentation, I’d be in trouble. Essentially, coming to work hung over is taking the risk that your productivity is going to take a nosedive. Just because the gamble was successful and you had a slow day doesn’t mean that taking that risk looks professional.

          And again, I think that it’s not about the drinking specifically. To the extent that you can avoid it, you shouldn’t be doing things that leave you sick and sleep-deprived the night before work. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a drunken party or a Netflix binge or staying up til 3AM perfecting your life-size rice sculpture of llamas holding teapots.

              1. serenity*

                Then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think Kelly’s points are solid, and I would think that regular, consistent hungover staff members exhibiting these behaviors are absolutely under a manager’s purview to address (the work behaviors, that is).

        3. nep*

          To go back to Alison’s example (and in line with another comment here), anything that would leave my employees/reports seeming sleep-deprived, not on top of their game, not as sharp as I’d want employees to be, would be disqualifying over time. (OP says this is frequent.) So it would not specifically be about alcohol consumption and I wouldn’t be crossing over into an employee’s private time; this is about how I would want employees to be on the job.

    2. Observer*

      It’s not possible that it’s not affecting their work. “Nothing truly bad happens” is NOT “things are just fine.” And people who are so visibly sick at work are NOT working to normal capacity.

      1. Amy*

        But in that case the manager should be addressing the specific issues of what problems it’s causing. “Hey you are notoriously late on deadlines” or “I have to correct a bunch of your work bc you’re hungover” or “hey you come into work smelling like a frat house”. OP doesn’t say what the issues are. Just saying “don’t come in hungovver” isn’t going to solve the issue.

    3. NW Mossy*

      One of the things that managers are supposed to do is promote the growth of their employees to expand their capabilities and do more. It means that over time, the employee can do more than what they could in the past and knows more about what they’re doing, and achieve more with the same amount of effort. For organizations to grow (which is a primary objective for the vast majority), the people in them have to grow and change too.

      This process can’t happen very effectively with someone who’s routinely operating at less than full strength because they’re hung over. They might be able to muddle through their existing tasks, but taking on new and demanding work is going to stress them tremendously. They’re not in the right state of mind to learn, and as time passes, they’ll fall further and further behind as the demands of the work grow and their abilities haven’t been growing in tandem. Knowing what to do for the job today is just one slice of what’s needed to be successful in the long term, and a “good employee” who’s not growing quickly starts falling down the rankings of who’s worth keeping and investing in. Productivity isn’t just a snapshot of how many widgets Fergus made today, but how many widgets Fergus is going to make a year from now, and whether or not he’ll have also learned to make thingamabobs and doohickeys.

      1. Amy*

        Sure, but the OP never addresses what the issue is. In what ways is their work suffering? I may have a day here are there where I’m not as productive as usual for any number of reasons (coming down with something, didn’t get enough sleep, dealing with personal whatever) My work production may not be great that day but overall I meet and exceed all of my goals and am overall a great employee. It just seems like a huge overstep unless the manager can point to actual examples of ways the work place is suffering.

  36. Alleira*

    Hey Alison,
    Not a comment on this post, but just a general suggestion: would it be possible for OPs to have a specific moniker that they use if they post replies or updates in the comments? I often like to read the comments and am particularly interested in an OP’s response to your reply. But so many commenters use the term “OP” that searching for it is useless in terms of finding those responses. So I was thinking that one way to mitigate that issue would be for you to tell OPs that they should use a particular name/term when they respond so people like me don’t have to browse through 500+ comments.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for suggesting it. I’ve avoided giving letter writers any direction on that kind of thing, because I worry that for letter writers who aren’t comment-section-people normally (which is a lot of them, because it’s most people), I’ll be making it sound more complicated than it actually is, and I don’t want to raise the perceived barrier to entry.

      1. EW*

        Sorry to continue off topic – Can you flag them as a certain color like you do yours? That’s more work for you though.

  37. Namast'ay in Bed*

    I used to have a boss that would justify a coworker’s (consistent) bad attitude was just that she was hungover and that I should just put up with it:
    “Oh cut her some slack, she had a bachelorette party this weekend”…. “Oh she had a friend in town last night, she didn’t really mean to say that”… “Oh I heard she went out for drinks after work yesterday, no wonder she’s acting like that, it’s no big deal”
    It would infuriate me to no end. I can understand if it was a one-off thing, but this was constant and affecting my ability to get my job done (why else would I be bringing it up to my manager?). After weeks and weeks of this I finally called my boss on it – that there was always an excuse, that nothing my coworker ever did was actually her fault, and it was always on me to just “deal with it”. To my boss’s credit they did actually have an “aha” moment and stopped justifying their bad attitude and addressed it (sort of, but that’s another story).
    To make an actual point, bad behavior only has a limited justification window when it’s actually a rare occurrence; after that you’re just excusing a normalized bad situation.

  38. animaniactoo*

    LW, one thing that I think you need to think about is the idea that just because something would be worse (a job where being hungover would be dangerous), doesn’t mean that what you have is acceptable (office morale/productiveness issues).

    The former seems to be blocking you (along with the teetotaler/fear of prude label) from being able to confidently say “this is a problem”.

    As for any accusations of being a teetotaler and raining on people’s fun? Own it and dismiss it. “Yes I am, but that’s not the point. I don’t really care what you do on your personal time. I care that it’s impacting your work. If you want to wake up hungover every Saturday and Sunday, that’s your call and your business. Dragging it into the office makes it my business. You need to leave it out of the office.”

  39. Aphrodite*

    Everyone here has already said what I would except this: If you are driving into work hungover you are driving in essentially drunk. And more likely to kill or injure someone else.

    1. bridget*

      … I’m not sure this is true. Alcohol, drugs, and sleep deprivation impair drivers in specific ways such as judgment and reaction times. Assuming one actually has processed the alcohol and is not still impaired the next morning, the hangover is essentially just feeling a specific type of ill, and I don’t think people would consider themselves driving impaired while ill (within reason). My hangovers (thankfully, getting rarer as I get older because I’m a better judge of my own tolerance) are unpleasant, but relatively mild – queasiness, aches, and a headache are the hallmarks. I wouldn’t consider myself unsafe to drive if I have a bad cold, morning sickness, or a headache, which all have a lot of overlap with my hangover symptoms.

      1. REd 5*

        I think it is medically incorrect to say you’re “essentially drunk.” Plus there are different things that happen to different people when they are hungover. Dehydration is a migraine trigger for me, so driving hungover would be pretty much driving with a migraine and while that’s not drunk driving, I wouldn’t say it’s safe driving either.

        That said, sleep deprivation does impair the function of a human in nearly identical ways to drunkenness. I wouldn’t call it “driving drunk” but it is impaired driving and it is killing people pretty regularly across the country right now, and is one of the major reasons for pushes in better labor regulations in several industries. Depending on the severity of the hangover, I could see it being an impairment that should be considered more serious, but is ignored by most people. I mean, far too many people think it’s fine to text and drive, so actually considering if their hangover is impairing their abilities seems like it’ll never happen.

        Though to be fair, I consider a lot of things most people think are normal to be impaired or unsafe driving for complicated personal reasons not worth going into, so my values on that are admittedly skewed.

    2. Courageous cat*

      This is sensationalist and I don’t think it’s true. Do you say this about driving to work tired?

      1. Wintermute*

        I do, I called the cops on an impaired driver once, turns out they had a BAC of 0.0 but they were a doctor driving home from the hospital after a 20-hour shift. The way they were driving I would have guessed they’d had a fifth for dinner and then a nightcap after, I’m talking swerving nearly curb-to-curb, going 20 MPH down the highway and then realizing they were going slow when passed and accelerating to almost 80 in a 55, then slowing down slowly to 20 again.

        He was more dangerous than any drunk driver I’ve ever seen.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yes. I’ve actually crashed my car from driving while tired.

          I worked a late shift, and then had to report back for a meeting first thing the next morning, so I only got maybe 2 hours of sleep.

          I thought I was okay to drive home after the meeting, but I was not. I must have fallen asleep for a moment at the wheel, because I was jolted awake by my car grinding against the median at highway speeds.

          I’m just glad I didn’t hurt or kill myself or someone else. I wouldn’t have driven, or would have pulled over and taken a nap in a well-lit parking lot (something I’ve done many times before) if I thought I was at risk, but I really underestimated how bad I was.

          And I would absolutely never drink and drive. I don’t drive if I’ve had alcohol at all that evening. I even apparently lecture other drunk people about the dangers of driving drunk when I’m drunk. But at the time I didn’t really consider driving while tired to be “bad” like driving under the influence.

          That really shook me up and made me change my behaviors and my assessment of my ability to drive.

          Previously I had had an accident with the work vehicle at another job, where my job was driving around the theme park at night to collect money.

          I got out of the car without taking the key out of the ignition, turning the car off, or putting it into park or neutral. It drove several feet without me and hit a sign before I was able to hop back in and hit the brakes. Not something I would do if I was fully awake.

          1. Red 5*

            I’m glad you’re okay, and that you learned from the experience. I ran off the road when I nodded off behind the wheel once, and I didn’t admit it to anybody (I didn’t damage my car so I could pretend it never happened) and it took years before I would talk about it.

            I’ve known so, so many people who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of a car but they thought they were fine. We’re a society that’s really built to glorify being tired and overworked to the point where people actually don’t recognize how impaired they are from the fatigue and sleep deprivation that is just considered “normal” half the time. People don’t realize how much the cognitive impairments can do to you, or how fast they can set in, unless they’ve dealt with it themselves. And even then, sometimes they’re like me and stay in denial for a long while after that.

      2. KellyK*

        If someone is sufficiently sleep-deprived that it makes them an unsafe driver, then *YES.* That’s not to say everyone who hasn’t gotten 8 hours of sleep should be off the road, but falling asleep at the wheel is definitely a thing that happens. Same thing with being hung over. It’s one thing if it’s a mild headache and a general feeling of “ick.” If it’s a severe headache, and nausea, and light sensitivity, then that’s probably not someone who should be driving.

  40. Banafanafofaser*

    I know someone else pointed out that this advice should be kept to US culture, but what about Canada? I have lived in both the US and Canada, and from what I have heard, it is much more socially acceptable to drink more in Canada than the US. Any other Canadians want to weigh in?

    1. Mephyle*

      I don’t have that impression (Canadian here). But not knowing the U.S. culture from the inside, together with never having gone through a heavy-drinking stage in my youth, I couldn’t be sure. What I do know is that what I read and see in movies about drinking culture in U.S. seems normal to me, and what I read about drinking culture in UK seems excessive. By that I infer that our Canadian culture resembles U.S. in terms of drinking more than UK.
      One difference though is that young people in Canada have a longer timeline of legally drinking while young because the drinking ages are lower than in the U.S.

    2. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I didn’t have that impression either (aside from jokes about the alcohol content of US beer). I know it isn’t hugely uncommon where I am to have several beers at an afterwork happy hour and get a lift home, but most of those type of events are on Friday, so I have no idea whether they cause regular hangovers or not. Also, getting severely drunk at an event like that would be highly unusual and coming to work obviously and vocally hung-over is definitely a no-go,

    3. Chris*

      Canadian here also – I think this is fairly universally unacceptable. It may be more prevalent in some industries / communities… but that doesn’t mean it’s a business practice that should be tolerated anywhere.

    4. bobstinacy*

      Canadian here; take this with a grain of salt as Canada is huge and can have very different cultures depending on which city/part of the country you’re from (Newfies vs. Vancouverites for example)

      I find that Canadians have a very casual relationship with alcohol; think having beers after work 3 days a week, drinking wine/beer with dinner, drinks with social gatherings, etc. I joke that Canadians aren’t friendly and polite, we’re just slightly buzzed most of the time. It tends to get people from other countries in trouble because they come out for drinks and since they usually only drink to party they have no tolerance so while the rest of us are three beer happy they’re three beer party mode. I’ve had to pour a few coworkers into cabs that came from ‘drinking cultures’ (russians, aussies, etc) after an evening of after work beers with Canadians.

      Except Koreans. No one warned me, and it was I who was poured into a cab that night.

      Most industries are going to frown on showing up to work hung over consistently though. Once in a while and you’ll probably get teased mercilessly, but you’re expected to know what your limits are and to not let alcohol interfere with your job. I have noticed that if you’re suspected of calling in sick while hung over that you’ll be in more trouble than if you show up less functional, but I don’t know if that’s a rule everywhere or not.

      1. For the home team*

        I grew up in a rural area in the Canadian prairies. I’m in my late 20s. I find that workplace drinking is more normalized in:
        Blue collar over white collar
        Rural over urban
        Prairies over central (can’t speak to east or west coast)
        Male-dominated over female dominated industries

        So you could easily find yourself working for a company that is just recently implementing policies about not drinking during work hours (beers over lunch being not uncommon where I grew up, especially on the job site or at a business lunch.) On the other hand, you might NEVER run into that culture as a Canadian if you don’t hit that perfect storm of factors. I suspect there are similar subcultures in the US.

        The scripts above are great for OP, and these performance issues aren’t something OP needs to put up with from employees. I’m also not condoning drinking on the job or coming into work hungover… But commenters should realize that this is an issue that we’ve been pushing at for decades, and there are workplaces where employees expect to be able to laugh off a semi-regular hangover, even if the boss scolds them for it. I think Alison is right about pulling employees aside and making the manager’s expectation very clear, to individuals as it happens. Depending on company and industry culture, a public scolding is likely to bring together a group of problem employees and have them embolden each other, creating a new problem to deal with. A policy email would be worse, in that situation, because it wouldn’t be taken seriously.

        1. Wintermute*

          My Grandpa’s first job as a youth was for a local Newspaper, taking their big galvanized pails down to the bar and having them filled with beer then carrying them back up to the newsroom for them to have with lunch. Of course this was Milwaukee, but that shows that the culture IN PLACES was much like you describe it being in certain places in Canada.

          Also can confirm from friends on the west coast that in some blue-collar industries working hung over is a huge problem they’re just now starting to address, Worksafe BC put out a campaign about the dangers of being hung over in an industrial yard or resource industry site not long ago. There’s a big hard-drinking macho culture thing in the resource industries in BC, I gather. My friend in the area hasn’t done that kind of work since he was young, he works in an office now, and from what he says their office culture is much like any big city. But I suspect that also might be a rural/urban thing, Vancouver is a bit of a world of its own I’m told.

      2. For the home team*

        Er… that comment as an addition to the general Canadian/regional convo, not bobstinacy specifically.

  41. Tax Accountant*

    When I was 23, I and a bunch of my coworkers at my first “real” job went out for someone’s birthday on a Thursday night. I have never been that hungover in my entire life. I had to leave work midday Friday because I couldn’t stop throwing up. It was terribly mortifying, and it has never happened again (and I still drink regularly– just not excessively). I can see going in hungover early in your career after making a mistake and thinking you can make it through the day. But to do it over and over again? And to talk about it? All kinds of giant waving red flags about this workplace not having good professional boundaries.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yeah that level of hungover definitely not. I have the occassional morning where my body just isn’t reacting well to the combination of drinks, or that last glass of wine was a mistake, or I thought I’d eaten more than I had. But I just drink a gatorade and grimace quietly at my desk. I don’t brag about it and I make the extra effort to be normal-day productive. The pervasiveness of it being openly seen and discussed in this culture is worrying.

  42. Manager-at-Large*

    I’d bring it up to the team in the next team meeting. I wouldn’t do it in an email as I wouldn’t want that email to be part of any future discovery.

    If you are looking to deflect attention when refusing anything, you can always add a time-limiting word. As in, No thank you, I’m not drinking alcohol tonight; It looks wonderful but I’m not eating starches right now; No thank you, I’m not eating meat right now.

    For me, getting dehydrated or drinking more than 1 serving of alcohol both (separately) act as migraine triggers, add in less sleep and it is almost a forgone conclusion. One drink (if any), lots of water and being the early departer have turned into my way of life now. Migraines are not hangovers, but as they are debilitating and can have similar appearing symptoms – I prefer to avoid any chance of one being taken for the other in a work context.

  43. Serin*

    The tentativeness of the question tells us a lot about the culture in which this takes place — either the workplace or the city, I’m not sure. The OP doesn’t feel that it’s OK to tell people not to come to work with hangovers on a regular basis. I’m sure there’s a history behind that hesitation.

    So I was happy to see that the answer was in line with what I was thinking, which is: If you can do it just as well hungover as not hungover, then how can it possibly be worth paying someone to do?

    1. REd 5*

      This is totally me projecting, but I see some of the hesitancy coming from a position of being a non-drinker in a world that is heavily skewed towards drinking and glorifying drinking (though not to this degree).

      When I was in grad school, I didn’t drink much because I was broke and also because it’s just not my scene. I had too many alcoholics in my family and I just never really felt any desire to drink more than one or two of anything at a time. It actually did impact my ability to socialize and network with my peers and I felt pretty alienated over it at some points. And that feeling didn’t exactly go away when I got out. I’m not sure exactly how to place it or describe it, but if I sometimes feel confused or alienated by this cultural gap, and I _do_ drink, I could imagine the OP feels it more strongly.

  44. Observer*

    One thing that I only saw mentioned as an aside is liability issues. If people are drinking so much at work events or during work related networking that they are showing visibly hungover the next morning, that means they are getting absolutely drunk. That raises a LOT of potential issues, the most likely being drunk driving related problems and people losing their inhibitions and behaving inappropriately with coworkers or staff from these partner organizations. That’s going to be harder to address, but if people cut down enough to stop showing up hung over that would be a start in the right direction.

    In general, I’m stunned that you wonder if you are “allowed” to full performance from people outside of life threatening scenarios. Unless you are paying WELL below industry average (I assume that you are in full compliance with wage and hour laws), any employer has the full right to demand the employees show up to work fully capable of doing their jobs at (near full) capacity every day. The OCCASIONAL exception is one thing. Every couple of weeks is NOT.

    1. Girasol*

      That’s what I was wondering: why would a company encourage a culture of frequent drinking to the point of being drunk enough to have frequent hangovers? There are legal liability issues, performance issues, and health issues (the cost of which the company would shoulder if they insure) plus the extra cost of replacing employees who go far enough beyond a hangover a fortnight that they must be dismissed. A party culture might attract some employees but does the employer really get enough benefit from it to offset those costs?

  45. Mephyle*

    Alison, you mentioned talking to them one by one, hangover by hangover. Could this instead be a case for laying down the new standards to the whole group together in a meeting, since they are all doing it? I mean, it’s different from the cases where the manager is afraid of confrontation so they lecture a whole group (or a whole company!) about a behavior that only one or some person(s) are doing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, I could see it doing it that way. And if there are people in the group who aren’t doing this, it could be good for them to hear that the manager takes issue with it and is going to hold people more accountable for it in the future (because otherwise they may be annoyed that it’s not dealt with).

  46. I need to be anon for this*

    When I was in grad school, I was drinking too much.

    In university I had never ever gone out partying and suddenly I was in grad school and after a year or so I fell in with a party crowd. I drank…way too much. And I was hungover at work…more often than I care to admit (not regularly, but more than I was comfortable with even then). I also was working 80-100 h weeks (7 days a week) and it was a hyper toxic workplace, so today I think I was self-medicating to a point. The alternative would have been, eventually, landing myself on the psychiatric ward if the hospital I was working at to get my degree.

    So… Yeah, I was not okay.

    I have an office job these days and I would never come to work hungover. With a mildly squeasy stomach? Ok (mostly because these days I have that after two drinks, but I’m old now), but a full blown hangover? Nope. I would be mortified in front of my coworkers and my manager, and my work would suffer. I don’t even work at a high level, but I need to be able to function and make decisions with a clear mind.

    And OP, so do you employees. Who makes good decisions when they’re miserable and off their face? Who thinks clearly and gets to the best conclusions when they feel like dying? So no, being hungover at work is not ok. And I’m saying that as someone who knows both sides.

    1. Snark*

      Are… me? Because I was a total lush for the first year of grad school, got called a lush by a friend whose opinion I valued, realized I was slacking and getting drunk too often, and then it just kind of ended and I went back to my “sip a beer or two slowly once 6pm rolls around” schedule.

      1. I need to be anon for this*

        Nah, I really turned it up for 0.5-2.5 years and then pulled myself together (and upped my hours, if you can believe it?) and somehow managed to graduate.

        I still went out but less and not during the week and I was maybe once hungover in the lab (because excrement hit the fan and it was unplanned).

        I was a mess for a long time in those years and I’m still not all mentally recovered, but that place was hyper toxic and I couldn’t leave. None of my colleagues who got out are fully themselves again years later and most of us were out of work for a long time, because we basically had to leave academia (due to how academia works) and changing industries in our location is….not so easy.

        Drinking is still a bit of an issue with me, I don’t do it often but when I do it in company I usually drink too much. Not that anything bad every happens but it still annoys me on some level so I rarely drink anymore. Funnily, if I ever drink alone (after a really long day/week) it’s one beer or one bottle of wine over the course of a week and I never have any trouble stopping.

  47. anonalways*

    I worked at a tech startup that very much fit the stereotype and hangovers after drinking with colleagues was totally seen as hilarious/pride inducing/badge of honor behavior. It was so annoying to deal with, especially as the only “human resources” member of the organization. It was even a game to see who would come in late/be the latest. Someone showed up at 2pm to a round of applause on a Wednesday. I felt that it should be addressed, but no one in management cared (and one regularly participated in the antics). They also went to strip clubs together on work trips and other totally inappropriate things that I never understood. Glad to have escaped!

  48. Chris*

    If your company doesn’t have a policy that says something like ‘you’re expected to come to work ready and able to perform / do the job’.. it really should. If that expectation isn’t crystal clear to the team, start there. And make it clear that the expectation means ‘this behaviour right here? That’s not acceptable’.

    They get paid to do a job. If they’re showing up regularly unable to perform that job to expectations.. that’s not acceptable.

  49. GreenDoor*

    The OP seems to feel some uncertainty because the area is one in which after-work drinking is common. I live in Milwaukee – Brew Town, USA. We drink beer all the time for all things – even at church festivals. Coming in to work hungover, even in my town, is not OK. The culture in your office does not have to conform to the culture in your town in terms of alcohol consumption!

    1. Wintermute*

      I feel like this is very much because of Milwaukee’s German heritage (I grew up in Wisconsin not far from Milwaukee, all my family’s in New Berlin). I’ve been to Germany and this is very much how I’d describe their drinking culture: go ahead and drink but don’t be a social problem, be able to handle your business and be able to be responsible.

  50. Blah*

    This line brought up a gripe I have:

    >It’s not interfering with their personal lives to expect people to show up at work clear-headed and ready to work. If someone were, say, playing video games all night and coming into work on no sleep — and it showed in their demeanor, energy, and ability to focus and be productive — you’d be on firm ground in saying, “Hey, it’s up to you what you do in your off-hours, but when you come to work, I need you to be awake and focused.”

    Now, Alison’s talking about professional jobs with regular schedules, where this makes perfect sense. For most users of this site, it’s perfectly logical advice. That’s not what I’m about to gripe about.

    In retail, we have the oft hilarious situation where you get a crap schedule, like off at 10:30 PM for one shift and back in at 10:00 AM for the next. If you’re like me and can’t go straight to sleep without unwinding from the day first, and you have a long commute, that shift typically means 5 hours of sleep. Then you get to work, and it’s usually blarg but normal, but then you get that supervisor who gets on your ass about the above – you’re tired and grumpy, and you are expected to show up for work bright, alert, and ready every single day, and you are clearly tired and less functional than you would otherwise be. Shame on you. Not on him who wrote the schedule that doesn’t give you adequate time to sleep, eat, and commute. No, shame on you.

    I don’t even have a point with this comment, I just think retail managers like to act pissy sometimes.

    1. REd 5*

      This is definitely a thing that happens in retail frequently, and it is a problem. I think that thing is that it is reasonable to expect employees to show up awake and ready to work, however they have an internal policy that is preventing that (the ability to schedule so poorly) and that policy is at fault, not the employee.

      Last retail job I had, it was strictly against the rules to have somebody work close one night and open the next. The scheduling software practically wouldn’t allow you to do it. Because they realized it was incredibly difficult to manage and shouldn’t happen.

      1. Blah*

        The problem is, in order to have better scheduling, you need to have employees. My city has a serious labor shortage in part time retail, because cost of living is through the roof, and even working 2 minimum wage jobs at 25 hours a week each is financially harsh. So, most of us have another income stream handy (I have student loans), and we tend to get assigned more hours than we actually want. I could get by on 15, but I hover around 30 because there’s nobody to work the other 15 hours. This also leads to clopen shifts, because a lot of times I have to close (people with late night availability like me are rare at this job), and if there’s nobody who can be scheduled to open in my place, I’m gonna get the crap shift. That I understand. My problem is when management complains to me about being tired and less than alert at work. If they need me to work a clopen, I get why, but I hate it when they turn around and try to lecture me about the wrongness of the natural consequences of that clopen.

        1. Cassie*

          I was always stuck clopening when I was a server, because I was a thirty-something trying to survive a $hit job market amongst a sea of drunken college-age coworkers. The manager put me on because he knew the work would get done at night, and I would still show up on time and sober in the morning. Retail/service jobs do not reward the responsible.

          1. Blah*

            Yea, that’s my problem. Management has keyed into the fact that, even if I show up tired, grumpy, or hungover, I will show up, I’ll be on time, I’ll save my griping for when boss and customers aren’t present, and I’ll busy myself doing actual stuff (Honestly, retail is so crushingly boring when you aren’t physically engaged, I don’t understand all these people who do nothing all shift.). Because of that, I find myself expected to be around whenever rough crap is going on. It’s even worse if you’re a department head or supervisor.

    2. KellyK*

      Yes, that is a 100% reasonable gripe. If your manager scheduled you in such a way that you can’t get a reasonable amount of sleep, they should fully expect you to be groggy.

    3. paul*

      the dreaded clopen shifts. God I do not miss retail. “Hey yeah we held you till 1am because there was a godawful rush but be here at 7am to open.”

      1. Blah*

        There’s a legal requirement for 8 hours between shifts here. Thing is, that leaves very little time to commute, unwind, eat, fall asleep, wake up, shower, eat, and commute again.

    4. Lindsay J*

      And honestly, 10:30PM to 10:00AM isn’t that bad for retail.

      I know I worked holiday seasons where we would close at 10PM. Would have to spend an hour to two hours waiting for people to clear out of the store, counting out our till and making the drop, and then cleaning and facing the store. So I wouldn’t get out until midnight. 30 minute drive home takes me to 12:30. And then I would have to leave the house at 5AM to get there at 5:30AM for a 6AM opening.

      It was terrible.

      One of the amusement parks I worked at was even worse. For the 2 weeks of Spring Break, all managers and supervisors were expected to be there from open until close, and most of the employees who were not minors were scheduled for that as well.

      Plus, I worked in the cash room, where we didn’t finish collecting/counting out all the money and remaking the tills for the next day until hours after the park closed.

      I worked 20 hours a day the first 4 days. Didn’t even go to sleep or go home one of the days because I had a 45 minute commute – I just went to the gym I had a membership to, sat in the hot tub for like 45 minutes, took a shower, grabbed fast food, and then headed back to work and grabbed a nap in my car. I got fired on the 5th day for making what I think was a completely understandable error given the circumstances. I don’t know that I could have made it the full 14 days.

  51. REd 5*

    I bit curious about this city where going out drinking on weeknights to the point of getting hungover sometimes is just common culture. I am not a teetotaler but I also don’t drink much (I’m cheap, drinks are expensive) but even in my big city where networking basically always involves wine, the idea of going out drinking anything really heavy after work on a weeknight is just…weird to me. Even in college that wasn’t the norm. A glass of wine? Sure. Two? Maybe, depends on your tolerance. We frequently have drinks at work functions during the day, and the culture is still to be very careful about excess.

    Maybe I’m just in an incredibly conservative city…but I’ve definitely never lived anywhere that being hungover at work was anything other than shameful (with the exception Allison noted that it just happens sometimes by accident).

  52. SCtoDC*

    A few comments have expressed shock/disbelief that this is normal. It really depends on the industry. If you work in politics, lobbying, and some big law firms this can be normal. I’m not saying it’s good or right, but if you’re attending one fundraising/networking event after another and they all have an open bar it’s going to happen. You can argue that people should just stop after one or two drinks, but it is so ingrained in the culture of these industries, that it doesn’t occur to most to stop after a drink.

    1. Allypopx*

      Those reactions have come up before with drinking-in-the-office, which is also super common in a lot of industries (I’ve run into it quite a bit in nonprofits, personally, but I know advertising and tech can also be big offenders). There can be huge culture differences from industry to industry.

    2. Blah*

      In retail, this is totally normal. Basically all of us who drink have come to work hungover more than once (granted, I’m talking the “head hurts but functioning” stage, not the “puking or face down and ignoring the world” stage), and most would admit to having come to work still slightly inebriated on at least one occasion. It may be stupid and less than professional, but it’s definitely a thing, and as long as you can still function to an acceptable level, management doesn’t bother to say anything. I’ve known at least 3 managers who’ve themselves shown up hungover, and one who’s shown up high on at least one occasion.

  53. Curly*

    I’m really wondering if the poster is in the UK. Drinking, and drinking to excess is so very common here that I’ve worked offices where it would be difficult for the management to comment because the behaviour went all the way to the top.

    1. Allypopx*

      Mm, that’s actually a good point.

      I think in that case I’d advise OP to talk to their boss and say how they’d like to address the issue. If they get laughed off, it becomes a lot harder to address this with the team without the support of higher ups. In which case I might address productivity issues less than the drinking itself.

    2. OP*

      Spot on! I’m the OP and am in the UK.

      Thanks for all your comments, lots of useful stuff here.
      Binge drinking is a weirdly big deal in the uk, it’s considered fairly normal behaviour although it clearly is detrimental to the binge drinkers health. Pretty much every office I’ve worked in in the UK has this sort of culture.

      Teaching the team about work drinking is certainly a good idea ( I remember a lot of youthful escapades before someone told me to never let your glass get topped up at an event unless it was empty so you could count how many you had had.)

      On the plus side, nobody is driving and I’m comfortable having conversations with my team about this. Thanks Alison for the common sense as ever. And I’m going to keep reading the comments too

      1. Curly*

        Well, OP, I’m an immigrant to the UK and I barely drink (2 cocktails and I’m done) and I find that it has massively impacted my ability to make friends or fit in at work. I will never forget the first night out with work when I came here 15 years ago. Our boss, a late-40s man with 2 kids got completely blotto. Where I came from, you did that in University and maybe your early 20s but then you grew up. And I’m still amazed to this day. There are people in my office who seem to live from night out to night out. Adults! With houses and children! They stay out til 3, sleep in the train station and take the 1st train home.
        As you can see, I’m still not used to it. I never thought I was terribly judgemental but I am in this area.

        1. Isobel*

          It’s not universal in the UK. I don’t do this and nor does anyone I know. Mainly working in healthcare and education, though, rather than an office setting.

          1. Curly*

            You don’t know anyone who regularly goes out and gets drunk? Really? Well that’s just amazing. I work in healthcare as well (you know, for the big employer). In an office now and clinical settings previously and it was endemic in both.

            1. Isobel*

              Not on a weeknight, no. We’re adults, some of us have kids, we have to function properly. I’m surprised you find this amazing.

            2. Mary*

              Going out getting incredibly drunk and talking about drunk stories is definitely a big (and highly tedious!) part of UK culture. Turning up to work hungover on a regular basis hasn’t been part of my professional experience anywhere I’ve worked.

          2. Mary*

            Yeah, there are definitely bits of British society where this is normal but it’s by no means everywhere. I’ve mostly worked in HE in big cities in northern England and there’s tolerance for the most junior / recent graduate staff coming in hungover once or twice as a kind of “well, I guess you have to make that mistake to know better”, but it absolutely wouldn’t be acceptable as a regular thing.

      2. Ramblin' Ma'am*

        It helps to know you are in the UK. Not that this is a reliable barometer, but based on the British-set novels I’ve read, it certainly seems as though heavy weeknight drinking is much more of a “thing” than in the US–at least for people past college-age. “After I put my son to bed, I poured myself a third glass of wine” and that sort of thing–in a novel where the character’s drinking isn’t even a plot point.

      3. Been there*

        I have the annual ‘how to drink responsible in a work setting’ discussion with my direct reports. It used to be that I had inexperienced/new to the workforce employees, now I have managers who manage the inexperienced/new to the workforce employees.

        I keep it work drinking related, but will tell them it’s not bad advice for the rest of the time either. It covers things as how to not drink if you don’t want to, how to politely avoid the ‘over buyer/one more round guy’, how to watch out for tipsy coworkers and get them out of the situation, and how to babysit tipsy clients. I also make it clear that if the client is a mess in the morning or just doesn’t show up, they get to do that because they are the client. We don’t get that same pass and we have to be ready to work first thing.

      4. Sfigato*

        I did a year abroad in Europe, and the British Erasmus students (at least those who drank) were The Worst in that respect. They had to be well lit to socialize, and would always drink to excess, even by early-twenties college student standards. It was such a dysfunctional way to exist. They wouldn’t talk to you normally, they go and get totally wasted and be super social in the evenings, and then the next day they’d all talk about how wasted they were.

        I’m a firm believer that if you do happen to get hungover, you need to push through it and deal. If they want to have seven pints on a Tuesday, fine, but you have to be able to work the next day. Push through your hangover, or drink less.

      5. Agent Diane*

        I thought you were in the UK – I very much recognise the culture described. I worked in one place where we’d sometimes head for the pub, have three pints and some chips and then go back to work. I also recognise the challenge of not wanting to be seen as a killjoy.

        My rule is to ignore hangovers – even sweaty, turning green ones – the day after the annual party. But the rest of the time I ask if they have a bug etc. And don’t cut any slack on deadlines. Struggling to hit a deadline whilst still purging the booze from the system is a good “OK, I need to stop getting so blammo” trigger. It made me realise I needed to change some habits.

        I’d suggest not talking about how you can socialise without booze when talking to the team: let them have that in a one-to-one coaching way as and when the moment arises. As we hit Xmas, they’ll see you sailing in each day and put the pieces together themselves.

      6. Jules the First*

        When I first moved to the UK, my boss asked me to order drinks for a work cocktail hour. The Spanish host and I put together a bar package that we thought was eminently reasonable, only to be told to triple it. We did, but still ran out of alcohol (to this day I’m not sure how…)

        I think you have to take your clue here from other teams within the business – if this is normal behaviour across the business, then unfortunately you only have standing to address it if it becomes a performance issue.

        In my job, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to come in feeling slumpy hungover every so often (not sweaty or booze-smelling), especially after a work event or a string of complex deadlines, just as it is ok for me to have a glass of wine at my desk if I’m working late on a Friday night. Coming in even mildly hungover more often than once a quarter? Definitely not ok. In other companies, two or three mild hangovers a month was perfectly normal (though not something I ever did) and most people got drunk enough to call in sick by reason of hangover about once a month.

  54. Menacia*

    While I am not a teetotaler, I absolutely agree with Alison that it is NOT okay to come to work hungover. Viewing it as a badge of honor is wrong on so many levels. Thankfully this has not been an issue in my office, and for myself, I could not imagine coming into work hungover, I would take a sick day (if that day ever happens when hell has frozen over). This is a problem that needs to be addressed, with the focus that it’s a productivity issue, not a drinking one.

  55. JS*

    Oh man, at Old!Job, I was having a hard time with a certain coworker who regularly came in hungover every Monday. (Bulk shipments of coworker’s choice beverage were occasionally received at the office.) At the morning meeting, no one wanted to sit next to this coworker because they smelled so boozy. I finally said something to our (notoriously spineless) Boss about it being inappropriate and I was chastised for ratting out a coworker.

    I’m so glad other people are normal and recognize this isn’t OK.

  56. Luna Lovegood*

    Totally get the lack of nice/not sugary soft drinks thing. I usually go with orange or grapefruit juice with soda water – very refreshing.

  57. Anon please today*

    There are so many different reasons and ways that someone can be at work and not be focused and productive. What if your job requires a lot of focus and concentration (not for safety reasons) but you’re distracted by family or health problems? The reality is that there are going to be days that are harder than others to be productive. Someone who is hung over twice a month might still be way more productive than someone who is dealing with a lot of personal/family issues or health problems. It seems like the hungover person shouldn’t be singled out more than the other person.

    1. Kathleen*

      Yes, they should. Family and health problems are, for the most part, outside your control. You don’t have much control over your kids getting sick or your BF/GF leaving you.

      But drinking too much the night before? You definitely have control over that!

  58. i'maskingamanager*

    There is a real problem here if employees think it’s ok to come to work hungover and are heralding it as somehow a badge of honor.

  59. Katie*

    Ah this story! I in the past was one of the hungover people who did not realise that this was not ok. The first reason I assumed it was fine was because all my friends worked in bars and no one seemed to mind them being hungover at work, so I figured it was fine.
    But I worked in an office, so it was not fine. But my manager never explicitly said to me ‘you need to stop coming into work hungover’, she would just ask me if I’d been out the night before. Presumably there was some intention of signalling that she was not cool with this, but I was young and dumb and figured she was just interested in my awesome social life… *facepalm* …. so embarrassing.
    I didn’t realise it was such a huge problem until I got put on a PIP at my six month review, and then obviously I just stopped. If she’d just said something clearly that first month it would have been so much less embarrassing for me to recognise it down the line.

  60. Julia the Survivor*

    I also can’t drink either alcohol or sugar, both make me sick.
    I used to buy a bottle of water at a nightclub, but the last few years most have stopped selling them.
    So now I just ask for a glass of water and tip the bartender well. I save money, it’s a good thing! :)

    1. Julia the Survivor*

      P.S. – I always ask first if they have bottled water and if they did, I would buy one, but most don’t.

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