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Etiquette at Work

If you don't want a drink, don't have one

By Peter Post
September 14, 2008
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Q. Our company has a pronounced preference for social gatherings and heavy drinking. Since I hold a senior position, my boss also expects me to drink. However, I don't like drinking alcohol at all. I tried many times to explain, but it won't keep my boss from making me drink on the next occasion. What can I do?

Anonymous

A. Just say no. Be definitive as you say something like: "Mr. Smith (or John), I am not having a drink tonight. Thank you for the offer but I'm going to stick to (name of a nonalcoholic beverage)." It's absolutely unacceptable for anyone to be coerced into taking a drink if they don't want to. After saying no, if you're given a drink, don't drink it. Instead put it down at the first opportunity.

I recommend that people refrain from drinking alcohol or, at most, have one drink at a business meal or business social gathering. You never want to be in a situation where the next day you have to apologize for things you said or did while under the influence of alcohol. Often people end up at a business meal or social occasion after work when they may have had little or nothing to eat all day. The affect of alcohol on the empty stomach of a tired person can be sudden and severe. Even one drink may have a greater affect than a drink on the weekend, or when out with friends on a social basis. When with managers, bosses, clients, and/or prospects, the best, safest approach is to limit your alcohol intake.

You mention that heavy drinking is a part of your company's culture and is encouraged by management. You might also have to consider whether working for this company is right for you.

NEED ADVICE? E-mail questions about business etiquette to bizmanners@globe.com; fax to 617-929-3183; or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819

Peter Post is the great-grandson of manners guru Emily Post and is the director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.

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