Lighter Side: Study says non-drinkers prefer to deceive co-workers than come clean

by Nicola Middlemiss09 Jan 2015
Researchers are warning HR departments to be aware of the pressure some employees feel when attending work parties as studies show tee-total staff are more likely to deceive their colleagues rather than come clean.

'Drinking can be a big part of workplace culture, and being viewed as an outsider for any reason can hurt you professionally,' said the study's lead author Dr Lynsey Romo, of North Carolina State University.

Research showed that non-drinkers resort to a variety of little-white-lies to hide the fact that they don’t drink, often out of fear that they’d be seen as judgemental by their co-workers.

The study found that non-drinkers developed a variety of strategies to attend social events without making themselves, their co-workers, or their clients feel “uncomfortable.” 

From volunteering as designated driver to pretending to be on a diet, the survey found that many employees avoid admitting they’re tee-total at all costs.

According to Romo, one professional who didn't drink because he wanted to set a good example for his children told co-workers that he didn't drink because he was trying to lose weight and others bought alcoholic drinks but didn’t consume them.

If colleagues commented on an employee’s choice not to drink, non-drinkers often tried to prove they weren’t judgemental by offering to buy offering to be the designated driver or buying a round of drinks.

Researchers say the study proves many employees feel under pressure to conform to social norms in the workplace and say HR departments who worry about people over-drinking at Christmas should also consider the needs of employees who don’t want to drink.

“If employers want their employees to achieve their full potential, they need to foster an environment that encourages their employees to be themselves”, said Dr. Roma.

She suggests employers make sure non-alcoholic beverages are available at happy hours and hot social activities that don’t centre on drinking.


  • by Jenny 12/01/2015 9:59:51 AM

    Maybe it's an age thing, maybe it's all my years in HR.. but I often wish ALL work functions were 'dry'. In my observation no one really wants to see or hear their colleagues, or worse, their boss, get smashed & expound their prowess in the bedroom, at karaoke, on the dance floor, the golf course etc. There would be less harassment complaints, less perception of 'cliques' within workplaces and of course it would be less expensive for everyone!

  • by MM 13/01/2015 11:18:32 AM

    I've never had that problem at all. I've worked many places in the last 30 years and even in the biggest drinking company being a teetotaller was never something anyone had an issue with. Where I work now with 12 immediate colleagues in a larger organisation, 4 of us don't drink and we all get on fine at work functions.
    What I do have a problem with is going to improperly provided for functions where all you can get is water or orange juice if you don't want alcohol. That is just not fair.. you can have the choice of 2 wines, 3 beers or champagne, but I just get water 'cause I can't drink orange juice - up there for inclusiveness people.

  • by caca 13/01/2015 2:28:28 PM

    I'm with MM. I don't drink and would appreciate perhaps more beverages choices like iced teas or even mocktails to feel more inclusive.
    I prefer dry events because I often find people will actually ask why i don't drink and then I feel a bit forced into having to saying it's due to some health issues. How awkward.
    Those that have an issue with "dry" events tend to be the bigger boozers really. Why else would it matter that you can't get smashed with your colleagues for a small amount of time?

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