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Q: Every year, during the holiday season, our company hosts a party to which all employees are invited. Because there is always an open bar, this event typically turns into a sloppy, booze-filled celebration which continues into the wee hours of the morning.

Although I don't condemn others for drinking, I prefer to avoid alcohol. Alcoholism runs in my family, so I have seen first-hand the problems caused by excessive drinking. On top of that, I don't care for the taste. But while I am willing to tolerate the drinkers' choices, they seem much less willing to accept mine.

In previous years, my coworkers have teased me about being a party-killer and implied that I am somehow strange, saying things like, "Can't you just loosen up and have some fun?" This has become so tiresome that I have considered skipping the party altogether. Do you have any advice for managing this situation?

A: Drinking seldom makes people more reticent or polite, so you're wise to plan ahead for these boozy encounters. If you wish to avoid sticking out, keep a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand at all times. Orange juice, soft drinks, and sparkling water are available at almost every bar. If you are holding a glass, your abstinence will be less obvious.

Avoid making declarations about your sober status. If someone offers to fetch you a drink, just say, "No, thanks. I'll get something in a little while." In response to direct inquiries, offer a simple but true reply: "I've found that alcohol doesn't agree with me, but I'm happy with my soda."

While among the revelers, maintain a cheerful and friendly attitude. As long as you appear to be enjoying yourself, people are less likely to speculate about your alcohol consumption. If obnoxious coworkers make rude or intrusive comments, you have no obligation to respond. Simply change the subject or end the conversation.

Finally, keep all observations about party behavior to yourself. If you don't want your colleagues to bug you about being sober, you must never mention the stupid things they do when they're drunk.


Q: I am puzzled about the actions of some senior managers in my new company. Whenever they come into my area or pass me in the hall, they walk right by without making eye contact. Since we have been introduced, this lack of acknowledgement seems odd.

Although my immediate supervisor seems pleased with my performance, I can't help wondering if upper management has a different impression. I am also unsure about how to react when I see them. What do you think?

A: Sadly, your aloof executives are not atypical. I often hear complaints about senior managers who walk by employees without speaking, apparently not realizing that this makes them seem like arrogant jerks. So even though their conduct is both dismissive and demoralizing, it's probably not personal.

In the future, when these higher-ups are in your vicinity, simply smile and say hello. If they fail to respond, just assume they are lost in thought or preoccupied with important problems. And remember that this rudeness reflects badly on them, not you.

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Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and author. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at


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