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If your organization is throwing a holiday party this month there may be mixed feelings from employees floating throughout the office. Some undoubtedly will welcome the break from work and others may have some reservations about socializing with coworkers outside of the office. The fact that many office parties revolve around alcohol can definitely complicate matters for everyone.

Alcohol can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a coping mechanism they have developed to ease social anxiety, for some it’s an addiction they are working hard to battle every day, and yet others look at is as a hurdle in their wellness plan. It’s important to think about the different relationships everyone has with alcohol, and make sure that it’s not the central focus of your holiday party this year.

Unfortunately, drinking can play a larger role than we would like in workplace culture. Non-drinkers often feel they are viewed as outsiders because of this one lifestyle choice. Lynsey Romo, a communication researcher at NC State recently led a study on this issue in which she interviewed successful professionals that don’t drink. Those successful professionals shared some helpful strategies to remain a part of the fun while still abstaining from drinking:

  • Interviewers found it more socially acceptable to give ambiguous answers to why they weren’t drinking, like “I’m not drinking tonight” or “I’ve got an early morning.”
  • Some bought an alcohol drink to dissuade questions but did not drink it.
  • Some gave physical explanations–”drinking gives me migraines.”

While it is completely fine to speak honestly about your decision not to drink, the above strategies provide alternatives if you don’t want to have to explain yourself to others who may be curious to learn more about this personal decision.

The holidays can be a fun time to let loose and take a break from work. Make sure everyone feels comfortable with your holiday celebrations this year by creating an atmosphere of acceptance, one that doesn’t center on alcohol.