Advice column: my boss has a problem with my teetotal lifestyle choice

Dear Ash

I have been teetotal for most of my life, having made an informed lifestyle choice at a relatively early age. This has not caused issues for me, as my friends learned to respect my decision. In any case, I have quite a bubbly personality and don’t feel the need to take alcohol in order to be more sociable. However, my new manager in my current post seems to take issue with my non-consumption.

At a recent work event, he made reference to the lack of alcohol in my glass. When I reminded him I was teetotal, he commented that clients would probably feel uncomfortable around me as a result. I felt awkward for the rest of the night and was not my usual self. On another occasion, he invited everyone for a drink after work but then commented to me directly that there was little point in me coming along if I was not going to drink. 

I do feel somewhat picked on and think it is unfair, as he did not make issue with other staff members not drinking due to being pregnant. I feel I have the right to decide not to drink alcohol and indeed not to be made to feel guilty about not drinking, but at the same time I do not want to jeopardise my position in the department.

Ash replies:

It is a poor reflection on your manager that he feels the need to make you feel inadequate because he has issues accepting your lifestyle choice.

A person can choose to give up alcohol for a number of reasons and it is frankly not your manager’s business to dictate whether you should or should not be drinking. Many people choose not to drink due to religious or indeed health reasons and it is not for your manager to determine whether he accepts your reasons for not drinking alcohol; he just needs to accept it.

Your manager perhaps feels insecure about the prospect of you being perfectly sober and perhaps more alert than him at these social events. Whatever his thinking, you need to stand up for your choices and, importantly, to try to prevent his comments from affecting your confidence, especially at social events. As you say, you are more than confident and sociable without a drink, so continue to be yourself and do not give in to intimidation.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.
Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or
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