A few words on the pressure to drink that can come with some jobs, and working for people who enjoy more than the occasional tipple.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the spot on the site where we chat about things that may be affecting us, or people we know. As always, no miracle cures or anything are offered. Instead, it’s just a few words that hopefully may be of use to somebody out there. If they’re not for you, thank you for reading, and hopefully something in this ongoing series might be more helpful.

I wanted to have a little chat this time about alcohol. There are going to be a few articles around this topic over the coming months, but one angle I’m going to start with is perhaps less covered. When drinking – and not necessarily your own – affects your working life.

I’ve worked for two people to whom I’d say that alcohol was very important. I wouldn’t claim to diagnose or label those people, as they have stories I can’t begin to imagine. The perspective I have – and it’s one that’s come up in conversation with a couple of friends going through the same thing at the moment – is of being in a working environment where the pub is important, and there’s pressure to drink.

I found this particularly in my first job, working for a man who loved his beer, and eventually wrote the strategy for his department in the function room of the local pub, so frequently was he found within it. Those who drank alongside him tended to fare better than those who didn’t, and this particularly affected a group of us left behind. It was hard to know what to do, and in the end, it did cause division. A tricky time all round.

I subsequently worked for another boss who would turn up to events a little worse for wear, and was known on a certain day of the week to have a very long lunch. I’m dancing around this a little bit, but the upshot was that again, it was tricky for those who didn’t want to do shots, down lots of pints and be pressured into drinking. The media world is notorious for this, sadly, and I’ve worked with brilliant people who have become quite dependent, such was the peer pressure at many different levels of companies I’ve worked for.

A few things, though.

Firstly, I grew to understand over time that I don’t know the stories of the people in question. It’s not my place to judge, or diagnose, or attack, or pour flames on things. What it took me slightly longer to understand is that it’s not all my fault either. That even though I’m trying hard to see the other person’s point of view, I’m still entitled to a few basics. Basics of how I’m treated, as people would expect of me. As an aside, I’ve seen people opting to try and shame people involved, and I think that’s a very unhelpful approach at best.

In a work environment, the answer to any of this tends to focus on just how good the HR department concerned is, and what support they can offer. I do think finding someone to talk to – as is often the case – is crucial.

On a personal level though, I found it important to stick to my guns, to not give into the pressure to have ‘just one’ when others were going out. Not always easy to do when the peer pressure is coming from a line manager. You might get labelled as the ‘killjoy’ or the ‘boring one’, but I think particularly now, it’s a bit more seen and understood. What helped me too was keeping a little diary, if nothing else but to give me a record as such, and something to look at if I doubted myself. Small things, sure, but they made things bearable at times.

I say all this as someone who enjoys a drink. What I came to accept though is that it’s okay to enjoy it on my terms, not on those defined by others I worked for.

I also reiterate that I say this with no judgement. I’ve seen close up how alcoholism is an illness, and it’s why it’s a topic that we will come back to. Until then, there are some really helpful resources here.

You all take care and look after yourselves. the very best to you. It’s a difficult topic this, with no easy answers. But let’s talk about it more.

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