Q: At my current job, I made it clear early on when invited to happy hours that I do not drink. My body can't tolerate alcohol; it is not within my control. It then became clear that this was a problem for the other employees and supervisors. Now, I don't get invited out at all, and many of the other employees at my level get assignments from the drinking supervisors that I don't get, get cut tons more slack and are treated more favorably. I am purposely left off the emails, or not asked along even when I am sitting in the office as they are getting ready to go. I only know what is going on because one of the other associates, whom I get along with, has told me. That, and it is all over their Facebook pages.
I know all business requires some level of this type of socializing, and I love to go out, talk, go to happy hours — I just don't want to drink. Throughout my career, this has always been a problem, and I feel it has held me back. What should I do?
A: In certain professions and cultures, boozing is a bonding rite, and I'm unfortunately not aware of any discrimination protections for teetotalers. But I wouldn't say "all business" requires you to get soused to get ahead; otherwise, there would be a lot more 25-year-old CEOs with gout.
My first impulse is to wonder how you've "made" your abstinence "clear" to your co-workers. An abrupt "I don't drink" sends a different message from a low-key "I can't drink" — and if you have a gussied-up soda in hand, words should be unnecessary.