'Drinking can be a big part of workplace culture, and being viewed as an outsider for any reason can hurt you professionally,' said the study's lead author Dr Lynsey Romo, of North Carolina State University.
Research showed that non-drinkers resort to a variety of little-white-lies to hide the fact that they don’t drink, often out of fear that they’d be seen as judgemental by their co-workers.
The study found that non-drinkers developed a variety of strategies to attend social events without making themselves, their co-workers, or their clients feel “uncomfortable.”
From volunteering as designated driver to pretending to be on a diet, the survey found that many employees avoid admitting they’re tee-total at all costs.
According to Romo, one professional who didn't drink because he wanted to set a good example for his children told co-workers that he didn't drink because he was trying to lose weight and others bought alcoholic drinks but didn’t consume them.
If colleagues commented on an employee’s choice not to drink, non-drinkers often tried to prove they weren’t judgemental by offering to buy offering to be the designated driver or buying a round of drinks.
Researchers say the study proves many employees feel under pressure to conform to social norms in the workplace and say HR departments who worry about people over-drinking at Christmas should also consider the needs of employees who don’t want to drink.
“If employers want their employees to achieve their full potential, they need to foster an environment that encourages their employees to be themselves”, said Dr. Roma.
She suggests employers make sure non-alcoholic beverages are available at happy hours and hot social activities that don’t centre on drinking.
Researchers are warning HR departments to be aware of the pressure some employees feel when attending work parties as studies show tee-total staff are more likely to deceive their colleagues rather than come clean.