In many cultures, especially in Japan, there is an “after work” practice where the subordinates drink with their colleagues and bosses. In Japan this is viewed as a necessary part of work that fosters camaraderie. Many young people new in the workforce or a new workplace feel a lot of pressure to join in and drink.
But what if you don’t drink?
"Will I become socially unacceptable?"
"Will it affect my relationships at work?"
"Should I just give in this one time?"
"Will they still respect me if I don’t go along with this social norm?"
It was extra hard to explain since I couldn’t fluently explain it in Japanese and my colleagues’ English wasn’t advanced enough to understand my English.
At the risk of these worries, I said no to drinking alcohol. I decided this was not something I would compromise because integrity was important to me. I was not happy to be a person who did one thing back home and did another in a different culture setting.
But you know what I found out?
I did not become socially unacceptable. Instead, I found respect and even had a boss lookout for my preferences. Yes, it did affect my relationship at work– for the better. We found that as we respected each other’s cultural and personal differences– and saw from the other person’s point of view– it enriched and benefitted all of us.💯
Later on, I realized how blessed I was that my company was actually quite proactive when it came to social awareness practices with things such as power harassment and other forms of harassment both in and out of the workplace. I even remembered taking some training on these issues, which I think is absolutely splendid and something every company should do.
Journal With Me: Journaling Prompt for Anxiety at Work
Now it’s your turn to journal. Thinking these through will help you feel less stressed the next time you need to handle a sensitive social norm that you don’t conform to.
- What social practices or pressure from colleagues have made you anxious or feel like you needed to conform when you didn’t feel like it?
- If you do conform, what will you have to sacrifice to do so? (It could be non-monetary such as integrity or time for things outside work like family and important relationships)
- How will you graciously say no and at the same time convey your respect when you find yourself in that situation again?