Do Startups Have a Drinking Problem?
Sarah Jane Coffey


Thank you for sharing your experience and helping to move the conversation about addressing the tech and design culture promoting alcohol use forward. I really appreciate how well you portray what it feels like to be an alcohol abuser in these settings. I’ve been speaking and writing on this topic for the past year. It’s something I felt empowered and compelled to do after I achieved a year of sobriety. I am now over two years sober. The awareness of how much we promote alcohol use is something that I think many people who don’t struggle with drinking issues overlook.

Something that has come up since I’ve been writing and speaking is how many other reasons people have to avoid alcohol. It isn’t only us sober drunks that don’t like to be around others drinking or drinking to excess. It is people with medical issues, people with life stories that make them uncomfortable around alcohol, people who are pregnant, etc. It really doesn’t matter why someone doesn’t drink. We need to learn to respect that. We create exclusive environments when we focus on providing alcohol at work and at events. This is not in line with the vision of inclusion many people have for our field.

I have a few pieces of advice for anyone in any setting that includes alcohol use:

Never ask someone why they aren’t drinking. It isn’t your business and it never will be. You have no business asking someone if they are pregnant, on anti-psychotic meds, or have been abused by an alcoholic parent. So you don’t have the right to ask why they aren’t drinking.

Provide other options. Spend at least half as much time thinking about the selection of soft drinks you will offer as you do the hard drinks you offer.

If you assume people are only showing up to your event to drink — reconsider why you are even having the event. I mean, if people need to be drunk to tolerate what you are asking them to do. Well. You should do something else.

Please check out some of the articles I’ve written and podcasts I’ve spoken on about this topic. I’d be happy to share more with you or have a larger conversation about how we can keep this momentum of raising awareness going forward. Thanks again for posting this.

Victor Yocco

The UX of Alcohol Abuse (Model View Culture) —

What it’s like to be a recovering alcohol abuser in an office with a culture of alcohol use ( —

How tech events can start to refocus their events ( Philly) —

WorkLife Hub podcast interview on addressing office cultures promoting alcohol —

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