Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace: Is My Employee an Alcoholic?

Drinking on the job. Isn’t that something that only happened in the ’60s in New York, as seen in Mad Men?

While that approach to alcohol is certainly glamorized in some people’s eyes, it is one of the many types of alcohol abuse in the workplace. And each time alcohol use crosses the path of a work environment, there are consequences. Whether its simply brand management (buying life insurance from someone with whisky on their breath isn’t exactly confidence building) or the critical aspect of safety (drinking while operating heavy machinery), if you suspect a coworker or employee is being affected by an alcohol use disorder, possibly even bringing it into the workplace, there are plenty of reasons to bring it up.

The two questions are how do you know if your employee or co-worker has an alcohol addiction? And how do you address it?

There are actually quite a few myths about alcohol use disorder that prevent people from finding help. They also will sometimes prevent caring individuals from having the courage to intervene. But the reality is, sometimes it is a necessary step of courage on the part of a friend, colleague, or manager.

So first, how do you know?

You will not be able to offer a full diagnosis of an  alcohol use disorder. The symptoms of that, according to the DSM include: a loss of control over their alcohol consumption, numerous unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit, a continued use of alcohol despite negative repercussions (family, job, school, etc), lots of time given to it, dangerous situations, physical dependence, and more.

However, according to the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) there are some things you can look for:

  • After-effects of alcohol use (hangover, withdrawal) affecting job performance
  • Incurring disciplinary procedures
  • History of higher turnover
  • Illegal activities at work
  • Higher likelihood of having interpersonal problems with coworkers or managers
  • Loss of efficiency
  • Negatively affecting the morale of co-workers
  • Poor decision making
  • Time spent obtaining and using alcohol while at work
  • Tardiness/sleeping on the job
  • Theft
  • And more

If these things are in play, there is reason to believe your employee or colleague might be struggling with alcohol use disorder.

What to Know:

Under the ADA, if you are an employer, you legally have to allow your employee find attend treatment if they are looking for it and need it. That means you can’t simply fire someone for taking time off work to go to residential treatment for drugs or alcohol. Hopefully, that is not your intention anyway. And it is good to remember that your employee will come back with more efficiency as well as a new outlook on life. Also remember, you are required to keep any information offered to you about an employee’s addiction or treatment, confidential.

The best way to help is to get informed.

  • Understand the steps of recovery (detox, residential treatment, aftercare, etc.)
  • Check out your insurance and understand addiction treatment options
  • Research addiction treatment centers that will work with your insurance
  • Be prepared to offer support when they come back for a healthy transition.

Should I Talk to an Employee With an Alcohol Use Disorder?

If you believe your employee or coworker has an addiction to alcohol, you might consider it your responsibility to talk to the individual. In fact, if you are a co-worker, your company may have a policy in place for this kind of situation. Do a little research and find out what is expected of you. Alcohol consumption while on the job is a dangerous situation, and your safety, your other coworkers, as well as your job’s security should be a priority.   

If you decide to talk to someone you work with, here are a few things to remember.

  • Be open and non-judgmental. This is the most important aspect. Make sure your employee/colleague feels safe to talk to you and you are not casting moral judgment.
  • Instead of accusations (ie. “you were drinking yesterday.”) Use facts, “I noticed there was alcohol on your breath this morning.”)
  • Make sure the safety of your worker and coworkers is the priority
  • Have your research done beforehand. Be prepared with how they can get help, and how you are willing to help support them.

Alcohol Detox and Treatment in North San Diego, California

If you have any questions about how to approach someone in the workplace, or if you are looking for a qualified detox with professionals who guide their clients through the entire addiction treatment process, please call Pure Life Recovery today. Our program is specially designed to offer lasting hope and a solid roadmap to recovery for every person who comes to us. Call now: 949-344-2863.

Share this post