An Alcoholic Employee – What to Look For

Alcohol is one of the most abused substances in the nation. While some don’t think twice about raising a glass to celebrate or saying “cheers” across the table, statistics show that millions of people out there can’t get enough and struggle with alcoholism. Even after the party is over, they keep on celebrating.

Although employers are not responsible for what employees choose to do in their personal lives when it comes to alcohol, their choices to drink and/or get help can directly impact their performance on the job. Absenteeism rates are much higher among alcoholics and productivity and work quality can suffer. Not to mention the risk that alcoholics post on occupational injuries and accidents.

Toasting-Wedding celebration
For some alcoholics, the party doesn't stop

As an employer, you need to know the signs to look for to determine if you have an employee struggling with alcohol. Not only to protect your business and your clients, but also so you can get the employee the appropriate help.

Signs to Look for in an Alcoholic Employee

Many alcoholic employees have become masters at “hiding” their issues when they go to work. And no, we’re not just talking about finding ways to cheat the drug and alcohol test. Alcoholics can be crafty and find ways to mask their problems to the point you’d never know they were struggling. While each individual will be different, there are some common threads when it comes to alcoholics in the workplace. Be on the lookout for some of these signs of an alcoholic employee:

  • Attendance – are they gone a lot, calling in sick often, dealing with emergencies frequently or late to work – especially the day after payday?
  • Friends – are they friends with others at work or fighting? Have they become “loners?”
  • Employee Performance – are they missing deadlines, not communicating well, providing incomplete work?
  • Drunk signs – do they have any of these signs of being drunk?

So You Have An Alcoholic Employee – What Now?

If you come across an issue where you have an alcoholic employee, there are several courses of action to take. It can be somewhat of a “gray” area when it comes to disciplinary matters. On one hand, you want to be firm and have a no tolerance policy in place. However it’s also important to remember alcoholism is a disease, and to treat it like it is.

Some solutions can involve working through an Employee Assistance Program, calling in a counselor, hosting an intervention, setting up accountability through regular alcohol testing, or setting up an agreed-upon leave or absence. The right step will depend on the size of your business, the nature of the job and what you can and can’t afford to lose by offering help and understanding.

While there’s no clear answer on what should be done having a position of firmness, yet understanding, will be your best bet. Always remember that it’s your job to protect your workplace and supervise your employees, even if they’ve become friends. One of the key ways to do your job is becoming familiar with the signs to look for and knowing when something is wrong.




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