Facing Up to Alcohol in the Workplace
Alcoholism often is called a family disease because it affects both the person with alcoholism and his or her family. But it's also a workplace disease.
“Chances are, no matter where you’re employed, it’s an issue,” says Carol Falkowski, director of research communications for the Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minn. More than three-fourths of U.S. adults with alcohol problems have jobs.
Costly and dangerous
Employees who are dependent on alcohol have twice the health care costs of the average worker. They are more likely to steal from their employers. They are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and are five times more likely to file worker’s compensation claims.
In addition, workers who drink on the job or heavily after work may take chances that may affect the safety, productivity, and morale of coworkers.
Symptoms on the job
Frequent absences, especially on Mondays, is one sign of alcohol problems at work. Recurrent lateness on any day is another. Other signs include poor quality of work, more errors in judgment, poor concentration, and missed deadlines.
Steps to take
When faced with working with someone who drinks too much, many people choose to do nothing.
Ignoring the problem doesn't do the person any good, says Falkowski. People who are dependent on alcohol rarely get help on their own. They are more likely to get treatment when pressured by family members, the courts, or their bosses.
With this in mind, consider taking these steps:
Talk with the person at your company assigned to handle problems like this. It might be someone with your employee assistance program or a medical person.
Talk with your coworker when he or she is sober. Express your concern in a caring way. Be sure to use “I” phrases, such as “I think,” “I feel,” and “I’m worried.” Focus on the problematic behavior and it’s effect on the person’s own career.
“Don’t delay,” says Falkowski. “The sooner you take action, the sooner the person can get help and start working up to his or her potential.”