FVP Holdings
Dealing with Alcoholism in the Workspace
15 Jul 2021

There is a big difference between signs someone is drunk at work and signs of alcoholism in a colleague.

When someone is drunk or heavily intoxicated, it is usually easily recognizable. They may slur their words, be unsteady on their feet, and act in obscene ways. Recognizing the signs of an alcoholic employee or colleague can be much more challenging as the warning signs are usually more subtle.


Signs of an Alcoholic Employee or Co-worker

An alcoholic coworker will likely try to hide their drinking habits, but because drinking is so common, it is hard to know when someone crosses the line from heavy drinking to alcoholism. To make this deviation clearer, we take a look at what you need to look for.

Some possible warning signs of an alcoholic at work might include when your coworker:

  • Frequently comes in hungover
  • Is often late or absent altogether
  • Regularly drinks at work and has more than one drink
  • Drinks in the morning or adds alcohol to their morning coffee
  • Smells like alcohol
  • Uses mints, perfumes, or mouthwash to cover the smell of alcohol
  • Hides alcohol in their desk
  • Has bloodshot eyes
  • Sleeps or is always tired at work
  • Misses deadlines
  • Shows decreased productivity or work quality
  • Neglects their overall appearance or personal hygiene
  • Sneaks alcohol throughout the day
  • Faces legal issues related to drinking such as a DWI
  • Drinks excessively at work socials
  • Has excessive mood swings or intense interactions with others
  • Uses excuses or lies to cover up drinking habits or consequences of their drinking
  • Goes drinking after work regularly

Everyone is different and some people’s drinking problems will be more noticeable than others, but if a colleague or employee is exhibiting several of these signs of alcoholism, it is better to act fast.


The Dangers of Alcoholism in the Workplace

While work happy hours and social events involving alcohol may lead to one or two people drinking too much, alcoholism in the workplace can lead to serious problems. It may appear harmless at first, but without going to an alcohol detox centre and getting help, their problems are likely going to get worse. Not only is the individual hurting themselves, but they are also hurting the company and their coworkers.

Problems with alcoholism in the workplace include:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Overuse of sick leave or paid time off
  • Mistakes and poor judgment
  • Injuries at work
  • Missed deadlines
  • Bad habits spread to other employees
  • Increased tension among employees
  • Other employees pushing and testing the limits
  • Making the company look bad in front of clients or customers
  • Decreased professionalism

As these problems get worse or continue, they could wind up costing the company thousands of dollars, if not more. At the first signs of an alcoholic at work, get help before problems get worse for everyone involved.


Dealing with Alcoholism in the Workplace

Dealing with an alcoholic at work is challenging because it can be hard to know your place. You do not want to overstep your boundaries, but at the same time, your company or job may be at stake.

If you notice signs of alcoholism in a coworker that you are close with, you may want to approach them privately and calmly about the matter. Tell them that you are concerned for them and have noticed that they seem a little off. They may be going through a rough time and could use your support.

If you are the alcoholic’s boss or superior, you may start to notice a decline in their productivity or work as well as the development of some bad habits like lateness. As their superior, you should follow your company’s disciplinary policies and reprimand them accordingly. Letting the behaviours continue without any consequences is only enabling their drinking and will likely make matters worse.