In this article
More than 6% of Americans struggle with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This is about one in 12 men and one in 25 women with AUDs in the United States.1 With so many adults struggling with alcoholism, the chances of working with someone with an AUD are high.
Alcohol use can cause several problems for the company and the workforce. Alcohol abuse in work environments can result in increased absenteeism, injury, additional costs, loss of productivity, and more unwanted consequences.1
If you think someone you work with is an alcoholic, there are some signs you can look for. Signs of an AUD include:
Signs of alcoholism may be slightly different when at your place of work. Some common signs of an AUD to look for at the workplace include someone:
It’s important to note that all alcoholics show signs of their AUD differently. Similarly, not all people who struggle with alcohol use will exhibit the same symptoms. These behavioral and physical signs aren’t always connected to alcohol.
Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:
Answer a few questions to get started
The reasons why people may drink at work are often similar to the reasons why people drink in general. Often, people become alcoholics in response to life stressors or biological factors.
Reasons why people drink alcohol at work include:
If someone drinks at work, it affects them, the company, and the workplace. A staggering 15% of people in the U.S. say they drink alcohol before or during their shifts.2 These numbers significantly affect the individuals drinking and the businesses they work for.
Besides the adverse effects AUDs have on the addicted person, other negative results of alcohol use in the workplace include:
Alcoholism contributed to about 11% of workplace-related injuries last year.2 Additionally, companies spend between $33 billion and $68 billion each year on healthcare due to alcohol misuse by employees.2
AUDs and drinking on the job have severe effects on both the alcoholic and the workforce as a whole.
If you have a coworker with an AUD, there are ways for you to support them and help them recover.
Having an AUD doesn’t always mean a person can’t get help and continue being a good employee. The most beneficial way to help an alcoholic is to provide support and guidance on their recovery.
Some ways to support a coworker with an alcohol use problem include:
Alcohol use can lead to your coworker failing at work or losing their job. However, there are options for an employee dedicated to their job and recovery.
If your coworker has an AUD, consider sharing information about outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment supports alcoholics while allowing them to keep up with their work schedules and other obligations.
Sometimes, a person struggling with alcoholism needs help finding the right resources. Opening their minds to outpatient rehabilitation could be the push they need to get sober and continue their career.
Encouraging your coworker to work on their recovery can benefit their future in and out of the workplace. Some things you can do to help foster a healthy and supportive work environment include:
If you believe your coworker is struggling with an AUD, keep this information private. The last thing you want to do is make their alcoholism a workplace discussion amongst other employees.
Consider taking your coworker aside and calmly discussing what you may have noticed. Then, go about the conversation in a caring and nonjudgmental manner.
Understand that this person may deny their AUD. This is a common reaction. Inform this person that you’re only there to help and all conversations can be kept confidential. Offer support and resources to help them recover.
Ways to approach someone with an AUD differ if you’re an employer or coworker. If you’re an employer and you think someone that works for you is drinking on the job, you have options to consider. These include:
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer can’t fire an employee just because they have a disease, disability, or medical condition.3 Technically, alcohol use disorder falls in this category. That means an employer can’t just fire someone because of their AUD.
However, you can fire someone who cannot do their job because of their AUD. So, if an employee is constantly late, absent, making the workplace unsafe, or unable to do their job, they can be fired.
The ADA states that an employer must make specific accommodations for someone battling alcoholism before termination.
The ADA also says you must make “reasonable” accommodations for them to get help before firing them. This includes:3
If your employee doesn’t confide in you about their alcoholism or the treatment you provide doesn’t resolve the issue, you can terminate them. Additionally, if their conduct is such that it puts others at risk, the ADA says you can legally let them go.
The best way to approach an employee with a drinking problem is to do so nonjudgmentally and calmly. Try not to make accusations. Instead, mention how the employee’s behavior has been strange or concerning to you.
If you believe the employee is under the influence, wait to address issues on performance or production. Instead, take an empathetic approach to their situation. First, emphasize your concern for their well-being and offer your support. Then, schedule a near future meeting to discuss what’s next.
In this article