Alcoholism in the Workplace

Alcoholism in the Workplace
It may be unsurprising for the American working class to exhibit problematic alcoholism, considering that experts estimate that over 14 million Americans meet alcohol use disorder (AUD) criteria. AUD involves uncontrollable alcohol abuse, meaning a person continues using alcohol despite the apparent problems they cause. Alcohol abuse in the workplace increases worker absence and decreases overall productivity. Likewise, the effects of alcoholism may cause a workplace to spend more on healthcare. Alcoholic behavior can result in workplace injuries, personal tragedies, and traffic accidents. Family members and friends concerned for someone’s alcoholic habits must understand alcohol abuse. Education can help concerned individuals prevent their addicted loved one’s condition from developing into AUD. Consider the following information about alcoholism in the workplace.

How To Tell Someone Has an Alcohol Use Disorder

Concerned employers or colleagues can look out for signs associated with alcoholism and substance abuse to determine the best method of helping someone overcome their AUD. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management identified the apparent signs of an alcoholic employee in the workplace. Such symptoms include:
  • Walking Unsteadily: A standard drunken behavior involves an unsteady gait.
  • Smelling Like Alcohol: A person may distinctly exude a pungent alcoholic odor when entering the workplace.
  • Body Tremors: Alcoholics may experience uncontrollable body shakes throughout the day.
  • Red Eyes: A person with bloodshot eyes may have recently consumed alcohol.
  • Sleeping on the Job: A person may fall asleep in the workplace due to alcohol addiction and consumption.
  • Irritability: An alcoholic in the workplace may exhibit mood and behavior changes.
Meanwhile, some signs are only potential indicators of alcohol abuse or drug abuse. The following signs may not always be specific to problematic alcohol use:
  • Missing Deadlines: Workplace alcohol abuse can lead to workers frequently missing deadlines.
  • Constant Mistakes: An employee’s output containing numerous careless mistakes may indicate underlying problems.
  • Unfinished Work: Workers leaving assignments unfinished or submitting incomplete work may count as alcoholic behavior.

General Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms

Alternatively, concerned individuals can look for general symptoms associated with employee alcohol abuse or AUD. Someone with an AUD would exhibit at least two diagnostic criteria within 12 months. Such AUD criteria include the following:
  • Excess Drinking: A person consumes more alcohol than they initially intended. A person may also fail their attempts at cutting back or stopping their drinking altogether.
  • Finding Ways to Drink: A person may go to extreme lengths to find alcoholic drinks. Perhaps a coworker may invite others out for drinks more often than usual. They will also exhaust their time and resources to use alcohol.
  • Neglect: A person’s performance may drop due to alcohol use and neglecting office work and housework responsibilities.
  • Interpersonal Issues: Alcohol abuse or substance abuse of any kind can cause people to have more conflict in social situations.
  • Drinking in High-Risk Situations: A person may consume alcohol while driving or handling machines and equipment.
  • Trading Alcohol for Usual Hobbies: A person may favor alcohol instead of the activities they usually enjoy.
  • Drinking Despite Doctor’s Orders: A person may use alcohol despite receiving doctor’s orders to avoid it due to a medical condition they may have. Usually, people with liver disease or mental health conditions ignore doctors’ orders to quit drinking.
  • High Alcohol Tolerance: A person may drink more alcohol or start binge drinking to achieve the drunken state they desire since they have developed a high tolerance after constantly drinking.
  • Alcohol Withdrawal: A person who suddenly stops excessive alcohol consumption may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including breaking out into cold sweats, feeling nauseated, vomiting, having a racing pulse, getting intensely anxious, and having shaky hands.

How To Help a Worker With an AUD

Concerned individuals who suspect a colleague of having an alcohol problem can speak with a person of authority, such as a manager, supervisor, or human resources representative. These people can review an individual’s concerns regarding their coworker while protecting the workplace operations. Employers or HR managers usually approach the situation by meeting with employees suspected of abusing alcohol away from their colleagues. A private meeting may be ideal for the people in high positions to determine the employee’s actual problem. Relatedly, employers must gather documents with precise details and examples of a person’s behavior associated with alcoholism and drug dependence. Such documents may be weekly performance records showing poor output. Employers should also approach the situation calmly, angling toward concern for the company’s overall performance. The employer or supervisor must avoid using the evidence of a person’s poor performance as an accusation. Instead, they can give the employee a chance to explain their side about what is happening. The HR department can proceed with disciplinary action if the employee denies alcoholism as the cause for their performance. However, the employee must show improvement. Meanwhile, an employer can legally terminate an employee should they determine that their alcoholic behavior has been disruptive and harmful for the company.

Helping a Coworker Without Employer Intervention

A concerned coworker can approach their colleague about AUD symptoms they may notice in them. They may be more inclined to share their situation with a friend in the office. The suspected alcoholic may ask for help only when the concerned worker should proceed to their HR representative. Concerned colleagues must avoid covering for the person they suspect of alcoholism. The suspected alcoholic may ask a friend to clock in for them when they are late, cover their shift when they leave early, or even loan money for certain reasons but end up buying alcohol. Colleagues who agree to do such things only enable destructive behavior in the workplace.

Conclusion

Alcoholism in the workplace is highly likely because of the millions of American workers who meet the alcohol use disorder criteria. Obvious AUD criteria include physical changes in a person, such as smelling like alcohol and imbalanced gait. Meanwhile, poor workplace performance may also indicate alcoholic behavior, although there may be underlying issues unrelated to alcoholism when workers perform poorly. Concerned colleagues can approach the worker they suspect of alcoholism as a friend. Once the worker admits to having a problem, the concerned individual can seek help from their designated human resource representative to take matters into their own hands by providing alcohol testing and helping them to get the alcohol treatment they need. Sources: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/workplace https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/reference-materials/alcoholism-in-the-workplace-a-handbook-for-supervisors
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