How to Deal With an Alcoholic Coworker

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Are you dealing with alcoholism in the workplace? Learn how to deal with an alcoholic coworker.

Are you working with an alcoholic? Your answer could be “yes” when considering that one in every thirteen American adults abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. Alcohol is the most used and abused drug in the U.S. and many high functioning alcoholics are able to work and cover-up their addiction fairly well. If you know your co-worker is an alcoholic, do you think that you may be enabling him to continue drinking? Alcohol addiction not only causes economic harm to businesses costing tens of billions of dollars per year, but it also harms the drinker who may very well be in denial of his addiction. Learning how to deal with an alcoholic coworker can help save his life and the life of your company.

Many high functioning alcoholics are hard-working, high achievers who are well-respected professionals in their particular field. And although business lunches and dinners often include having drinks, many alcoholics can hold off on heavy drinking until they get home in the evening, and then they often drink heavily. This makes how to spot an alcoholic at work more difficult. Because of their high standing in their career, and being viewed as respected members of their community, most alcoholics do not recognize that they have a dependence problem with alcohol. Initially many alcoholics can perform very well at work, but alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease that will eventually begin to cause deterioration in their mental capacity, judgment and over-all health.

As the alcoholic climbs the ladder of success, more work and new responsibilities will begin to cause more stress, and the alcoholic will start to depend more on alcohol as a way of coping.  Eventually the alcoholic’s performance at work will begin to suffer.  Here are some examples to help you determine how to spot an alcoholic at work:

  • Numerous sick days
  • Being tardy, especially after lunch
  • Missed deadlines
  • Unexplained absences from work, especially on Mondays
  • Careless, sloppy work
  • Poor decision making and inaccurate analysis
  • Improper conduct and changes in personality
  • Health, financial or familial problems
  • Memory loss and blackouts
  • Obsessing about having a drink
  • Drunken behavior

How to deal with an alcoholic coworker requires some tact and diplomacy, because many alcoholics identify themselves and their worth with their career. They are often in denial, or just won’t admit that they have an alcoholic dependence, and will use their performance at work as proof that they are doing well. If you begin to spot multiple examples of alcoholism indicators it is time to organize a confrontation with the alcoholic. Dealing with an alcoholic employee can include: behavioral health agencies, human resources consultants, employee assistance programs and other behavioral health professionals. Employers should also consider consulting an employment attorney just as a protective measure if the alcoholic gets the Americans with Disabilities Act involved. The alcoholic is viewed as a person with a disability and the employer will have to prove that the alcoholic can no longer perform his work duties to be able to legally discharge him.

One of the best ways of dealing with an alcoholic employee is to provide him with addiction treatment in an alcohol rehab center. Many large companies offer this service to their employees who have an alcohol or drug problem. If you are a coworker, you may want to take your friend aside and have a heart to heart conversation with him. Offering your friend support without judgment will go a long way in assisting his recovery from addiction.

How to deal with an alcoholic coworker requires: information regarding alcohol addiction, family and peer support, and professional help. These are just a few suggestions when it comes to dealing with an alcoholic coworker effectively and compassionately. If you are looking for help, either for you or someone you care about, call us today at 1.800.429.7690