Small Business Brief

Safety & Loss Prevention

Alcohol in the Workplace: How To Tell If an Employee Has a Drinking Problem

About 10% of full-time American workers also struggle with alcohol addiction. 

That means one in every 10 people drinks alcohol heavily while working a full-time job. Think about how many employees you have in your workplace? You might have one of these people in your business.

But how do you know for sure?

Keep reading to learn how to spot signs of alcohol in the workplace and what to do about it. 

Decline in Work Performance 

Many high functioning alcoholics aren’t as high functioning as they might think. Alcoholics show several signs pointing to their addiction, whether they realize it or not. 

If you know what to look for, you can spot an employee drinking problem before it gets out of hand. 

Here are some of the things you need to keep an eye out for in an employee:

  • Smell of alcohol when they get to work or return from lunch 
  • Tremors, shakes, and bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of focus and/or falling asleep during work hours
  • Fail to keep up their appearance 
  • Erratic behavior during work hours (loud talking or uncontrolled laughing)
  • Chew gum, eat mints, or take mouthwash several times a day
  • Make decisions without thinking about the facts or the risks
  • Stay away from supervisors 

When you see this type of behavior in an employee, there’s a good chance they’re struggling with alcohol addiction. But there are two bigger signs you need to know about. 

You might notice these signs before you recognize any of the other behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at them below. 

Unexplained Absences 

One of the most common signs of alcohol abuse in the workplace is unexplained absences. 

Employees with drinking problems will show up late to work often. Either that or they’ll leave early so they can get more alcohol. They might even miss work altogether. 

When they do this, they won’t have a good reason. They’ll provide unconvincing excuses, or they won’t give you any warning at all. You might start to hear about a lot of “family emergencies”. 

These absences can cause them to miss important meetings and business appointments. 

Unreliable/Failing Responsibilities 

An employee who struggles with alcohol will also become an unreliable member of the business team. 

Because alcohol can cause brain blackouts, they won’t remember responsibilities they’re supposed to take care of. This means they’ll miss deadlines and leave other tasks uncompleted. 

Other employees might get frustrated or angry because they can’t rely on that person anymore. 

Other Signs of Alcohol Addiction 

These are some of the most telling signs of alcohol addiction in the workplace. However, if you know the employee on a more personal level, you might notice other signs. 

Some of these include the following: 

  • A change in personality (anxious, depressed, etc.)
  • Spending time with a new group of friends
  • Financial problems/always asking for money
  • Drinking on their own or showing up to parties drunk

Once you recognize the problem, you should set up a meeting with that employee. During the meeting, talk to them about their alcohol use (don’t use the word addiction!). Remind them it’s an illness that can be treated. 

You might want to recommend help, such as Stop Drinking Expert or another rehab program. 

Alcohol in the Workplace: How to Tell If an Employee Has a Drinking Problem 

Alcohol addiction can impact an employees ability to contribute to your business in a negative way. Their absences and neglected responsibilities could hurt your company. 

That’s why it’s important to recognize warning signs of alcohol in the workplace and address them as soon as possible. 

Worried you might be dealing with some other drug problems in your office? Take a look at this guide to learn about workplace drug testing.