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Facing Up to Alcohol in the Workplace

Alcoholism often is called a family disease because it affects both the person with alcoholism and his or her family. But it's also a workplace disease.

Costly and dangerous

Employees who are dependent on alcohol have higher health care costs than the average worker.

In addition, workers who drink on the job or heavily after work may take chances that may affect the safety, productivity, and morale of coworkers.

Symptoms on the job

Frequent absences, especially on Mondays, is one sign of alcohol problems at work. Recurrent lateness on any day is another. Other signs include poor quality of work, more errors in judgment, poor concentration, and missed deadlines.

Steps to take

When faced with working with someone who drinks too much, many people choose to do nothing.

Ignoring the problem doesn't do the person any good. People who are dependent on alcohol rarely get help on their own. They are more likely to get treatment when pressured by family members, the courts, or their bosses.

With this in mind, consider taking these steps:

  • Talk with the person at your company assigned to handle problems like this. It might be someone with your employee assistance program or a medical person.

  • Talk with your coworker when he or she is sober. Express your concern in a caring way. Be sure to use “I” phrases, such as “I think,” “I feel,” and “I’m worried.” Focus on the problematic behavior and it’s effect on the person’s own career.

  • Remember--the sooner you act, the sooner the person may get help. 

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