Alcoholism is a primary and chronic disease with many factors influencing its manifestation like environmental, psychological, and genetic. The user and addicts lose their control over drinking despite its adverse effects. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the US according to the National Institute of alcohol abuse and alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly fourteen million US citizens are alcoholics. Alcohol is a major cause of injuries both at home and work and on the road. Workplace alcoholism effects the employee and often the rest of the staff.
Alcoholism in the Workplace
In workplaces, alcoholism affects in many ways. Absenteeism is nearly 4 to 8 times greater among alcoholics and job injuries are more common among alcohol abusers. Normally, drinking alcohol is a person’s own business as long as it doesn’t affect his job and work. But an alcoholic abuser can result in a list of problems that the workplace can face:
- Leave and attendance
- Unexplained and unofficial absences from work, excessive sick leaves, etc.
- Performance problems
- Missing deadlines for work, careless or incomplete assignments, excuses for delayed work, etc.
- Relationship with employees
- The employee may become argumentative, short-tempered, the employee becomes a loner.
- Behavior at work
The place becomes smelly because of alcohol, staggering or unsteady gait, bloodshot eyes, the behavior of employee changes like objectionable laughter and excessively loud talk, sluggishness, and sleeping at work, etc.
What are the next steps?
Employee assistance program
Employee assistance programs for workplace alcoholism deal with all kinds of problems and shortcomings. It provides appropriate time-based counseling, assessment, and referral on mental and health problems, family problems, financial problems, and other personal problems that can affect employee work. This work is confidential and performed by an EAP counselor. The EAP counselor diagnoses and evaluates the problem and directs the person towards treatment. He will also monitor employees’ progress.
Human resources or employee relations program
The role of an HR program is to advise management of appropriate adverse or other disciplinary actions that may be taken. They work with EAP while all the confidentiality is preserved. The American disability act of 1990 (“ADA”) and Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) generally provide their services for employees with alcoholism.
Confrontation with the employee
It is the supervisor’s responsibility to address employee-related problems and encourage employees to get help. It is practically difficult at a workplace to approach someone and discuss their drinking habits. He/she should recommend the employee to meet EAP.
The hardest part of dealing with an alcohol abuser is their denial. Intervention is the last resort for saving an alcohol abuser. It consists of scheduling a session where the abuser’s family can be present. It is usually conducted by EAP.
Consideration during and after treatment:
- Leave status during treatment
- When the employee is back to work after treatment, a session should be held by an EAP or supervisor
- Follow up program: 12-Step program or other group meetings
If the employee is performing duties like driving vehicles, using heavy equipment, working around explosives or weaponry, he/she should be restricted. The counselor should be contacted to assess the problem and reduce the business risk of workplace alcoholism.