Drinking on the job is almost universally rejected by employers, and for good reason. Drinking whilst working poses a serious liability for the employer.
This is especially true when the employee is operating heavy machinery or is performing job duties where precision and focus are critical.
If you do suspect that an employee is drinking on the job, here’s how to handle it.
Look For Psychological Signs
There are a lot of psychological signs that can be indicative of alcohol abuse. A few of these include constant or frequent tardiness, a pattern of tardiness (i.e. every Monday or every Wednesday, etc.), excessive use of sick-days, frequent emergencies, and unexplained or unauthorized absenteeism.
These signs indicate that an employee may be hiding something, though they are not always proof that an employee is having a substance-abuse problem. It’s a trigger for further investigation, however.
Look For Performance-Based Signals
Performance-based signs include faulty analysis, constantly missed deadlines, sloppy or unfinished work, missed quotas with excuses that don’t seem to make sense, and incomplete work that is turned in under the presumption of being finished.
Not only can these become dangerous for other employees, these signs point to potential liability issues, accidents and, under a worst case scenario, a worker’s compensation claim.
If employees are injured, and you try to fight the claim, there are avenues for employees these days for appealing a denied workers comp claim – and an alcoholic who is injured may actually fight you on the issue, rather than come clean. Why? Because time off from work under worker’s comp means he or she gets to avoid the alcohol problem and you get to pay for it.
Develop an Employee Assistance Program
Employee Assistance Programs are usually outsourced programs aimed at helping employees cope with the stresses associated with both daily life and extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes, but not always, E.A.P.s involve psychotherapy sessions. It will also help to enroll for couples therapy with your partner.
For substance abuse, an E.A.P. might help the person enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program so that the person can live a normal life. In some cases, the person doesn’t even have to leave work – he or she can quietly reform while remaining employed. This is the best of both worlds. You get to retain a valuable employee while also helping that person save his or her own life.
Confronting The Employee
Confrontation is hard, and it’s something many managers don’t enjoy doing. On the other hand, some managers love confrontation. However, when confronting a person with a substance abuse problem, the last thing you want to do is become accusatory.
Remember, this is a work environment. The strategy should be focused on performance-based problems and any problems that jeopardize the safety of other co-workers or the company. Meet with an E.A.P. counselor or specialist to figure out how to actually approach this person. Gather data that proves there’s a performance, or other work-related, problem. Then, confront the individual in a non-threatening, professional manner.
Stage An Intervention
Another tactic that’s often successful is an intervention. In an intervention, people that are close to the affected individual are gathered together, and led by an E.A.P. specialist or counselor. Family and friends are often involved in the process. While this might seem overly personal for a work-related issue, it may be necessary for the person to confront his or her problems.
Aaron Friedman, Esq., is a workers’ compensation lawyer and father of two. He enjoys sharing his 25+ years of experience with anyone who needs his help. Look for his informative articles on various websites and blogs today.