As we close out April and Alcohol Awareness Month, a few thoughts come to mind. Alcohol misuse not only impacts individuals and their families, but organizations as well. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Addiction, workers with alcohol problems were 2.7 times more likely to have injury related absences. Analysis of workplace fatalities showed that at least 11% of the victims had been drinking. Alcohol misuse in the workplace may result in higher injuries/accident rates, absenteeism/extra sick leave, loss of productivity, and fatalities. The challenges and costs are huge.
Consider this scenario: One of your valued team members begins to slip on performance – mistakes, missed deadlines, poor interactions with customers and team members. You thought you smelled alcohol a few times when this person returned from lunch. You ask yourself, “Could he/she have a problem with alcohol? What should I say?”
It’s a challenging conundrum for a leader. You have competing responsibilities. It’s imperative to address the safety concerns and ensure someone is not under the influence while at work. At the same time, it’s not as simple as telling someone to stop drinking. One of the most common missteps is to form assumptions once there is a belief that alcohol is involved. It is critical to avoid doing this. By making assumptions one runs the risk of a discrimination complaint at some later point. A sticky situation indeed. A professional can offer effective communication strategies for each unique situation.
A manager’s best course of action is to involve their professional team – their human resources business partner and employee assistance professional are the people who best can help navigate this complex issue. Your human resources professional is your guide on policy and regulatory requirements. Your employee assistance professional can manage the complexities of treatment and advise how to support a team member through this struggle.
The main encouragement is to walk this road with a team. Each situation is unique. The good news is that when handled well, you stand the best chance to help someone return to their best self and functioning.