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A HR Director’s role in helping employees to battle alcoholism


Supporting a colleague to tackle an alcohol dependency can be a daunting, and emotionally charged experience. It is a subject that requires delicate tact, diplomacy and empathy. In this blog, Port of Call explores some useful approaches, including staging an intervention for employees in denial.

The NHS estimates suggest that roughly nine per cent of British men and four per cent of women show signs of alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, according to Drinkaware. And these are the cases that are reported and known about.

These sobering statistics lead us to the logical assumption that among the UK workforce there will be colleagues who are battling with an alcohol dependency. Few of them will speak of their problem openly. More likely they will suffer in silence, through fear of retribution and ultimately losing their job.

Two colleagues discussing alcholism

Sometimes denial can be a major contributory factor and a colleague’s alcoholism might only surface when their stoic act unravels. Clearly, addressing a colleague’s possible alcoholism is a sensitive and complex issue. But it is one that requires positive action for everyone’s sake.

How to address a colleague’s possible alcohol problem

Helping an alcoholic or addicted co-worker requires diplomacy and delicacy. A task made all the more difficult if, as is often the case, they are in denial about their problem. Challenging their drinking or drug habits could very well result in a defensive reaction on their behalf. But think of the impact on their health and wellbeing, not to mention productivity and morale, if those issues are ignored and allowed to fester.

The words ‘addiction’ and ‘alcoholism’ carry a heavy stigma, so consider using phrases like ‘problem’ or ‘struggle’ instead when approaching someone. Fostering a caring, non-accusatory and non-judgmental dialogue could help your colleague to open up to you without becoming angry or defensive. It is important, however, to highlight the effects of their alcohol or drug use and give an honest assessment of how it is affecting their ability to do their job.

A stark ultimatum can often act as a powerful bargaining tool in these kinds of situations. Though it may seem harsh, sometimes telling an employee that their job may be at risk – unless they resolve their drinking problem – can provide the jolt they need. Ultimately, reassure your employee that you will fully support them if they accept help and take this opportunity to point them in the direction of professional help.

However, an addict will often try to mask their destructive behavior with dishonesty and deceit. The person they will go to the greatest efforts to deceive is often themselves and their defensive reactions to any challenges or offers of help can prove hugely frustrating. In this instance, a structured and professional intervention can be extremely effective, especially if you are unsure how to confront the behavior proactively and sensitively.

What does an intervention involve?

An intervention can be a powerful tool to show the person who is struggling the broadranging impact of their behaviours around drinking and to encourage them to reach out for help and seek rehabilitation. The earlier an intervention can be staged, the sooner their addiction can be managed through to recovery.

Interventions are normally facilitated by a counsellor, or interventionist, and actively supported by family, friends, colleagues and anyone else who might be committed to the welfare of the addict. Their collective influence can provide a poignant illustration of the devastating effects that the addiction is having on the people in their immediate sphere of influence. It is also an opportunity for solidarity, to remind them that there are people who care about their welfare and that immediate help is at hand via an alcohol rehab facility.

Port of Call can organise every aspect of a professional intervention programme. Following a free and confidential assessment over the telephone we can secure a fully qualified counsellor, or interventionist, to facilitate the entire intervention process.

Make us your first Port of Call. We can help you, or a colleague, to access the right alcohol addiction help at the right time. Take the first step towards recovery by speaking to one of our advisers today. Please call our free phone line on 08000029010.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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