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My colleague smells of alcohol

What should you do when you can see the signs of an alcoholic manifest themselves in an employee? Helping a co-worker requires diplomacy and tact. One of the biggest issues is that your colleague may be in denial about the problem. In this blog, alcohol rehab specialists, Port of Call, discuss how to spot alcoholism at work and how to approach the issue.

How to spot alcoholism in the workplace

There are normally a number of visible signs that indicate a colleague may have a problematic relationship with alcohol. The most notable signs of an alcoholic employee can include:

• Unexplained absences.
• Inconsistent work performance.
• Small accidents that cause minor injury or damage to property/objects.
• Physical symptoms such as being unsteady on their feet, hyperactive activity, sudden weight loss, dental problems, etc.
• Loss of interest in hygiene and personal appearance.
• Paranoia or overreaction to criticism or suggestions.
• Reluctance to talk about hobbies, personal life or interests in someone who was communicative beforehand.
• Bloodshot eyes or large bags under the eyes signifying a lack of sleep.

How to approach your co-worker

Approaching the issue of a co-worker that is going through an addiction can be extremely difficult. No one wants to be seen as a whistle-blower, or wants to be responsible for someone potentially losing their job, especially if they are a friend. Inevitably, the safety and livelihood of everyone involved is at risk, therefore it is in the best interest of everyone that you either approach your co-worker about their problem or inform a member of HR.

Taking on a caring, non-accusatory and non-judgmental tone can help your co-worker open up to you without becoming agitated or defensive. It is important, however, to highlight the effects of their alcohol use and give an honest assessment of how it is affecting their ability to do their job, not to mention the impact it is having on their life overall.

In these kinds of situations negotiating and providing an ultimatum can act as a powerful tool.
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 push they need. Assure them that you will fully support them if they accept help and take this opportunity to point them in the direction of seeking professional addiction help.

If you are concerned about the signs of an alcoholic employee and need advice, please call our free phone line on 08000029010 or get in touch by emailing help@portofcall.com and our friendly advisers will be able to guide you through the best courses of action to help your colleague. We can offer help, support and advice, as well as general information on finding alcohol rehab, accessing ‘free’ or NHS rehab and more.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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