Alcoholics at Work: How Employees and Employers Can CopeBy Michaela Weaver

No one wants to think about their colleague or employee struggling with alcoholism, but the fact is that it does happen. In fact, alcohol addiction in the workplace is a very common problem. Many alcoholic workers try to hide their drinking from their co-workers, but it can be difficult to do so. In this post, we will discuss how employees and employers can cope with an alcoholic at work. We will also look at how employee assistance programs can help.

Does Gender Play a Role in Alcohol Consumption at Work

Different jobs have different drinking rates, but alcohol-related problems are not limited to any certain group of people. Drinking is often accepted in the workplace culture and can be related to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction, feelings of alienation from work, the availability of alcohol at work, and the strength of workplace alcohol policies.

alcohol at work image. a group of co workers enjoying a drink the the office

The culture of the workplace can either accept or discourage drinking. The culture is partly influenced by the gender mix of the workers. Studies of male-dominated occupations have shown that these workplaces can have a heavy drinking culture.

In these cultures, workers use drinking to build solidarity and show conformity to the group.

In jobs that are predominantly female, both male and female employees are less likely to drink and to have alcohol-related problems than employees in jobs that are dominated by men.

What is alcohol abuse and how does it affect employees in the workplace

What is alcohol abuse and how does it affect employees in the workplace? Alcohol abuse is a drinking problem that can lead to far reaching consequences. It can cause problems, including absenteeism, job performance issues, and accidents. It can also lead to health problems, financial problems, and relationship problems. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol abuse, it is important to seek help from a medical professional or treatment program.

NIAAA website – help for drinking

Are employee assistance programs helping?

Employee assistance programs are designed to help employees who are struggling with personal or work-related problems. Many of these programs offer counseling and support for employees dealing with alcoholism. While employee assistance programs can be helpful, they are not always effective in preventing alcohol misuse in the workplace.

Employees are encouraged to seek help from the EAP. If an employee’s job performance starts to decline, a supervisor may refer the employee to the EAP. One survey of 6,400 employees who used EAP services found that employees with alcohol-related problems were twice as likely as those with other problems to have received a referral from a supervisor (2).

The signs of alcohol abuse and what to do if you think someone is affected

There are many warning signs that someone is struggling with alcoholism. They may try to hide their drinking, but there are usually telltale signs. Some of the most common warning signs include:

  • frequently arriving late or calling in sick
  • missing deadlines or important meetings
  • problems with memory or concentration
  • slurred speech or impaired coordination
  • mood swings or irritability
  • drinking alone or in secret

According to a survey from the Global Drug Survey, 21 percent of American employees said they had been put in danger, hurt, or had to redo a project or work extra hours as a result of their coworker’s drinking.

If you think a colleague or employee is struggling with alcohol issues, or alcohol use disorder, it is important to talk to them about it. You may be afraid to bring it up, but you should do so. You can offer your support and let them know that you are there for them.

You may also want to recommend that they seek help from a certified addiction professional or treatment provider. Keep an eye on them. If you notice that they are drinking more often or that their behavior has changed, talk to them about it again.

How can an alcoholic hide their drinking from their colleagues?

Most alcoholic workers will try to hide their drinking from their colleagues. They may consume alcohol before or after work, or during lunch breaks. They may keep alcohol in their desk or locker.

Some however will often head for the restaurant, outside of work at lunchtime, and have what is seen as a few social drinks. This seemingly innocent behavior can be hiding a more serious problem.

There is a lot of variation in how alcohol policies are enforced in workplaces across the country. Employers need to ensure that employees are aware of the policy and how it will be enforced.

Employees should also be made aware of the consequences of violating the policy.

How employee assistance programs can help those with substance abuse problems

If you are an employer, there are many things you can do to support your employees with substance abuse issues. You can offer employee assistance programs, which can help them get the counseling and support they need to quit drinking. You can also provide resources and information about alcohol abuse and treatment options. You may also want to consider offering flexible work hours or accommodating leave policies.

Alcoholism is a serious problem that can affect anyone, regardless of their job or social status. If you think someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, it is important to reach out to them and offer your support. According to NIAAA 14.5 million Americans suffer from AUD – Alcohol Use Disorder

For more employer information about alcohol abuse and treatment options, please visit the OPM.Gov site for Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors

Workplace health promotion programs may help reduce employees’ alcohol-related problems. A study (1) showed that a health promotion program delivered in three 2-hour sessions reduced participants’ stress and drinking.

More than half of the 294 participants attended the meetings. Based on 120 workers who completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires, researchers determined the following:

After 6 months, 76% of the heaviest drinkers reduced how much they drink. Moderate drinkers also reduced their drinking. People in the study also changed their attitudes about drinking, learned more about problem drinking, and recognized when someone has a drinking problem.

What are the benefits of using an employee assistance program for alcohol abuse

Around 45 percent of full-time employees, with the exception of self-employed individuals, have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at their place of business.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) (formerly Occupational Alcoholism Programs) are designed to help employees identify and address personal problems that may be affecting their job performance.

While EAPs can offer a wide range of services, one of the most common is counseling for alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse counseling can help employees to understand the root causes of their problem and develop coping mechanisms to deal with triggers and cravings. In addition, alcohol treatment counseling can provide a confidential space for employees to openly discuss their struggles with addiction and develop a plan for recovery.

Counseling can also help employees to connect with resources such as 12-step programs or treatment centers. By providing support and resources to both employees and employers, EAPs can play a vital role in preventing and addressing alcohol abuse in the workplace.

EAPs offer services that vary depending on the program. They usually train supervisors to recognize when employees might have a problem and then refer them to the EAP. The EAP will provide a confidential assessment and then refer the employee for diagnosis, treatment, and other assistance if needed.

They will also work with community resources to provide any necessary services. Finally, they will conduct followup after treatment has been administered.

Some EAP workers may collaborate with managed care companies. They would be responsible for liaising between the company and treatment providers.

EAPs have been shown to be beneficial. A study of a large manufacturing company found that EAP-referred employees had better attendance, less job turnover, and used fewer sick days than those who did not use the EAP.

The study also found that for every dollar spent on the EAP, the company saved $16 in health care costs and $13 in lost productivity. In addition, the company saw a reduction in workers’ compensation claims and an increase in profits.

While employee assistance programs can be helpful, it is important to remember that they are not a cure-all. They are one tool that can be used to address alcohol abuse in the workplace.

How to get started with an employee assistance program for alcohol abuse

For the employee, if you are interested in getting started with an EAP, talk to your human resources department or contact an EAP provider directly. They can help you determine if an EAP is right for you and provide information about how to get started.

EAPs are often offered as part of an employee benefits package, so there may be no out-of-pocket cost for you.

EAPs can also provide a variety of other services, including financial planning, and legal assistance. They can also help you find treatment for alcohol abuse if you need it.

Many EAPs have 24-hour hotline that you can call any time, day or night, for support. Talk to your employer about getting started with an EAP today.

Alcoholics at Work: How Employees and Employers Can Cope

The effects of alcoholism can be far-reaching, impacting not only the individual struggling with addiction but also their family, friends, and coworkers. For those in the workforce, alcoholism can present a unique set of challenges.

Employees who struggle with alcoholism may have difficulty maintaining regular attendance, meeting deadlines, or adhering to workplace rules and regulations.

In severe cases, alcoholism can lead to on-the-job accidents or injuries. As a result, employers may find themselves grappling with how to best support employees with addiction while also ensuring a safe and productive workplace.

There are a number of steps that employers can take to support employees with alcoholism. First, it is important to create an open and non-judgmental environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help.

Employers should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and know how to access resources and support. Additionally, employers should consider implementing policies that are supportive of employees in recovery, such as flexible leave policies or employee assistance programs.

While it is ultimately up to the individual struggling with alcoholism to seek treatment, employers can play a vital role in supporting employees through this process.

By creating a safe and supportive environment, employers can help employees on the road to recovery while also maintaining a productive workplace.

An alcoholic at work presents challenges for both the employee as well as their employer.


Employers should be aware of the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and know how to access resources and support. Additionally, employers should consider implementing policies that are supportive of employees in recovery, such as flexible leave policies or employee assistance programs.

While it is ultimately up to the individual struggling with alcoholism to seek treatment, employers can play a vital role in supporting employees through this process.

By creating a safe and supportive environment, employers can help employees on the road to recovery while also maintaining a productive workplace.


How do you handle an employee who is drinking on the job?

Be quiet and nonjudgmental. Do not make accusations but mention an employees unusual behaviour. When it becomes clear that a person is under the influence it is not time to resolve any performance concerns. Instead emphasize how important it is for employees to feel safe and secure.

How do you prove someone is drinking at work?

“It’s safe to have a person take blood or breathalyzer tests unless there are no measurable signs of alcohol in their environment,” Shea said. The employer can refuse or require alcohol testing if it has “reasonably foreseeable consequences.” The Deputy Director of Alcohol

What careers are associated with alcoholism?

The highest rates of alcohol consumption in named careers are: Mining: 16.5% Construction: 16.5% Accommodation and foodservice industry: 11.9% Arts, entertainment and recreation fields: 11.5% Services industry: 10.2%


  1. Vicary, J.R. Journal of Primary Prevention 15(2):99-103, 1994. 
  2. Blum, T.C., and Roman, P.M.Alcohol Health & Research World 16(2):120-128, 1992.

Hi, I'm Michela

I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!

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Michaela Weaver

Michaela is the world's leading authority for enabling highly successful women to embrace their true, alcohol-free, authentic selves in a world where alcohol is normalised for those who are successful.Her ground-breaking science-based methods using The Science of Transformational Freedom, result in the revelation of uncovering The Social Secret®, so that high achieving woman can joyfully live their lives free from alcohol – but also thrive in all aspects of their work and personal life without it.