Everyone is entitled to feel safe in the workplace. We spend as much of our wake time at work as we do at home with our families, so expecting a work environment that is free from the effects of drugs or alcohol is a given. We go to our jobs each day to produce goods or services and to earn an honest living, and that is hindered when a coworker or boss is coming to work intoxicated.
When a coworker seems to be under the influence at work, it poses a difficult quandary for those who become aware of the behavior. Initially, it may seem that the employee is just tired or burned out, not at all a farfetched observation in today’s work world. But when subsequent signs begin to show up consistently, such as smelling of alcohol, exhibiting inappropriate behaviors, and obvious signs of intoxication, this indicates a substance use disorder. This situation then puts the employees who observe the behaviors in the uncomfortable position of having to consider difficult options.
When encountering this uncomfortable situation at work, it helps to have some tips about how to approach the individual. Workplace intoxication is a serious violation of company policy, so the subject should be broached with finesse and proper protocol.
3 Ways to Approach a Coworker Who is Under the Influence at Work
- Carefully. Caution should be exercised when it is suspected that someone at work is under the influence. The employee may have a medical condition and was prescribed medication to which they are having an adverse reaction. The symptoms they are exhibiting may be directly caused by the new prescription, such as foggy thinking, grogginess, difficulty paying attention, falling asleep at the desk, or incoherent speech.Ask the coworker if they are feeling okay. If they have not imbibed and simply have begun taking a new prescription medication, their response will likely be along the lines of, “Oh my goodness, this new medication is making me loopy. I wasn’t aware that it was noticeable.” They can then contact their superior to explain their odd behavior, while also contacting their doctor who to discuss the side effects.
- Gently. If you have noticed certain concerning behaviors in a coworker, such as coming to work late, excessive absenteeism, sloppy work performance, an unkempt appearance, and displaying symptoms of intoxication, it is appropriate to ask them if they are going through a rough patch. This type of conversation is best taken off-campus, maybe going to lunch together, or grabbing a coffee after work.While there, gently inquire if they want to discuss a possible issue with substance use, telling them you have noticed the changes in them and are concerned for their wellbeing. When approached in this non-confrontational manner, the individual may be open to sharing about their problem and even discussing getting professional help. In this way, approaching the coworker about your concerns is constructive and supportive.
- Wisely. When the person arriving at work under the influence happens to be a superior, there is a different protocol involved. A boss who is obviously intoxicated has a deleterious effect on company morale, can negatively impact employee productivity, and can be a source of embarrassment to employees who witness these behaviors. In the event that a superior is the one who is under the influence at work, it is wise to avoid gossip. This person has the power to terminate someone who might be spreading rumors about him or her at work.Instead, approach the H.R. department to convey your concerns. These professionals are commissioned with the task of protecting the employees and providing a safe work environment. By discussing the issue with H.R. your job will not be threatened, and at the same time the H.R. representative is tasked with looking into the matter. While meeting with the management figure, H.R. can suggest they consider taking a medical leave to obtain professional treatment for a substance use disorder.
Respond in a Supportive, Non-Judgmental Manner
When confronted with the situation where a coworker is under the influence at work, the bottom line is to respond in a supportive, non-judgmental, manner. Anyone who is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion. How you approach the coworker will greatly influence their willingness to seek out the professional help that could save their reputation, their career, and their life.
Ashley Addiction Treatment provides compassionate support for individuals struggling with a substance use disorder. For more information about our luxury rehab program, please connect with us today at (866) 313-6307.