The Signs of Alcoholism in the Workplace – by John Gillan

As an ex HR Director (who would often go out for a “business lunch” involving wine, I know this is a tricky subject). 

So I was delighted to receive this guest blog from John Gillen.  John is a former jockey who became dependent on alcohol as a result of his career.  He is now sober and helping others through his work at the Rehab Clinics Group.  He has a fascinating personal story which you can read here and below is his article about alcohol at work. 

Regular use of alcohol is, unfortunately, bringing a significantly negative impact on the quality of our working lives.

Being an employer, you need to understand more about your employees. You may not understand at first what it is that is bringing down the performance of your organization.

However once you understand more about alcoholism, its impact on performance, and how to curb this situation you will be able to solve the problem.

Here are some tips on how to identify signs of alcoholism in the workplace.

The Rise of Alcoholism in the Workplace

Alcoholism can sometimes be the result of workplace stress and pressure. It can be the result of job burn-out through failure to meet the expectations or deadline pressure. As pressure continues to build up, the alcohol problem continues to progress, leaving the employee psychologically dependent on the substance.

Once an employee is in this state, alcohol consumption will build up as a habit and it will damage the physical and psychological health of the employee. It will also damage their career.

With this in mind, it is of great importance to know the signs and put in place proper measures to curb this situation.

Signs of Alcoholism in the Workplace

It is very difficult to spot the signs of alcohol abuse in the workplace without previous addiction or exposure to alcoholism.

However, there are some signs to identify alcoholism in the workplace:

Workplace Performance

Poor performance can be a result of personal issues and a direct indication of a change in behaviours and habits. As an employer, when you see a drop-in performance, additional unusual mistakes from employees who are commonly known for hitting targets then it could be linked to alcoholism.


Frequent absenteeism often indicates that alcoholism is present. When an employer receives an unusual phone call with a number of sick excuses it means that the employee could be masking the effects of alcoholism, or they are in need of time to abuse further substances.

Workplace Relationships

When you realize that there is a deterioration or long-term breakdown in relationships between employees, it can be a sign of long-term alcoholism. Some employees may experience persistent disagreement with their seniors concerning poor time management, performance, and absenteeism.

Also, there will be a change in priorities and behaviours of those who abuse drugs as opposed to their colleagues. It may be difficult to spot this but when it persists, it could be an indication that alcoholism is present.


The continued use of alcohol has a negative impact on one’s psychology. When addiction is in place, some changes will be experienced in the brain, and as a result, the brain undergoes a cognitive modification. This may change the behaviour of an employee.

They may become stressed, irritable and uncontrollable, or even experience frequent changes of attitudes.


Have you discovered your employee’s health is deteriorating? The employee might have fogged or bloodshot eyes or other physical signs.

Recognizing the above signs, it is important that you take the right measures.  The deterioration in workplace performance, frequent absenteeism, long term disagreement, and misunderstanding among employees, could be a sign that alcoholism could be present.

Curbing Addiction and Mental Health Issues in A Business

If alcohol consumption is becoming an issue in your organization, it is advisable that you take the respective measures effectively.

Despite the fact that it may affect the progress of an organization, it is important to use a compassionate approach when dealing with this matter.

The first measure is to put in place a workplace policy, designed with the help of the human resource team to help secure the future of the organization. This will guide you and the entire organization on the right ways to curb this issue in your workplace, and also help encourage treatment for those affected.

Once you have agreed on the possible measures and the proactive plan is in place, it is now the right time to open up to those who are affected. The approach may be unwelcome, yet it is the right approach once they have admitted and are willing to accept any support from the business.

You can now set your intentions with the aim of letting them join the treatment program from the specialist.

If you are finding it difficult to approach your employees regarding this issue, try reaching out to Rehab Clinics Group. The admissions team can run through the best alcohol treatment options for you, alongside the next steps to take.


The 11 Year Fact

Did you know that the average dependent drinker will struggle alone for 11 years before reaching out for help?

Don’t wait for 11 years – join Tribe Sober today!