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Alcohol: The wellness topic that remains taboo in the workplace.

Aug 25, 2022

Summary dismissal is often the result when employees go to employers about alcohol dependence

Imagine you were in a serious relationship, both of you saying that you were there for each other and committed to making it work. And your partner urged you tell them if there was ever anything worrying you, anything at all. You said you felt reticent about sharing some things. “No need to worry about me judging you” came the reply, “honestly, you can tell me anything, and I won’t be shocked unless you’ve done something that is out and out criminal”.

So you share details of what it is that is bothering you. It is nothing criminal. It’s not even your fault. And yet your partner immediately splits up with you because of it. No further discussion. The relationship is over. You have to move out straight away.

Sounds pretty unfair, doesn’t it?

Check your employment contract before telling your boss you have a problem with alcohol

Like the partner who says they want the best for you, most organisations genuinely care about the mental health of their employees. They have teams of specially trained Mental Health First Aiders or Wellness Teams, and encourage staff to discuss problems early, so that people can get the help that they need before their problems become severe and debilitating.

But there remains one taboo, one exception to this rule, and that is alcohol.  Employers help people with every other aspect of their physical and mental wellbeing. But not with problem drinking.

Asking for help with any form of alcohol addiction could actually lead to you losing your job

Yes, you read that right.

Being responsible, facing up to realities and asking for help could cost you your job. You would be drawing attention to your problem, and before you do that, you should check your contract of employment very carefully.

Most contracts have a clause which states that you can be summarily dismissed if your performance is impaired due to alcohol or illegal drugs.

That means you can just be shown the door. No verbal or written warnings. No consultation. Just go, and go now.

And even if your employer is reasonably enlightened, and doesn’t fire you on the spot, you will find that you are being watched. Any issue in your performance or behaviour is likely to be attributed to your alcohol-dependence. A project is late? It’s because of your ‘alcoholism’. A client complains? That’s down to your ‘alcoholism’. A disagreement with a colleague? Your ‘alcoholism’ is making you impossible to work with. Frankly, the minute you raise the fact that you have a problem, you are risking a lot.

What to do if you’re worried about your drinking impacting your work

  1. Investigate the options for getting help, and remember that, whilst it is free,  AA is not the only show in town. There are numerous online courses and support groups, and private coaches like me will generally offer free Discovery Calls, so that you can find someone you feel really comfortable with. 
  2. Check your contract very carefully – don’t talk to your employer about your problems with alcohol unless you have checked your contract first
  3. If you are lucky enough not to have any punitive clauses in your contract, ask for a meeting with your line manager and an HR representative, and explain your problem and the steps you would like to take to overcome your addiction, and ask for whatever help you need from them. 
  4. The likelihood is that your contract will preclude you from raising this with your employer without risking your job. In this case, you’ll need to get the help you need without involving or informing your employer.
  5. You might want to talk to your doctor, but bear in mind that they get very little training in alcohol addiction, and generally offer little help beyond saying ‘you need to cut down’. Specialist help is generally the better option.

With the right specialist help, you can put your problems with alcohol firmly behind you.

Once you have achieved that, it would be great if you could talk to your employer, explain what happened to you, and how they could help others in the future.

But first, let’s get you the help you need – if you are struggling, get in touch. Book a FREE Discovery Call and let’s get you back to being the best, most productive and happiest version of you.

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