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How to deal with a colleague drinking alcohol at work?

How to deal with a colleague drinking at work?

Dealing with a colleague that is drinking more than just coffee can be a sticky situation. Whether it’s the stench of alcohol on their breath, slurred words during meetings and conversations, or even noticing hangover struggles, being in this situation can make anyone feel like they’re walking a tightrope.

Before dropping judgements, take a step back and think about how to handle the situation professionally because, at the end of the day, it’s about ensuring that your colleague’s well-being is in check and that everyone at work is safe.

Here are some tips to help you deal with a colleague that is drinking on the job

How to tell if your colleague is drinking alcohol on the job?

You can tell if your colleague is drinking on the job if they behave differently, are slurring their words, have mood swings or just have a strong stench on their breath. Recognising the signs of alcohol consumption is not a difficult task, especially if you are used to consuming or being around alcohol. Being attentive and recognising the signs could be the difference in preventing a costly accident.

Signs to look out for are to tell if your colleague is intoxicated on the job

  1. Smell: If your coworker comes into work smelling like they’ve been drinking, whether it’s during the day or the night before, you might be onto something.
  2. Slurring: It’s a well-known fact that being intoxicated by alcohol can cause slippery words.
  3. Productivity takes a dive: If your colleague’s work is looking messier than usual and productivity is diminishing, it’s time to take notice.
  4. Colleague acting secretive: If your colleague looks to be hiding something in their desk or tends to be vanishing around the same time you suspect them to be drinking, something could be amiss.
  5. Bloodshot eyes: Alcohol is known to cause bloodshot and dry eyes as the blood vessels expand when alcohol is consumed. Alcohol also causes double vision and dry eyes.

If you recognise these signs in your coworkers, keep in mind that we are not trying to play detective or to call them out but it’s about being calm, empathetic and understanding. If you are certain that alcohol is present in the workplace, consider the following actions:

What should I do if my colleague is drinking alcohol at work?

Depending on the severity of the situation and the frequency of drinking, you can consider reporting the issue to higher authorities to take the right action. This is especially important if the behaviours of the intoxicated colleague would endanger those around them.

If, however, you feel that reporting to higher authorities is not on the cards, here’s what you should do

  1. Stay calm: There’s no need to stir up drama during this situation, always stay calm and address the situation with the colleague. Read more in step 2.
  2. Have a private talk: Find a quiet spot away from prying eyes and ears to discuss the matter privately, offer help if need be and be supportive of the battle your colleague is facing.
  3. Be honest: Express what you saw without coming off as judgemental but explain that this behaviour could endanger the lives of others and cannot be tolerated.
  4. Hear their side of the story: When having this private conversation, it’s important to listen to their side of the story for you to understand that there could actually be an underlying problem that you could potentially help with. (Dependency on alcohol is a sign of alcoholism)
  5. Don’t gossip: In hindsight, it might seem like this issue would make for scandalous gossip at the water cooler. However, it’s not inappropriate and highly unprofessional.
  6. Follow-up: Keep an eye out to ensure that this behaviour does not happen again, but if it does, you could consider talking to HR about this issue.

Remember to assess the situation before taking any of the steps above. If, however, safety is at risk of being compromised because of a single person’s actions, consult HR or a health and safety officer for them to take the right action to ensure this isn’t a common theme at the workplace.

How to ensure employees don’t drink alcohol on the job

Keeping the workplace drug and alcohol-free should be a top priority for any organisation because working under the influence of any of these substances can cause serious harm. By employing certain rules and regulations, the workplace can become a safer place for employees and patrons involved.

  1. Craft crystal clear policies: Having a clear and concise drug and alcohol policy is important for employees and potential employees to understand what is acceptable and what is not in the workplace. Lay it out and make it accessible to all employees so there’s no confusion about what can be expected when it comes to drugs and alcohol at the workplace.
  2. Educate employees: Some employees may not fully understand the effects of work-time drinking. Educate them on how this will mess with focus, performance and how it can unnecessarily endanger teammates.
  3. Conduct regular alcohol and drug testing: The use of alcohol breath testers or breathalysers is effective at determining how intoxicated an employee is when on the job. This can stem from drinks the night before or during the work day. Breathalyser results can help health and safety officials make informed decisions and can deter employees from drinking since they know that they will have to face a breath test.
  4. Open door policy: Managers should make it known to their employees that they are there to help if employees are facing any issues


Ensuring a productive and safe work environment is a shared responsibility. By cultivating a culture of safety, awareness and open communication, employers and employees alike can collectively discourage alcohol consumption during work hours.

For an extra layer of assurance and safety, consider integrating Andatech workplace breathalysers in your premises of employment to uphold a focused and secure workplace.

Browse through Andatech’s range of reliable and accurate handheld breathalysers and wall-mounted breathalysers with selected models having advanced features including proof of testing, WiFi capabilities, and more.

Andatech also offers saliva and urine drug test kits that are compliant with cut-off levels specified by Australian Standard AS4760.