A lot of managers suspect employees are drinking before or during work hours, or after work to a point that it interferes with job performance. These five strategies may help you get to the truth:
- Partner with the employee for a day or two: Depending on which department the employee is in, this may be easy and it may not be. But the idea is to select a day and – without notice – either spend a few hours with the employee or have another supervisor do so. If you suspect the employee is drinking before work, do it first thing in the morning. If you suspect it could be throughout the day, schedule some time in the afternoon. Pay close attention to the employee’s speech, smell and eyes. They’re all sound indicators of whether an employee may be tipsy (or recovering from a late night).
- Monitor expenses very closely: In many cases, employees who have developed a drinking problem will indulge their habit at trade shows and conferences, as well as dinners or other outings with clients. They’ll more than likely try to pass some of the drinks off on the company tab, as an “entertainment” or “meal” expense (depending on the situation). Keep an eye on expense reports, and compare similar charges for meals and entertainment from a year ago to current ones. Are the tabs significantly higher? Where’s that extra expense coming from? Are there any other expenses on there that are suspect?
- Keep a close eye on attendance: Depending on the severity (or lack thereof) of the potential problem, employees who are drinking on a regular basis may start showing up for work late, calling out sick, leaving early, asking to work from home, and/or disappearing in the middle of the day to sneak in a nap or drink more. If a pattern emerges (e.g., the employee is calling out sick every Monday or coming in an hour late most days), start sending early morning e-mails that require an immediate response, or scheduling impromptu meetings first thing in the morning. It’s a convenient way to shine a light on the employee’s whereabouts without seeming like you’re calling him/her on the carpet.
- Keep an eye out for small oversights and errors: Generally speaking, employees who drink to excess on a regular basis aren’t nearly as good with details. Because they’re not as sharp as usual, it’s easy to spot constant mistakes in reports, slight oversights and scheduling mishaps, etc. If you suspect there is a problem, keep an eye out for recurring errors in reports and other work the employee’s responsible for. If you start to spot recurring errors, it’s best to have a discussion ASAP, before those errors lead to bigger problems for the company.
- Look for dips in performance, productivity and morale: Employees who are drinking go from taking pride in their work to collecting a paycheck. In the case of an employee who may have developed a drinking problem over time, it should become apparent the employee’s performance has begun to dip accordingly. If the problem escalates, you may notice resentment from other employees who feel as if they’re suddenly “covering for” the employee in question, handling his/her responsibilities and spotting errors.
****Note: Situations like this are always delicate. Accusing an employee without the proper evidence could land the company in major hot water. The best bet is to build a case slowly, over time. Document every incident that occurs, so you can confront the employee when/if the time is right. Documentation may also help the company avoid a lot of legal pitfalls if the employee’s drinking ever leads to problems with other employees and/or clients. Also, be proactive and approach the situation as a health and wellness issue, rather than an indictment of the employee’s overall work ethic.
For more information about dealing with employees who are drinking on the job, visit:
“Alcohol and Employees: Risks and Responsibilities,” at Entrepreneur.com
“Alcohol and the Workplace” at About.com
“Chrysler Fires 13 Workers Caught Drinking on the Job” at Jalopnik.com
“Dealing with Problem Drinking on the Job,” at BNET.com