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Alcoholism – do you work with an addict?

How well do you know your colleagues?

You might have been told to ‘buddy up’ with a workmate at some point. Group bonding exercises, team building activities, going the extra mile for a co-worker, and focusing not on your individual career but on a ‘common objective’ may all be familiar, but what if a colleague you work closely with is hiding a serious problem?

Julia’s* story

“For three years I worked for a firm where every employee was expected to be motivated to always give their best, for the team,” explains Julia. “That’s great, but not easy to do if you work all the time, and are therefore to an extent reliant upon, an infuriatingly inconsistent colleague whom you later find out is dependent on alcohol.”

Tell-tale signs that a colleague may be addicted to alcohol include:

  • Frequent hangovers
  • Scruffy appearance
  • Trembling hands
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • A persecution complex
  • Sudden bursts of aggression
  • Increased negativity
  • Constantly eating mints, to disguise the smell of alcohol
  • Reduced productivity

Julia’s advice

“My advice to anyone who feels they are carrying a workmate who is addicted to alcohol or drugs is to gently broach the subject of their behaviour with them in the first instance, and let them know that you are there to support them. You could even offer to go with your colleague to talk to your boss about their situation, if they would like some moral support.

“However, if you have spoken to your colleague and they brush off your concerns or if you don’t feel like any changes have been made, it’s a good idea to raise the issue in confidence with a trusted manager. Ultimately, your colleague is not well and likely needs some support and time to get treatment.”

This is always going to be a difficult situation. However there is lots of help and advice out there for employers and co-workers to guide you on how to best support your employee/friend.

*All names have been changed.

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