How To Help Your Addicted Colleague

Alcoholism in the workplace is not a spectator sport. How to help your addicted colleague.

Much of my working life, these days, is spent talking with HR teams, CEOs and managers about addiction at work. In previous blogs I explain how I come to making a vocation of carrying what is often, at least initially, a fairly unpopular message (people who work with you are struggling with addiction and you don’t have a robust plan in place)…
This article, however, isn’t about what the organisation does or doesn’t or should do. It’s about what you can do, if you feel a colleague is struggling.
First off, if you work with someone who has a problem, you are not alone. The stats, according to the Health & Safety Executive, are quite frightening…
• The majority of people who have a drinking problem are in work
• Over half of adults (55%) had drunk alcohol after work and 12% had drunk alcohol during work to cope with workplace stress
• 90% of personnel directors surveyed by the HSE stated alcohol consumption was a problem for their organisation
• 17% of personnel directors described alcohol consumption as a ‘major problem’ for the organisation
So what can you do?
1. Do talk to them. It’s not easy but if you ignore the problem nothing changes.
2. Prepare for denial and defensiveness on their part. Don’t point the finger and try not to judge.
3. Present the facts about their behaviour and why you are concerned.
4. Educate them (addiction can be treated, there is help available etc)
5. Put boundaries in place (if they’ve had a drink, for instance, don’t let them drive home.)
6. Ask the experts (signpost Alcoholics Anonymous, encourage that they visit their GP, pass on helpline numbers).
7. Be their friend. They’re hurting, they’re ill. If it’s painful to watch, imagine what it’s like to live with.
And if you do that, or even some of that, you’ll be doing more than most.
In future blogs, we’ll look at what the workplace can do differently and how organisations can do their bit too. For now, I hope that might encourage one person out there to try and help someone they know is struggling.
Port of Call‘s helpline is a free resource, so whether you or someone you work or live with has a problem with addiction we’re here to help. 0800 002 9010.

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