A corporation is similar to a small city while a small business is often like a soap opera. You can have the villain, the martyr, the sex, and the drugs and alcohol if you're not careful about keeping your finger on the pulse of the organization.

Many entrepreneurs work around the clock to make unreasonable self-imposed deadlines and take on characteristics that cause you not to recognize them anymore. It can begin to be a problem that many will not notice until it is too late. It's not uncommon for someone who is an alcoholic or with a drinking problem to have a bottle of liquor in their drawer to partake during the day.

What exactly is alcoholism? According to the Mayo Clinic, alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can't consistently predict how much you'll drink, how long you'll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking.

An alcoholic may toast every small victory, but the problem isn't apparent until they begin to lie to cover their tracks, forget things from one day to the next, and jump from job to job with a distinct pattern. The Mayo Clinic says that it's possible to have a problem with alcohol, even when it has not progressed to the point of alcoholism. Problem drinking means you drink too much at times, causing repeated problems in your life, although you're not completely dependent on alcohol.

But whether it's to the point of an all-out drunk or a little drinking problem, there is a problem nonetheless. You can pretend not to smell the liquor on his breath, cover for him when he's missing in action, or turn a blind eye to his behavior. According to www.nolo.com these problems can include diminished job performance, lowered productivity, absenteeism, tardiness, high turnover, and increased medical and workers' compensation bills. Employees who abuse drugs and alcohol can also make a workplace more volatile and more dangerous, and they can expose employers to legal liability. These are the reasons a drinking problem can become a small business owner's problem.

As the manager or owner, you don't have to be held hostage by someone's drinking. Alcoholism is a mental illness and deserves to be treated with the same dignity and seriousness as any other mental illness. I recommend that you take a few steps to course correct an employee who has a drinking problem.

Company Policy

If an employee is drinking on the job, you can deal with it through your company's standard disciplinary procedures. But it must be discussed in your employee handbook, which must be up to date and clear in terms of your disciplinary process for drinking on the job. Often many small businesses do not address such or even have a robust employee handbook. This is important in dealing with employees as your company grows. Be sure to have an employee handbook that has been reviewed by an employment attorney.

No Alcohol on the Premises

Many small businesses allow not only liquor on the premises, but allow employees to keep travel size to regular bottles of liquor in their drawer. It's not uncommon to visit a company celebrating with drinks that they pull out of the cabinet. This sends the wrong message and can be an enabler for someone with a drinking problem. Remove all liquor and create a dry zone for your company.

Alcohol-Free Activities

It's par for the course to go out for drinks after a slow week, after a hectic week--heck,  at the end of the week for any reason--that will build camaraderie. But don't encourage after work drinking meet ups. Even minimize activities centered around alcohol when possible. This will be the most difficult because nearly anything appealing to an adult involves liquor. But, this could mean the difference between sobriety and alcoholism for an employee.

Published on: Apr 21, 2015
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