What to Do If You See Your Co-Worker Drinking During the Workday 

You spend most of your time with your co-workers, so you get to see them during all of their highs and lows. When they rock a presentation or deadline, you cheer them on. When they have a rough day, you do what you can to help them out. Sometimes, however, assisting them gets a little more complicated than you expected.

One day, you might see a co-worker head into the break room or supply closet and sneak a drink when they think no one’s looking. They’ve skipped the sparkling water provided in the kitchen and brought a bottle of alcohol from home. It’s shocking to witness and might leave you wondering what happens next.

Here’s what you should do if you see your co-worker drinking during the workday. There are right and wrong ways to handle the situation, so remember these tips for the best outcome for everyone.

1. Don’t Spread Gossip

When something shocks you, the first thing you might want to do is tell your best friend or closest co-worker. If it’s about someone stealing your lunch from the fridge or taking your assigned parking space, that’s typical office drama that’s acceptable for conversations. Someone’s potential substance abuse issues aren’t.

If you see a co-worker drinking while they’re on the clock, resist the urge to tell people. Even your closest friend may unintentionally spread gossip, and the person at the center of it all could get hurt.

2. Look for a Pattern

Unless your co-worker is exceptionally bold, they probably won’t drink straight out of a labeled bottle in full view of everyone. Sometimes you have to look for a pattern.

You might also see someone drunk at an office party during the day and get concerned. Even though most people know about office drinking culture, some co-workers might abuse the provided drinks. See if they repeat their behaviors during other parties to establish a record.

3. Talk With Them Compassionately

If you’re close with your co-worker, consider stepping into a private room to bring up your concerns. They may listen to you if they value your opinion, but only if you approach them with compassion.

Communicate effectively by focusing on key features. Keep your tone neutral, exhibit positive body language and use careful word choices so you don’t come across as accusatory. If your co-worker feels attacked, they could only dive deeper into substance abuse.

4. Speak With HR Anonymously

Whether or not you speak with your co-worker, you can always consult HR anonymously with your concerns. They may also know of other warning signs you couldn’t recognize.

A great example is their attendance record. Nearly 34% of people with substance abuse issues miss work more often than people who don’t. You might not have thought anything of those days, but HR will see the pattern as a warning sign that could support your concerns.

Don’t Rush Into Things

If you see your co-worker drinking during the workday, don’t panic or get angry. Stay calm and think things through. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching them, talk with an HR representative who can take over the situation and do the best thing for them.

Drinking Too Much?


Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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