6 Tips on How to Spot a Colleague Struggling with Alcoholism and How to Help

Alcoholism can cast a shadow over even the most promising careers, affecting not only the individual but also their colleagues and the workplace environment. 

As responsible professionals, it’s essential to recognize the signs of alcoholism in our co-workers and offer a helping hand. 

How to Recognise a Struggling Alcoholic at Work

In this article, we’ll explore six tips to help you identify if a colleague is struggling with alcoholism and how to provide appropriate assistance. Additionally, we’ll delve into the serious repercussions of working under the influence of alcohol.

1. Changes in Behavior and Performance

One of the most evident signs of alcoholism is a shift in behavior and work performance. Colleagues may become unreliable, miss deadlines, and struggle to concentrate during meetings. 

Erratic mood swings, irritability, and a decline in professionalism can also indicate a deeper issue at play. Recognizing these changes is the first step toward offering support and fostering a compassionate work environment.

2. Frequent Absences and Unexplained Sick Days

Alcohol-related health problems can lead to frequent absenteeism and unexplained sick days. As alcoholism takes a toll on the body, co-workers may struggle with physical discomfort and illnesses that result in more time away from work. 

This pattern of absenteeism, especially when coupled with other signs, can point to an underlying problem that warrants concern and intervention.

3. Decline in Physical Appearance

Alcohol abuse can manifest in a person’s physical appearance. Colleagues might exhibit bloodshot eyes, neglect their grooming habits, and experience noticeable weight fluctuations. 

If someone’s appearance has taken a sharp decline, it’s worth considering whether alcoholism is a contributing factor and taking steps to offer support and resources.

4. Increased Tolerance for Alcohol

Developing a higher tolerance for alcohol is a classic sign of escalating alcohol consumption. This means that the individual needs more alcohol to achieve the effects they used to get with smaller amounts. If you observe a colleague that you’ve never seen drink a non-alcoholic drink consume larger quantities of alcohol than before, it’s time to take notice and approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

5. Isolation and Social Withdrawal

Alcoholism often leads to social withdrawal as individuals grapple with feelings of embarrassment and shame. 

If a co-worker starts avoiding social interactions, skipping team events, or isolating themselves during breaks, it could indicate a struggle with alcoholism. Reach out with empathy and encourage open communication, ensuring they know they’re not alone in this journey.

6. Strong Odor of Alcohol

One of the more immediate signs of alcoholism is the presence of a strong smell of alcohol on a colleague’s breath or clothing during work hours. While occasional alcohol consumption might not be unusual, a persistent smell of alcohol warrants concern. 

Approach the situation gently to create a safe space for conversation and offer a nonjudgmental listening ear.

Approach with Empathy and Offer Support

Approaching a co-worker about their potential alcoholism requires empathy and understanding. Choose a private and comfortable setting for the conversation, expressing your concern without judgment. 

Use “I” statements to express your feelings and thoughts, letting them know you care about their well-being. Offering support and suggesting professional assistance are crucial steps in the process of providing the help they need.

Repercussions of Working Under Alcohol Influence

Working under the influence of alcohol can have severe repercussions for both the individual and the workplace. Alcohol impairs judgment, motor skills, and cognitive function, leading to poor decision-making and increased safety risks. 

This not only endangers the individual but also compromises the safety and productivity of the entire team. 

Moreover, alcohol-related performance issues can lead to strained relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and clients. Missed deadlines, subpar work quality, and increased absenteeism can damage an individual’s professional reputation and hinder career growth, ultimately impacting the overall success of the organization.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Recognizing the signs of alcoholism in a co-worker is not just an act of concern but also a step toward maintaining a healthy and supportive work environment. 

By intervening early and advising alcohol addiction treatment, we can help our colleagues regain control of their lives and careers while also fostering a workplace that prioritizes well-being. Remember, your role is not to judge but to provide a caring and understanding presence. 

By acknowledging the challenges of alcoholism and promoting a culture of support, you can make a positive impact on someone’s life and contribute to a healthier, happier workplace.


Alcoholism can cast a long shadow over professional lives, affecting individuals and their work environments. Recognizing the signs of alcoholism is vital for extending a helping hand to our co-workers. 

By following these seven tips and understanding the repercussions of working under the influence, we can create a workplace culture that prioritizes well-being and offers a safety net for those in need. 

Through our actions, we can demonstrate that we genuinely care about the people we work with and are committed to fostering a thriving and compassionate workplace community.