Drinking at Work – Zero Tolerance



Drinking at work or being under the influence can never be tolerated even when it is a good employee.

One of the hardest decisions I had to make several years ago was when one of my best employees came to work with a strong smell of alcohol on his breath.

I was working with him and two other employees that reported to me when I first picked up the smell.















This particular employee was someone that really worked hard, and was valuable to my operation.

In addition, he had just successfully completed an alcohol rehabilitation program and had been sober for over one year. I had hired him just as he had finished that program. There was something about him that I wanted to take a risk on.

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Drinking at Work – Zero Tolerance Policy


Now something you do not know about me is that my nose does not work all that great when it comes to picking up various smells, so I know that when I smell something everyone else is really smelling it also.

Well after hiring him my initial instincts were right. He went right to town making improvements and taking control of what I gave him responsibility for. He became a supervisor for two other employees and was able to train them in the new things he was introducing.

He got along with everyone and was always willing to help out where ever needed.

So when I smelled the alcohol on his breath, my first reaction was to ignore it.

One big problem. I had a zero tolerance policy on drinking at work, and/or being under the influence no matter what the amount of alcohol was.

The type of work we performed made it extremely dangerous to risk any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system. If it was suspected, I would call for a breathalyser.



Drinking at Work – He said without hesitation that he had one drink!


I had a history of terminating employees for having the smallest amount of alcohol in their system after a breathalyser, so this made it very difficult.

I did not want to lose this employee.

I called him aside and point blank asked him if he had been drinking?

Without hesitation he admitted to having one drink, but immediately said that he was very sorry but he was not impaired.

I told him to go to an office that was out of the normal area and wait for one hour. My thought at that point was to get him sobered up and then he could go back to work.


Drinking at Work – Would this bite me in the butt!


My thinking became clouded by my emotions. After he left and I continued to work with the other two employees, but I began to think about what I was doing. What kind of message was I sending to my staff?

The more and more I thought about it, the more I became angry and disappointed with myself. What was I doing? Why would I do this? Why in the world would I risk everything I had built on one employee that didn't have enough respect for me or himself to adhere to my zero tolerance policy.

After about five or ten minutes I decided to go to him.

My very first statement to him was that I was extremely disappointed with him. He said he knew and that he was disappointed with himself also.

I said my gut tells me to give you a second chance, but the logical side of me says that I should terminate you right now!


Drinking at Work – What was I thinking – I wasn't!


I told him that I was going to have to take him and have him receive a breathalyzer. He agreed and told me he understood.

He was not making this any easier on me. In fact he kept making it harder and harder by agreeing with everything I was saying. He knew that he had blown it! He knew that he had violated my trust!

I began second guessing myself once again. Would he do this again? Would this not bite me in the butt if I give him another chance? Would this be kept quiet, or would it spread like wild fire throughout the staff. Worst thing to think about would be if this would push him back into drinking again!

That brought me back to reality quickly. Yes it would bite me in the butt. Yes it would spread like wild fire throughout my staff and I would lose their respect. If he returned to drinking that would be on him, not me. He knew the rules from the beginning. It was clearly spelled out when I hired him.


Drinking at Work – Don't let your emotion dictate your actions!


With that in mind I had no choice and did follow through on terminating him. It was a hard thing to do.

I do not ever regret that decision. It was the right one. I don't know how things turned out for him. He moved away to another state.

The lesson I learned from this is that I must not let emotions dictate my actions. I almost did in this case and I know I would have come up on the losing end.

Thank you and May God Bless You!

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