Recognizing signs of a functioning alcoholic at work

Man sitting on a couch with glass and bottle of whiskey

It isn’t uncommon for workers to huddle into a bar after the day is done and unwind. In some positions, having a drink with clients and customers is part of the norm. There’s a healthy balance you can maintain between work and a few drinks, but there are those who go overboard. 

Alcohol remains the most used drug in America, with roughly 24.45% of adults regularly binge drinking and another 6.6% drinking heavily. So, how can you tell when a coworker is abusing alcohol? Here are signs that can help you recognize a functioning alcoholic at work. 

Never Turns Down a Drink

This sounds like a lot of people you might know, maybe even yourself, but it’s one sign to look for. A functioning alcoholic will never turn down a drink reports, but it’s more complicated than that. This individual will also continue drinking long after everyone else has stopped or left. Excuses like having one more for the road are common, which can quickly lead to them needing a DUI lawyer in Boulder

Mood Changes

Alcohol can quickly change someone’s mood like lightning, especially once they’ve had too much. While a functioning coworker might be pleasant in the office, they may turn into a jerk after a few drinks. Other changes could be in their flirtatiousness, confusion, or becoming withdrawn when they’re normally very social. 


Everyone has days at the office when their brain decided that morning cup of coffee just wasn’t enough to wake up. When this becomes chronic, especially when it’s associated with time spent drinking, it’s a clear sign that they regularly consume far too much alcohol. 

Unexplained Absences

At one point or another, the functioning alcoholic will crash and need to recharge. This could lead to unexplained absences from work with continuous and frequent call offs. If they magically disappear during their daytime shift, this is another form of absence that almost always means they dipped out for a quick drink. 

Frequent Mistakes

Functioning alcoholics perform their job duties well, but they’re going to make mistakes and fall short. This is true of everyone, but you can catch this red flag when particular types of mistakes become the norm. Large, almost impossible to make mistakes are also a red flag. 


Everyone goes through tough times, but there’s something wrong when instability becomes commonplace in a coworker’s life. You might find that they’re constantly wrapped up in legal disputes, whether it’s a DUI or dealing with an Orange County sexual harassment attorney

Their cognitive function may begin to decline from night after night of hitting the bottle hard. They may miss family functions, work functions, or fail to keep important promises simple because they don’t remember. Some instability is normal for everyone, but too much is simply too much. 

Seeking Help

If you do notice these red flags, it’s vital that you try to help your coworker. You might want to go through HR if you’re not on a close personal level with them. They don’t need scolded, they just need professional assistance to overcome this addiction and get back to normal life.