People, Talent, Teams

Q&A: Don't make one-glass policy the norm

Joe Khoury of Rockdale, New South Wales asks:

A practice of alcohol consumption in the office during business hours has developed behind my back. I take the professional line with my managers who’ve allowed this. It isn’t received well. Should I loosen up or should they knuckle-down? What conclusions should I draw about this resistance?

Kenelm Tonkin
, Chairman, Tonkin Corporation answers:

You might be told providing staff with alcohol during the day actually helps build morale, that it shows that you are an employer willing to ‘give back’, it fosters camaraderie leading to higher retention rates, it frees up communication channels between management and employees leading to greater productivity and teamwork, and that it immunises your company from attack by poachers. Some years ago, a manager told me with a straight face that ‘the competition allows it so we should too’ and ‘we’ll just have a strict one-glass policy.’

Each argument is a rationalisation to lower standards.

Allow alcohol consumption in the workplace exposes your company: OH&S breaches, workers’ compensation entanglements, negligence suits and insurance complications. I’ve never met an employee who said he’ll stay because you let him drink at work. This is retention humbug. Give this type of employee to your competitor. You’re paying employees for top performance. So you want them sharp, not behaviourally impaired. Employers are under a duty to maintain safe working conditions. The myth of free and easy internal communication due to alcohol can just as easily turn into ugly, morale damaging workplace disputes. A ‘one-glass’ policy is a ‘one-glass’ justification.

Saying ‘no’ to alcohol in the office is appropriate. Your managers’ reluctance to accept this is a hint of a bigger problem though. Have you miscalculated by recruiting these managers? Are your business procedures weak in communicating a zero tolerance policy? Are you displaying strong leadership regarding this policy or are your staff stepping all over you?

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