Joe Khoury of Rockdale, New South Wales asks:
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
Kenelm Tonkin, Chairman, Tonkin Corporation
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?