Date published



Conversations about alcohol at work

Date published



Consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in the workplace include absenteeism, loss of productivity, poor performance, poor co-worker relations, and inappropriate behaviour, which can lead to suspension or disciplinary action.

While organisations often have formal policies and procedures in place for managing many of these issues, employees are often not referred to interventions until they are experiencing significant problems in the workplace. This raises questions for how organisations and managers can identify and communicate with individuals who may be experiencing problems associated with alcohol misuse. These conversations are likely to be difficult and, without adequate training or support, avoided.

The Research

The research consisted of two concurrent studies:

  1. A systematic literature review considering the literature relating to difficult conversations in the workplace.
  2. A qualitative study exploring the experiences of those who have had (or wish they had) a conversation with a colleague about alcohol.

What did we find?

The systematic review highlights the lack of peer-reviewed and evidence-based guidance on how best to have difficult conversations about alcohol in the workplace. It raises a challenge to practitioners and those working in the field to evaluate approaches and understand the contexts that impact success.

The qualitative interviews explored the experiences of those who have had, or wish they had, a conversation with a colleague about alcohol use, and identifies potential signals, barriers and components of conversations.

You can download the summary report below, which integrates the findings of both studies and outlines recommendations for next steps. You can also download more detailed papers for both the systematic literature review and qualitative research, as well as a summary of recommendations. 

Last Reviewed: 7th October 2022

Next Review due: 6th October 2023

Was this information helpful?