I have a work colleague I sit next to whom I suspect to be an alcoholic. Certainly other colleagues have expressed this opinion. It used to be that occasionally he would come in smelling of stale beer from the night before, but recently it has been every day. The smell is unpleasant and sometimes makes me feel ill. Should I approach someone at work about this? I have nothing personal against the guy and find he is a useful to talk to and I wouldn't want to get him into trouble, but the smell is becoming difficult to put up with.

  • Not sure it's quite an exact duplicate @JohnHC, however the advice provided in the answer does equally apply. I'm not casting my VTC, but will not cast my vote to keep it open as I'm torn. See what others think of it. – Draken Apr 7 '17 at 10:00
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    Just for clarity: is it only the smell or do you suspect he's actually drunk on the job? If it's the former, I think it's a duplicate to the linked question. – Erik Apr 7 '17 at 10:02
  • @JohnHC and others the linked question is from a manager's perspective. It's different if it's just a colleague and not someone you are responsible for, so I wouldn't call it a duplicate. – user45590 Apr 7 '17 at 10:04
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    If your assumption on his condition is based on the smell only, I'd like to point out that diabetes results in a similar smell. Clarify that before you make any irreversible accusations. – Mike Apr 7 '17 at 12:59

If you aren't willing to take action that might get him in trouble, I see three options:

  • Talk to him about it. Mention to him privately that the odor is bothering you and makes it hard to concentrate on your work. This can be quite a difficult conversation to have, but many people would be appreciative to know the problem.
  • Put up with it.
  • Try to get moved to another location. You could ask to sit somewhere else. This might not be possible, and it might cause suspicion about your co-worker (or someone else you sit near) unless you can think of a plausible excuse for wanting to move.

The next level of action beyond this would be talking to either your manager or HR. It would be better to simply mention the odor, rather than the suspected alcoholism. But I think you should talk to him first, before escalating the issue. If you aren't willing to talk to him, then just ignore or avoid the problem.

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Sorry to hear that, that is a tough situation.

If he is truly an alcoholic, nothing you can say will make a difference. It is a severe addiction and there will be no change without significant therapy and/or intervention. Chances are its going to get worse. I've seen it happen and it's not pretty.

You need to decide how much you want to get involved. Doing nothing, is probably not the right thing. As I said, it's likely to get worse and if, for example, he starts driving drunk he is danger to himself and to other people. Work will suffer as well. You can try to remove yourself from the situation as much as possible but it's better if something happens.

You don't do him any favors by protecting him. He won't get out of this without external help and without some drastic intervention. I'd recommend bringing HR into the loop, if you have someone decent in there. They are better trained for this type of situation.

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Tell him he stinks in whatever fashion you deem best. He'd much prefer a heads up from a colleague than a reprimand from management. Only if that doesn't work should you escalate.

I'd say something like 'Mate, you stink of booze, you need to brush your teeth or something.'

But judgement call on the wording, not everyone is as straightforward.

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    Wow, this seems very unprofessional. I don't think talking to him in that way will result in any change, just in an angry colleague. – Houbie Apr 7 '17 at 11:42
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    @SimonHoubracken if someone is making me want to puke all day every day, I couldn't care less if they get angry when I confront them about it. – Kilisi Apr 7 '17 at 13:13

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