Drinking at Work: The Social Norms of Executives and Alcohol

man at his desk drinking at work

Drinking at Work: The Social Norms of Executives and Alcohol

Executives’ drinking at work is widely tolerated or accepted in today’s society.  One of the most familiar scenes you see in movies where successful business executives are portrayed is the scene where the exec returns to his office to pour some expensive whiskey or scotch from his drink cabinet, either to put a cap on a long day or to celebrate a victory at work. Sometimes the exec is alone, but in most cases, he is accompanied by a coworker, or even a client, an example of what was once a social norm for high-powered business executives – professional drinking at work. If you believe a loved one’s drinking at work has become a serious problem or alcohol addiction,  contact the substance abuse professionals at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to discuss some possible treatment options.

Is Drinking at Work Socially Acceptable?

Drinking at work used to be socially acceptable, and substance abuse was even romanticized in some ways during the 1980s, as illustrated in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, with boozy business lunches and late-night meetings taking place over a few stiff drinks (or a few lines of cocaine, as is the case in 2013 film). However, with the growing rates of substance abuse and addiction across the United States and around the world, particularly among business executives and other high-earning professionals, businesses of all types are taking steps to eliminate professional drinking in the workplace.

In Ireland, for example, while the 1989 Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act made no mention of intoxicants, the 2005 Act that replaced it makes both “explicit and implicit references” to drinking at work, says Kieran Sludds, an occupational health manager at the Health and Safety Authority in Ireland, in an article published in the Irish Times. “There’s nothing in the Act that explicitly says the employer must manage intoxicants in the workplace. But it does say that the organization must manage the health and safety and welfare of employees and create a safe place to work.”

Drinking and Addiction Rates Among Business Execs

The implication here is that a workplace where employees are intoxicated is not a safe work environment, and more and more companies are instituting policies that allow employers to test their employees for intoxicants, particularly in “white-collar service industries and blue-collar jobs where there are health and safety issues,” says Richard Grogan of Richard Grogan and Associates Solicitors, which specializes in employment law. The culture of professional drinking at work has apparently changed, and companies around the world are changing with it. Says Grogan, “I would be of the view that it is legitimate for an employer to say to people: ‘Do not drink during the working day.’”

Not only are there legal ramifications to business executives drinking on the job – say the exec were to get behind the wheel after having a few drinks and end up involved in an accident – but there is the real threat of a business executive’s workplace drinking becoming a problem, one that lands him in rehab. Addiction rates among high-powered business executives are some of the highest in the country, due in large part to their disposable income and the toll working in a high-stress environment takes on their mental health. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, people who earn more than $75,000 per year drink more alcohol than any other economic group, and many business executives could even be classified as high-functioning alcoholics.

Contact the Addiction Recovery Experts at BRS Today

For many business executives struggling with addiction, their substance abuse began during a time when it was socially acceptable to drink at work, and now that the culture of professional drinking in the workplace has changed, they are left with a substance abuse disorder that will only bring them trouble at home and work. If you believe a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, and you want to know how you can help, contact the addiction recovery counselors at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today.


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