5 Tips On Handling A Drunk In The Workplace

If you’ve ever had a drunk customer – or worse, a drunk employee – show up at your business, you know that reasoning with them seldom works. Here are five ways you can effectively and safely handle a drunk in the workplace.

Our current times are difficult times. And when there is political and economical unrest and people are at their lowest points, there is always a higher rate of drug and alcohol use. Many of my clients who deal with inebriated people on the day-to-day include luxury transportation companies, bars, restaurants, hotels and convenience stores. That being said, with the current pressures facing people from all walks of life and within all industries, everyone should be prepared to deal with inebriated clients, customers, supervisors, employees, and strangers who show up in the workplace.

The first thing that many people do is attempt to reason with a drunk. The inebriated person does not have the capacity to make smart decisions or analyze information. Instead of reasoning follow these suggestions:

1. Drunks respond better to someone who approaches them in a friendly manner rather than an authoritative manner. You should approach a drunk in a non-aggressive stance with open, empty hands. Even a friendly, cajoling police officer will be more effective and have an easier time than the officer who exerts force and appears pushy.

2. Whenever possible, involve the drunk’s sober friend or colleague. Sober friends can help to calm the drunk down and get them to comply with your wishes faster than you will ever be able to. They’ll respond more to their friend rather than a manager, security guard or an employee that they do not know.

3. Drunks do not like to be told what to do. Offer them choices such as “Walk over here with me,” “Can I call you a cab” or “Is there someone I can call for you?” Statements such as “I would much rather help you out then call the police and have you thrown in detox” are extremely helpful.

4. A drunk can sense your fear – so be confident yet non-threatening with them and show genuine concern for their well being.

5. Ask them questions about themselves. You want to engage them in a positive manner that will keep them occupied and distracted. When you can, direct the inebriated person away from the situation or the place where the commotion started. This does two things – keeps the others at a distance and allows the inebriated person to save face. In a worst-case scenario when police must be called, it is your job to create a safe environment for your employees/other customers and keep the drunk as calm as possible until police arrive. Those four to ten minutes or more can seem like forever in your mind, but if you can engage with them in a friendly manner you will keep them from becoming agitated and violent.

Carol Fredrickson is the CEO and Founder of Violence Free. She spent 15 years in law enforcement specializing in emergency services and disaster preparedness. 

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