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Drinking On The Job – What Do You Think?

September 29, 2010 · 45 comments

in Work

The other day when I was listening to the radio, I heard about a news story that had been televised the night before.   The news piece featured footage of Chrysler Jefferson Avenue plant workers drinking and smoking ‘hand rolled cigarettes’ during a work break.

Hopefully this sign won't have to be put up in workplace parking lots.

What makes this extra great is that President Obama had just been praising this very same plant after visiting at the end of July.  (President Obama obviously did not stay long enough to enjoy ‘break time’ when he was paying a visit to the plant…)

Of course, the plant is located in Detroit, a city which seems to just exude bad news day in and day out.  However, I would not be surprised if drinking happened at many plants across the country, and these guys just happened to get caught.  Since the story was televised, Chrysler has identified the employees and fired all but 2 of them.  Chrysler execs were apparently outraged by the behavior of these employees, and rightfully so.  The company has been fighting for its life, and the last thing it needs is the image of their cars being put together by drunk individuals.  (Click here to read more details on this story from Foxnews.com.)

After reading the story on Foxnews, I read through some of the comments people wrote about the story.  Some people were glad they were fired, others felt that people drink on the job all over the place, so what’s the big deal?  (In other words, why is it ok for sales guys to drink at lunch but auto workers can’t drink during break?)  However, in this situation, I am sure it is not the safest thing to assemble a car ten minutes after drinking from a bag of beer/wine/whiskey/whatever.  Not to mention that the plant floor can be a dangerous place, and workers that drink on the job may be putting themselves and others at risk.

Many other people who left comments launched into the evils of unions, and how the unions will somehow find a way to get these employees reinstated.  Well, if that happens, then that is a travesty, especially since it is explicitly stated that employees are not allowed to drink during work hours.  Some may say that many people do it, but that doesn’t matter.  Wrong is wrong.  Not to mention that reinstating these jobs would add fuel to the union-haters out there.  I guess we will see what happens with that.

I just wish some great news would come out of Detroit for once.  News stories like this, while need to be reported, just make people say “It figures”…

What is your view of drinking during work hours?  Are you allowed to drink at lunch where you work?  If so, do you think it affects your performance?

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

The Biz of Life September 29, 2010 at 7:52 am

Unless you work in a brewery and your job is to brew and taste beer to make sure the batch is good, I say no way to drinking on the job. It clearly effects overall performance, work attitudes, and sends the wrong message to employees.


Kris September 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I totally agree with you Biz! I really don’t know how it can be justified. Always heard that people in sales had to drink to fit in, but it seems like a recipe for disaster to me.


Nicole September 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

We CAN, but nobody does.

I interviewed at a different university that will not be named where the chair was already drunk when he got me for breakfast and I was driven back to the hotel at the end of the day by a different drunk driver. I am very glad I didn’t have to accept a job there.


Kris September 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Nicole – that sounds like an absolute nightmare. I get terrified when I think of how many people are driving drunk. When will people learn?


Deedee September 29, 2010 at 10:40 am

I have an office job and personally would never drink on the job or at lunch even. A few years ago I would occasionally have a beer or glass of wine with lunch if I was at a nice restaurant. But I quickly learned that makes the afternoon very difficult to get through. Mainly because I would be so sleepy! Now I often have a glass of wine when I get home from work while husband and I unwind and discuss how our day went.


Kris September 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm

DeeDee, I can totally identify with what you are describing. I was working as an intern at a job once and on the last day, they took me out to lunch. Well, they bought me 2 beers and I was totally useless the rest of the day. I guess some people may adapt, but I don’t think I could.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

I am very much against this. Knowing that the workers were drunk would make me think twice about buying a product as important as my vehicle. I don’t think Chrysler overreacted at all.


Kris September 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more. I sure hope the people running quality control are sober!


Heather September 29, 2010 at 11:40 am

Until this year, I have been a full-time teacher my whole career. No drinking on the job, though there have been quite a few days that warranted it 😉

This year, I am teaching half-time (still no drinking) and doing personal training half time. I can’t imagine training a client while smelling like liquor. Yes, I *could* but I would end up with not very many clients…

While I don’t think people should be drinking at work, there is a significant difference between having a drink and being drunk (for most people).


Kris September 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Oh I agree- it doesn’t mean you are drunk if you have one beer. However, I would rather not take the risk and make sure nobody that is building a product I would put my children is under the influence.

Great job on being a personal trainer. That is a great profession, and you can do it on your schedule. (or so it seems!)


Suba @ Wealth Informatics September 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I didn’t even realize there would be ANY job where it is ok to drink. But now that I think about it, sales types, when they wine and dine the client, they would drink too… Personally for me drinking just a glass of wine (I don’t like beer) would make me feel sleepy 😉 no there goes the productivity. I work in an R&D setting, there is not drinking policy. But I think that is because it is obvious that we shouldn’t be drinking more than it is allowed. There is only one day of the year we drink when we go out holiday lunch. At that time people do get a beer…


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Greetings Suba! I do know sales people probably are allowed to drink more than many jobs. I guess it is just the social element of the job. However, I would think the company would be concerned about making poor sales decisions with all the drinking.


Invest It Wisely September 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Drinking on the job is a no-no. However, during the summer there are days where the alcohol is flowing freely just outside of work, as in BBQs or other events like that. I’m sure that some people have 2-3 beers and then come back to finish the rest of the day. I work in an office in R&D though, so that sort of thing isn’t the problem it would be if we were say, construction crane operators.


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Kevin – I guess it depends on what you are researching. Cancer research, stay sober. Researching how many paper clips a 2×2 box can hold, feel free to drink away! 🙂

I do recognize that working a plant is probably monotonous as can be. However, maybe the workers would be better off doing a Sudoku instead of drinking from a paper bag.


Invest It Wisely September 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm

P.S. LMAO at the ‘hand rolled cigarettes’. Does that mean what I think it means?


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Hello again! Well, some articles implied others, and some others said ‘smoking questionable cigarettes’. So I went the safe way. At least it wasn’t a bong…


Squirrelers September 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I don’t think it has any place at work. It’s not going to help anything, and is just not socially acceptable anyway.

Also, if you’re counting on someone to do some real brain work for you, would you want them drinking? Whether it’s a marketer, accountant, lawyer, or whomever – it’s not going to help things to drink. How about a doctor that drinks? Not a good thought, eh?

This story makes me think twice about that company’s products.

To your point on good news coming out of Detroit, I too am hoping for good things out of Detroit – and I mean the city, not just the auto industry. I vividly remember my time there, and how everybody lived in the past, talked about how things used to be, and were just negative about a lot. A very different vibe than here in Chicago, for example. I suppose it’s hard to be positive in the midst of decay. Hard to imagine the city had about 2 million people in 1950, and is now under 900,000 – if even that.

Along those lines, the more Detroit can forget the good old days of yesteryear, while focusing on today’s reality, as well as innovative ways to reinvent itself – the better it will be. Getting public perception to shift will be a big, big help for Detroit, and news such as this story just get people to think it’s the “same old Detroit” as the nation’s eyseore. As you said, the unfortunate reaction is, “It Figures”. It’s not at all fair, but it’s the situation Detroit is in.

As I have said before, I’m rooting for Detroit to have a bright future. Coming from a midwestern industrial area myself, I actually felt kind of at home in Detroit’s suburbs. Good people.


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Hi Squirreler! I know you have been pulling for Detroit, and we appreciate it. At least Kwame is out of the picture. Now we just have to find all the other people that had secret deals with him and also boot out the city council. Oh, ripping down crack houses would be nice too.

I remember once they reported census numbers and it was over a million people. However, turns out they were intentionally counting dead people.

I wonder would I would write if I blogged under the influence? 🙂


Molly On Money September 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I’m still a bit stunned! I shouldn’t be so naive- I’m from NM where more state held offices have been arrested for DWI then not.
Increased drinking does go hand in hand with increased stress. When I’m stressed I can’t wait to get home to have a glass of wine to ‘unwind’. I can’t imagine the stress the Chrysler employee must be going through. Firing those employees isn’t addressing the real problem of why they were drinking and why they felt it was OK to do so. I don’t disagree with them getting fired but I’d bet that they haven’t solved the drinking and smoking issue on the job by firing those workers.


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Molly – interesting perspective. I really have no idea how much stress they are under. Maybe the stress of losing a job? To me, I would think the desire to drink might also come from doing an absolutely boring job each day, but that may be an unfair assumption.

Many people do have stressful jobs, and like you, they wait until they get home to throw back some alcohol. I am guessing that this has been going on for so long that they didn’t think twice about it. The only reason they were caught is because a local tv station was investigating it. Chrysler may have been blind to it forever otherwise.


Lola September 29, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I pretty much agree with all the comments – let’s not drink and assemble cars, perform surgery, file records, etc!

I think we might also have to start looking at what sort of restrictions we should put on people who are taking powerful prescription medicines. We had a case here a few months ago where a young woman ran her SUV into a building (and through the wall!), under the influence of her prescription drug for chronic fatigue syndorme. She said she must have taken an extra dose of the muscle relaxant by accident right before she left her house, and she suddenly felt herself losing control and sort of blacked out. The story in our local paper quoted a police officer saying they’re running into more and more accidents where a driver is on some legal medication that evidently impaired their driving, sometimes by obvious abuse, but not always.

As for Detroit, in the last five years my family has bought 3 Fords, so we’re doing what we can for the cause!


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for supporting our city Lola! I personally have been very happy with Ford vehicles too. They have been very reliable.

You are right about prescription medications. It is kind of a gray area, and you can’t prove anything on the spot like you can with alcohol. That story you shared is terrible. People need to be more responsible about not getting behind the wheel if they don’t feel right period. However, I think many think they are invincible so the rules don’t apply to them.


Crystal @ BFS September 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Nah, my job has a strict “If you put alcohol to your lips, you better not clock back in” policy. Even if it didn’t, drinking to me means socializing. Drinking on the job seems like the opposite of being able to cut loose and have a good time. It’s unsafe and unprofessional.


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:50 pm

BFS – you are right, there is nothing really positive that comes from it, that is for sure. Well, maybe some employee romances… 🙂


Money Reasons September 29, 2010 at 7:06 pm

For the company that I work at, there is no policy against drinking at lunch. A few of use have on occasion (especially close to the holidays), gone to a restaurant and enjoy a beer, wine and even a mixed drinks.

We know our limits and don’t drink to the point that it would impare our abilities to function intelligently. We DO NOT drink during break or on the business premise (unless it’s a company sponsored party).

So yes, one or twice a year, I’ll have a merlot with a given lunch or two while I’m at work. But honestly, I don’t like to drink and then go back to work and try to think. It’s not a great combo…

But, for someone that can get killed or kill others by not being 100% alert and sober… well, that’s just not acceptable!


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm

MR – Chrysler obviously has the ‘no drinking’ rule for a reason, but these people just decided to ignore it. I will be so curious to see where the union ends up in all of this.

Enjoy your glass of merlot, but be careful what you program when you get back to your desk! 🙂


Carol@inthetrenches September 29, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Very good writing on the post and like the sign 🙂 Drinking on the job probably happens far more than we know. Makes a person wonder…


Kris September 30, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Hey Carol – I liked the sign too!

I am sure there are a lot of people that drink during work. I also know many parents that smell like they have been drinking when I talk to them at a soccer game, and I am not a fan of that either.

When I was a kid, I thought adults were smarter than to do these things. But I was wrong.


Sandy L September 30, 2010 at 7:05 am

Suba, even us “sales types” don’t drink during business hours, at least I don’t. If a customer wants to drink, he is free to, but I will not. For social events, like baseball games or dinner, the rules are a little different, but I still won’t have more than a drink or two.

I had a manager who used to come into work very drunk.I was working with heavy machinery at the time and and he would come over and start turning knobs to try to “help”. I was just out of college and didn’t know what to do. It brought back all the scary times with my dad. I did end up going to his boss and broke down and cried. (I wasn’t planning on crying but I did). Luckily 3 other people that week said something as well as it was getting out of control. It was sad because he had a young family and just couldn’t control his addiction. He ended up losing his job.


Kris September 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Sandy – there is a scary story, it’s a good thing he got fired. What an uncomfortable position for you to have been in. I hate when I start crying at the most inopportune times. Sometimes just talking about something brings it all out!


The Wealth Artisan September 30, 2010 at 11:13 am

Hi Kris,

While I don’t think drinking on any job is acceptable, I find a big disparity in comparing a sales person drinking on their break VS. a person assembling a vehicle that I perceive as safe to drive my family around in. The end-user aside, these guys are nuts to be around such heavy machinery and drinking.

I suppose that if they are incapable of caring about their own personal safety, how can I expect them to care for mine or my families? It’s a sad state of affairs. You’d think that with all of the hardship in the auto industry, that they’d appreciate the jobs they have…



Kris September 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Timothy – you would think that, wouldn’t you? But I think that drinking is such a big part of some people’s lives that they think it is just no big deal – they can handle it! However, that is probably just delusions of grandeur.

It is very hard lesson for these people to learn, but they deserve it.


Heather September 30, 2010 at 11:29 am

Something I thought of as I read all of these comments … The people whose job is so important because public safety is at risk are paid significantly less (for the most part) than the people who can go out and have drinks with clients or coworkers at lunch.

Just sayin’…


Kris September 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Heather- I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Union workers around here (many) are paid quite well, and have some pretty great benefits. (Especially if they get paid overtime. I know many union workers that have cottages up north and things like that.)

If they are paid less and money is an issue, then they also probably shouldn’t be wasting it on alcohol and doing things that are explicitly against the rules. Just like if my boss had told me I wasn’t allowed to go for a walk at lunch. I might view that as ridiculous, but if I knew it was grounds for dismissal, then I better not go for that walk.


Sandy L October 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Heather, an interesting statistic on workplace safety. I worked for a fortune 100 company and the #1 killer of our workers was car accidents. Safety protocols are pretty strict in manufacturing settings, but as a stupid salesperson, I’ve been known to do dumb things like text while drive, dig through my briefcase for stuff, drive in crazy weather, etc.


Kaycee September 30, 2010 at 10:27 pm

1 – they weren’t just drinking a glass of “whatever” They were downing 40 ouncers.

B – those hand rolled smokes were joints! No one smokes a cigarette the way they were smoking them.


Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Kaycee – I agree with you, but I didn’t want to say anything definitively without knowing 100 percent for sure. 🙂


Revanche October 3, 2010 at 9:06 pm

While I’m allowed to drink during my lunch break, I still won’t because I know I get sleepy and my judgment becomes a bit slow and impaired. In the meantime, I know for a fact that surgical residents and full fledged doctors (not all, I just know some do) think nothing of drinking heavily and heading back into work with serious hangovers. It’s rather disturbing.


The Financial Blogger October 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I only drink with clients… but 1 or 2 glasses of wine, not more 😉


Ella@Criminal Defense Lawyer LA November 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

If you’re operating machinery, obviously drinking is a bad choice. If your job requires you to dine a client, there could be a drink or two within reason, it would depend on your employee code of conduct.


Kris November 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

It is definitely a fine line. I think drinking while working in a plant is inexcusable though.


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