The Cost of Being Drunk in Business and at Work


I’ve been an HR practitioner for 25 years, and I don’t drink alcohol – it simply doesn’t agree with me, metabolically and otherwise. Folks who are moderate social drinkers don’t even notice that I’m drinking a cranberry juice and seltzer rather than a Cape Cod at parties. For folks who overdo their alcohol consumption socially, I’m a perennial Designated Driver. Socially speaking, it’s Live and Let Live.

In business and work situations where alcohol consumption turns into drunkenness, I’ve adjudicated some sad losses all around:

  • The new employee who showed up to work drunk on their first day at 8 AM, swaying and stinking of scotch. They shared that they had never gone to bed, celebrating their new job into the wee hours of that morning, thinking that they would be sober in just a few hours, in time to report to work. (In reality, it can take up to 10 hours after the last drink to get sober.). We rescinded the employment offer and paid for a taxi to take them back home.
  • The drunk executive who attempted to rape the younger employee at a hotel during a company conference: the executive was summarily fired.
  • The managers who decided to leave the hotel where we held our annual conference and make the rounds of the local bars – we found one rolling around on the grass outside the hotel just after midnight, and the local police found the other one wandering down the middle of the main drag, minus their wallet and glasses. Both were lucky to be unharmed and alive.  They were both subsequently fired.

I was equally sad to read about the nine rookie / newly graduated Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officers who ironically lost their jobs at their own graduation party due to their own drunken behavior:

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Nine rookie police officers have been fired for their behavior at a drunken graduation party in northern New Jersey.

In announcing the dismissals the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Friday the incident has prompted a review of the process for selecting and training candidates. The officers were part of the agency’s largest-ever graduating class.

Several other officers and supervisors face disciplinary proceedings or suspensions stemming from the party at a Hoboken bar on Aug. 23, the agency said.

“This is a sad day for the Port Authority Police Department,” Executive Director Patrick Foye said in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed by the conduct of the probationary officers involved and appalled by the poor judgment of the Academy staff members in attendance. The Port Authority is justly proud of the history and dedication of its police department and views the conduct in question as deeply troubling.”

The agency investigated after news reports emerged of an out-of-control party at the Texas Arizona Bar and Grill. The officers were terminated for their conduct and for not being truthful during the investigative process, according to a Port Authority spokesman, who would not elaborate on the nature of the conduct.

In addition to the officers who were fired, three other new officers were suspended without pay for 30 days and will have their probationary status extended for a year. Three supervisors and two other officers will face disciplinary proceedings.

No names were released.

The cost of training a Port Authority police officer is about $36,000, an agency spokesman said. (Emphasis mine.) The Port Authority operates bridges, tunnels, airports and ports in the New York metropolitan area as well as the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

Not surprisingly, The New York Post had more details on the behavior at the rookies’ graduation party:

Nine rookie Port Authority cops were fired for “running wild” at a drunken graduation party — where some of them grabbed a woman’s butt, disobeyed their bosses and arrogantly flashed their badges to get out of trouble, sources said on Friday.

But the celebration turned into a booze-soaked mess when some of the newbie officers got drunk, hopped behind the bar and began pouring their own beers while still in uniform, the sources said.

Other officers trashed the bathroom and touched a female’s behind “inappropriately,” the sources said.

When a bartender asked them to calm down, the cocky rookies flashed their badges and explained they were allowed to act like jerks because they were cops, the sources said.

The bartender called Hoboken police, but the revelers were so out of control, they had to summon PA cops to the scene, sources said.

Even then, the rowdies ignored their supervisors and acted “drunkenly defiant,” according to a PA source.

“They were running wild…They brought shame and disrespect to the department,” the source said.

Not long after, investigators demanded some of the officers hand over their cellphones, some of which had been used to record the post-graduation shenanigans. (Always convenient to have employees who have violated policy / engaged in misconduct document their own issues – comment mine.) Nine of the officers, some of them women, have since been fired.

Three supervisors — including a lieutenant who was also drunk — also face disciplinary action following the drunken celebration. Three other rookie officers were also suspended without pay for 30 days, the sources said.

The investigation, which was headed by the Police Integrity Unit of the Port Authority Inspector General, began on Aug. 23.

“Let the message be clear…police officers will be held to a high standard of conduct befitting their roles,” Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said.

Clearly, the cost of being drunk in business and work can result in lost jobs and ruined reputations for the individuals who cross the line in their imbibing; and negatively impact the reputations of their respective organizations as well.

In the Port Authority case, the lost cost of training alone (not counting recruitment costs) for the 9 terminated rookie officers was $324,000. Regardless of the size of the organization, that is a large overhead cost loss to any organization’s bottom line.

How will you and your team encourage sober conduct at business and workplace events to save both financial and reputational costs this week and beyond for all, in business and at work?

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