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Employee Drinking Practices and Work Performance

Thomas W. Mangione, Jonathan Howland, Benjamin Amick, Jennifer Cote, Marianne Lee, Nicole Bell, Sol Levine

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the independent effects of a variety of drinking indicators on self-reported work performance. Method: Data from a cross-sectional mailed survey (response rate = 71%) of managers, supervisors and workers (N = 6,540) at 16 worksites were analyzed. Average daily volume was computed from frequency and usual quantity reports. Drinking on the job included drinking during any of six workday situations. The CAGE was used to indicate alcohol dependence. Employees were also asked how frequently they drank to get high or drunk. Work performance was measured through a series of questions about work problems during the prior year. The number of times respondents experienced work performance problems was regressed on the four drinking measures, and a variety of demographic characteristics, job characteristics and life circumstances that might also negatively affect work performance. Results: The frequency of self-reported work performance problems increased, generally, with all four drinking measures. In a multivariate model that controlled for a number of demographics, job characteristics and life-situations, average daily volume was no longer significantly associated with work performance but the other three drinking measures were. Interestingly, although moderate-heavy and heavy drinkers reported more work performance problems than very light, light, or moderate drinkers, the lower-level-drinking employees, since they were more plentiful, accounted for a larger proportion of work performance problems than did the heavier drinking groups. Conclusions: Employers should develop clear policies limiting drinking on the job and, in addition to employee assistance programs for problem drinkers, should develop worksite educational interventions aimed at informing all employees about the relationship between drinking behaviors and work performance. (J. Stud. Alcohol 60: 261-270, 1999)