my team keeps coming to work hungover

A reader writes:

What’s your take on being hungover at work? I’m asking specifically about in an office situation where nothing truly bad will happen if someone has reduced concentration.

I manage a team of six employees and over any given month, one or two of them will have a hangover each week. In our city, there’s a culture of going out drinking after work, and in some of the worst offices I’ve worked previously a hangover is even seen as a badge of pride.

Mostly the hangovers are just the mildly sweaty, slumped over their desks sort, and I’m not worried that anyone in the team has an alcohol problem (having experienced that with a colleague at a previous job, this is different).

Sometimes the hangovers are work-related, if there’s been a work event with lots of free alcohol provided by the company or by other organizations that we are expected to network with.

Added to this is that I’m a teetotaler and have been for over a decade, and I worry that I’ll be seen a prudish or judgemental, which I’m not; I just can’t drink for medical reasons.

Is it reasonable to tell my team that I expect them to be clear-headed when they come to work each day? Or am I interfering with their personal lives?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 238 comments… read them below }

  1. Fed Employee*

    “I’m not worried that anyone in the team has an alcohol problem”

    If you are consistently coming into work hungover, you have an alcohol problem. You aren’t necessarily an alcoholic, but you have an alcohol problem.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yeah. I think the OP assumes all alcohol addiction issues present in the same way. But that isn’t the case. Binge drinking is a problem, even if someone is stone cold sober most days.

      1. JessaB*

        Definitely, but more than that are they driving to work? That’s dangerous besides being inappropriate and illegal.

        1. DC Kat*

          The dangerousness may vary depending on how severe the hangover is, but I’m fairly positive it’s not illegal anywhere to drive while hungover. (In the U.S., anyway.) You don’t have a blood alcohol content at that point – you’re just dehydrated as all hell. If you do still have a measurable BAC, you’re still drunk, not hungover.

          1. quill*

            Not that OP can necessarily tell by that morning, nor is it probably worth it to get into the weeds about whether or not they are technically legal to drive. It’s impacting business, and in addition to bringing it up with the binge drinkers, it’s probably worth it to raise to work event organizers that there should probably be a drinks limit (at least) at company functions.

            It seems like there’s a huge culture problem in the area / industry regarding moderation, so OP keep an eye out for other things that are being overdone.

          2. Spero*

            Depending on how intoxicated they were they absolutely may have a measurable BAC the next morning. My ex (for reasons related to this behavior) once stayed out drinking till 2 am, was pulled over on his way to work at 7:30 and was JUST barely under the legal limit – I’m talking a fraction of a point, re ran because the cop was sure he was actually over it, etc. Alcohol persists in the body for several hours beyond when you may not be feeling the tipsiness of intoxication and think you’re ‘just’ hungover.

      2. Wintermute*

        The fact this is due to work events puts a slight hitch on that. Not that it changes the answer, but they might not be intending to over-imbibe and it’s not like they’re choosing to go home and drink it’s an expected event.

        That said, if you work in a business where boozy events are expected, there are tons of tactics you can use to avoid getting too drunk (in fact at that point it’s a required job skill, like any other): slipping the bartender a 20 to make your drinks virgin for a while, ordering drinks that are mixed weakly (shaken as opposed to poured or stirred drinks, for example) or ordering them with extra dilution (“oh and can I get that in a rocks glass topped up with seltzer?”), eating well beforehand, drinking lots of water, or even outright subterfuge like handing off a full drink to a busser as if it were empty and having it whisked away, or ditching drinks on convenient tabletops.

        The fact it’s a work event means I don’t think it’s a given they’re problem drinkers, it might be a problem industry, but learning to cope can certainly be reasonably expected.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I might add that cranberry juice can easily be mistaken for a fine cabernet especially if you ask for it in a wine glass. Or a Cuba Libre sans Castro .

        2. coffee*

          You could probably just quietly ask the bartender to make your drinks non-alcoholic and tip them as usual? I don’t live in a place that does tips but I am confused why you need to bribe the bartender for giving you a glass that only has cola and no rum (for example).

          Do you work in a particular industry where this isn’t the case? I feel like cultural expectations have changed enough around drinking that, even if you coworkers are weird, the bartender wouldn’t be surprised by your request.

        3. TeaCoziesRUs*

          Sparkling Water with a twist of lime, cranberry juice and sprite (almost like a Shirley Temple!), Irish coffee but hold the Irish, etc. :)

    2. Lady Danbury*

      THIS! There’s a huge difference btwn having a glass of wine with dinner and coming into work hungover every few weeks. It’s a problem if your drinking is regularly impacting your work, regardless of the nature of your work.

      1. Wintermute*

        if it’s expected work events, that’s also a huge difference between that and “drinking on your own time”– some industries are expected to entertain clients and it’s not really like they’re choosing to drink despite knowing their job is impacted.

        Doesn’t change the answer, they need to find a way to cope and to not over-imbibe (If they’re that hung over I guarantee they’re probably not at their peak during the event itself)

        1. MK*

          Eh, they are choosing to drink despite knowing their job is impacted. I doubt these work events have a minimum alcohol consumption, they can go and have one or two drinks, or choose something with little or no alcohol.

          1. Kat*

            Yeah, I went to a bunch of events when I was pregnant and just carried a full glass of wine around all evening. Nobody noticed or commented. Either these people need help to reduce their consumption, or they are choosing to consume too much. It’s really unlikely that they *have to* drink enough to get hungover.

          2. Batgirl*

            Places with a minimum requirement of alcohol consumption are not ever places where there is a big drinking culture! I was bowled over that this was even a thing the first time I heard of it, in a different country. In my city I’m seen as deeply odd that I don’t drink, a hangover is simply a cold no one else can catch, people would laugh at a “two drink minimum” and order ten, and drinking is not considered unprofessional so long as you stay upright. Cultures are wrong sometimes, obviously.

      2. Burger Bob*

        If you’re enough of a lightweight (like me), there may not be that much difference at all. A single glass of wine at home with dinner has left me hungover on more than one occasion, even while it didn’t get me particularly drunk. Though I doubt that’s the scenario that’s occurring in this letter.

      3. Alianne*

        In one of my early retail jobs, the manager was out late drinking and partying two or three nights a week. If he hadn’t insisted (this was a tiny store) that he was the ONLY manager and ONLY person who could be trusted to open/close the store, maybe things would have been better. But he routinely arrived 30-45 minutes after we were supposed to open, blew off closing and left employees to try and balance the register with no training, and would leave to go get restock (or one memorable time, to pick up paychecks), stop somewhere to have a drink, and return hours later or not at all.

        I lasted two months before quitting. I believe the store closed within the year.

        1. quill*

          I mean, the line between addiction and poor judgement can be a little fuzzy, but if drinking is causing you problems? Drinking is the problem.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Some people think being at work = working, therefore ‘no problem.’

          Used to work with some folks like that. They were not working, and they were a problem.

    3. Butterfly Counter*

      In school, I was taught that if alcohol affects your day-to-day living, you have an alcohol problem. If you cannot work to your full ability once or twice a month, the alcohol is affecting your life negatively and it’s a definite problem.

      1. Ridiculous Penguin*

        Also, the CDC says:

        “Women who consume eight or more drinks per week are considered excessive drinkers. And for men, excess is defined as 15 or more drinks a week. (The researchers defined a drink as just 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits.)”

        I’m guessing someone who comes to work hung over has probably exceeded that. Not to say that all excessive drinkers have a drinking problem, but there’s certainly a high correlation.

        1. Calliope*

          The issue is there’s a difference between being an excessive drinker and having a substance use disorder. Both can affect your life and there’s certainly a ton of overlap but plenty of people drink to excess without being physically addicted. I don’t think it changes what the boss should do but I also don’t think the boss needs to diagnose their employees with substance use disorder one way or another to address these issues. None of us have that information.

          1. Wintermute*

            Thank you! It’s actually a very troubling thing in some circles that medical definitions are going further from “impact to life” standards to absolute standards based on quantity to define substance use disorders.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Exactly! If I started having more than 8 drinks a week, I might have a problem. My girlfriend would not–I’ve seen her do this regularly in the past, and she didn’t miss work, act like a jerk, or feel like crap the next day.

        2. Anon for this*

          Humbug. I’m nearly 6 ft tall, 300 pounds… and a cis woman. Do I meet the medical definition of woman in this case?

          I’m a lightweight now because my taste for alcohol has changed over the years, and I didn’t have much taste to begin with. That doesn’t mean if I drink the same amount as my 5’6, 150 pound lightweight mom that the drinks will affect me the same as they do her. I can drink ONE margarita WITH dinner and be sober enough to drive. She gets half of a margarita in her and she gets very silly and won’t go near the driver’s seat. Same with my mother-in-law who has the same build but enjoys Bailey’s in her coffee most days. She can give me the same amount that grounds her from driving and I’m still sober.

          1. Forrest*

            I totally agree with the principle that alcohol affects people differently, but driving is a bad metric to use for this because your emergency reactions are impaired long before you “feel” it.

          2. JustaTech*

            The CDC is trying to offer a near-universal guideline that they know perfectly well will not apply appropriately to people who are even a little ways off the “average” but they do it that way to make the message simple.

            There are several reasons why the standards are split on gender: part of it is a general difference in body mass between men and women, but it is also related to metabolic differences that are hormone driven (this is why dosing for medications like Ambien were changed for women, because they metabolize it differently from men).

            For me and my mom (very similar height and weight) she can comfortably drink two glasses of wine and be totally fine and I’m falling asleep. There’s a huge amount of inter-person variability that can’t be adequately captured in a three sentence guideline.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              My metabolism has changed several times in my life, falling in love and the menopause each having their own effect on my body weight, so I’m really not sure that there can be a one-size-fits-all even narrowing down according to gender.

          3. Bob-White of the Glen*

            I think age also has something to do with it. I’ve never been much of a drinker. Mostly because alcohol has (had) no effect on me. I decided at 15 I would not drink and drive (and except for a couple times with half a drink in me for a few blocks – and if you saw me you’d know half a drink wouldn’t do anything), so that was never an issue. But the few times I drank trying to get drunk – nothing. (Child of two absolutely functioning alcohols, so none of us show it.) Lots of water before going to sleep and never a hangover either. But in my 40’s that changed. A couple of martini’s one night and I actually felt “buzzy.” So I do think aging can change how alcohol can affect you, because that amount in my 20’s wouldn’t have meant a thing.

            Please don’t drink and drive. No excuse with Uber, etc.

      2. This is a name, I guess*

        I mean, the CDC also says women who might accidentally become pregnant and might consider keeping the baby should not drink alcohol at all ever. Essentially most women from 12 through 50 should not drink at all, per that advice.

        So, I would say that we should be careful about public health information in this context because public health advice around alcohol is often not reasonable or actionable.

      3. Neptune*

        I don’t know if I agree with that. It doesn’t seem like there actually have been any negative day-to-day effects to the drinking – it seems to be an accepted part of this team’s culture and the culture of the area at large, nobody is being reprimended or fired for it, the company itself is providing the alcohol and physically they’re just a bit sweaty and slumped. In my mind drinking becomes a problem when there are good reasons for you not to do it and you continue to do so, but in this situation what are the reasons? If it’s just “not working to your full ability once or twice a month” then, well, I think anyone who claims to be working to their full ability 100% of the time is delusional so that doesn’t seem like much of a reason.

        If OP spoke to them and told them that it needed to stop and there would be XYZ consequences if they keep doing it and they kept doing it then that, to my mind, would be problem drinking. But that doesn’t seem to be what was happening.

    4. Jean*

      I like to drink – probably too much sometimes – but I would consider it a major problem if I were coming to work noticeably hungover so often that my boss/coworkers were aware of it and clocking it as a potential issue. Honestly I would consider it a problem if ANYTHING I was doing outside of work were having this sort of ripple effect on my work performance. Showing up ready to work is a reasonable expectation, cultural norms around recreational drinking notwithstanding.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        I guess the real question is if they are telling the boss they are hungover (because there’s a culture where that’s normal…) or if they are so hungover that the boss notices.

        Those are both problems, but with different solutions. The first is primarily about culture and secondarily about consumption. The second is primarily about consumption.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Being slumped over the desk, whether from a hangover or depression, is a sure sign that the person is not zipping through their work!

    5. Allornone*

      This. I’m in recovery now, so I no longer drink at all. But when my problem was an active problem, I could go for weeks without a sip. When I did sip, it didn’t stay a sip. Something in my brain would trigger and I just… wouldn’t stop. And getting more always seemed like a fantastic idea at the time, no matter how illogical and stupid it would seem while sober. So yeah, I was mostly functional. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have a real problem when I wasn’t.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Same here! Some of us (now in recovery) were serious binge drinkers but not daily drinkers.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I wish my sister and BIL were as clear about this issue as you both are, and am glad of your recovery.

          My BIL can’t stop at one drink. Or eight. He’ll drink anything as long as it has alcohol in it. I’ve watched him break into locked liquor cabinets when a host tried to slow him down; one of them was mine. If someone hands him a soda instead of beer, he simply takes someone else’s beer – I mean, right out of their hands. He gets angry if someone suggests he give his car keys to my sister; he’s had 3 DUIs and their car insurance premiums are disgraceful. He’s a large man with a strong personality on a good day, but when he drinks he’s physically aggressive, insulting, and belligerent. His oldest friends have told him how they feel about his drinking, how worried they are that he’ll cause serious harm to himself and others, and how much they don’t like who he becomes when he drinks.

          Yet neither he nor my sister believes he has a problem, because he doesn’t drink every day. He just goes ‘a little overboard’ when he does.

          1. Spero*

            My ex was like this. It was so incredibly toxic to our marriage and his ability to parent, and yet his whole family still cites my ‘exaggerating that he has a drinking problem’ as a reason the divorce was my fault. They don’t count the property damage, the costs, the safety of our child, the insurance premiums, the cars he crashed or totaled…just because he was sometimes NOT drunk.

    6. Pikachu*

      I agree. I think people have a very specific definition of alcoholism in their heads, and this probably isn’t that. But I’m of the opinion that if your alcohol use keeps you from presenting your best self at things that matter, then yeah it’s probably time to take a hard look at your drinking habits.

      I’ve showed up to work with plenty of hangovers myself (I should have been reading AAM for a better idea of professional norms in my early 20s… oof) but it wasn’t until I could notice hangovers in other people that I realized how delusional I was thinking I could play it off. LOL

      1. Minerva*

        Right? Toast a club soda with lime to bad choices in our 20s and thinking nobody noticed.

        But yeeeeah. I would make that mistake a few times a year. Not once a week.

      2. This is a name, I guess*

        I mean, I don’t notice if my coworkers are hungover. I might notice if they are sluggish, but I can’t easily differentiate between “my elderly cat won’t stop meowing all night and it’s disrupting my sleep” and “I have an infant at home” and “My colitis is acting up” and a mild-to-moderate hangover without context. (Now, if someone smells like a hangover, that’s a different story.) It’s maybe not as obvious as you think :)

        1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          Yeah, you could probably play the “hangover or incipient migraine?” game with me on the regular. (Spoiler: it’s always gonna be the migraine.)

    7. Beth*

      It sounds as if the LW is distinguishing between the current employees’ tendency to drink to the point of having a (“mostly mild”) hangover every two or three weeks, and someone in their past experience who had a much bigger problem: “having experienced that with a colleague at a previous job, this is different” — presumably getting blitzed every night, drinking at work, coming in drunk, passing out, getting into accidents or fights, etc.

      Since the LW has been through that, I can understand that they don’t want to diagnose the current batch of partiers as full-blown alcoholics. It’s at a level where there’s room for improvement, probably to the LW’s relief.

      1. TinaTurner*

        LW is grading on a sliding scale instead of just having work standards. Not throwing up on their desks is a pretty low one. Evaluate them on their work performance. ” I’m asking specifically about in an office situation where nothing truly bad will happen if someone has reduced concentration.” implies you don’t much care.

      2. Lady Danbury*

        It’s important to recognize that problem drinking can be a continuum and also isn’t the same thing as being an alcoholic. Just bc OP can point to someone who was worse doesn’t mean that their team doesn’t have a drinking problem. Drinking that impacts your work is one of the signs of problem drinking.

      3. alienor*

        I’ve worked with someone in that second group. They would regularly show up at 10 am, clearly hungover and looking like hell, and they had tons of “hilarious” drinking tales that involved them falling down and getting hurt or hitting their neighbor’s car while parking. And it probably would be hard for me to tell if someone had a lower-level drinking problem, because my basis for comparison would be the previous person and you’d have to go pretty far to outdo them. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re right and LW is the same.

        1. KaciHall*

          Growing up, my dad was an alcoholic. He never SEEMED drunk, but by the time I was a teenager he could drink a case of beer (plus a couple tallboys) every day. Sometimes he would ‘need’ a drink while we were out shopping. First time I drove us home I think I was 14.

          It took a LOT to recognize I had a drinking problem after college, because I wasn’t drinking anywhere NEAR as much as my dad was. My mom and step dad didn’t really ever drink, so I had no healthy habits to base mine on.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Once when I was a tween we took one of our friends on a family vacation to keep me company. She flipped out when my dad opened a beer and drank it while driving. I was totally confused, I thought ‘drinking and driving’ was like when my mom got trashed and drove me home, taking a shortcut through a construction zone and nearly crashing the car into a giant pit – the idea that drinking a beer while driving and appearing mostly sober counted had never crossed my mind. Or that his level of dependence on beer that he couldn’t go an afternoon without was dangerous in similar ways to my mom’s binge drinking.

            1. TootsNYC*

              as a kid, I thought that it was illegal to drink–literally drink, no matter what the beverage was–while driving. I didn’t understand that it pertained to alcohol at all until I was probably 17.

          2. TootsNYC*

            My mom and step dad didn’t really ever drink, so I had no healthy habits to base mine on.
            I think the fact that our OP is a teetotaler is affecting how she views their drinking.

            I drink a little. Like, two drinks, max. But I’ve drunk enough in the past to know that if I’m going to be noticeably hungover at work in the morning, I drank way more than the four drinks that is my “drank a lot.” I’ve also seen other people drink a lot, enough to be noticeably drunk, and then seen them in the morning, in which they didn’t seem to be all that hungover. Maybe they complained of a headache.

            I know that everyone’s reactions will be a little different, based on body size, individual metabolism, genetics, and tolerance. But if this people are frequently getting drunk enough that it’s clearly visible the next day, they’re drinking a lot.

            1. This is a name, I guess*

              I wonder if there’s an office culture about talking about drinking and being hungover, like it’s a frat or something. Is this a word-hard-play-hard workplace where young people drink regularly after work?

              Are they all actually hungover? Or are they just bragging about drinking as part of the party culture? Young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of talk before they learn adult norms. And, some industries and many workplaces encourage this behavior. Would the OP, as a teetotaler, even notice their supposed hangovers if they weren’t talking about it?

              It might be useful to target the party culture rather than trying to police individual behaviors. If talking about hangovers becomes taboo, then the OP will be able to see whose performance is being affected and who is just a lot of bluster.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                Yes, I’m quite sure I have faked a hangover in the past. The company at the time had a work hard, play hard culture; we had a weekend trip and I had one beer and many sodas the whole night while most had… more. So I faked the hangover the next day (I was just tired) to fit in – I had joined just a few weeks before.

            2. Cohort 1*

              My mom and step dad didn’t really ever drink, so I had no healthy habits to base mine on.

              I would disagree. Mom and step dad rarely drinking was a healthy habit. Throwing back 2-4 drinks regularly doesn’t strike me as a healthy habit. There are healthy habits in between those two, but rarely is certainly more healthy than the opposite.

              OP, after warning the hung over employees about showing up hung over, do you have the authority to send them home to use one of their sick or vacation days? If this only happened a couple of times of year it could be overlooked, but 12+ times a year is another story.

    8. Television*

      I’m wondering how knowing that would even change the advice at all.

      OP, you don’t have to wait until you see a glaringly obvious problem, regardless the issue, before you step in as manager and handle the situation. Preventative measures are just as important, if not more important, than addressing things only when they become a fire.

      Also, you should not trying to diagnose someone based on how they look. Of course, it’s each person’s responsibility to manage their own conditions, and to be able to perform effectively at work (with reasonable accommodations), but it doesn’t matter what diagnosis they might have, it’s how they perform at work that matters.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It may change the advice a little if eg the EAP has treatment options or if there’s an HR policy about substance use disorders. (At my workplace, you’re only covered by the policy if you proactively disclose before it’s called out as a performance issue, but I’m sure that varies among employers.)

        The overall message would still need to be “this can’t continue,” but the details might change.

      2. This is a name, I guess*

        For me, advice would change if talking about drinking and hangovers were part of the company culture. Is this a word-hard-play-hard workplace where young people drink regularly after work? There have been several letters about workplaces like this! If this were a work-hard-play-hard workplace, I would tread with caution because you don’t know who is playing up their hangovers/alcohol consumption.

        Are they all actually hungover? Or are they just bragging about drinking as part of the party culture? Young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of talk before they learn adult norms. And, some industries and many workplaces encourage this behavior. (Looking at you i-banking and tech startups!)

        In this case, the party culture is the first problem to tackle before attempting to police individual behaviors.

    9. Cobol*

      We can say that a high percentage of 18-25 year olds are problem drinkers because they drink a lot. As somebody in their 40s who hung out with a drinking crowd, I can say I knew a lot of people who went into work hungover in their 20s, who rarely drink now. I do think there’s a destination, even if it’s not healthy drinking.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Yeah that was me. I drank a lot in my 20s and early 30s. It was just the crowd and the work environment I was in. I moved and got a different job and drastically reduced the amount that I drink. There was no big effort or withdrawals or anything. I still like to tie one on every now and then but at this stage I barely split a single bottle of beer with my husband once a week.

    10. Mid*

      Yeah, honestly it seems like the entire team could use a seminar about alcohol abuse/use, but that’s probably overstepping.

    11. generic_username*

      Agreed. However, it’s not really OP’s business (unless there’s an EAP that can help and the employee asks), but it’s not normal past college to be hungover that often. I’m hungover on weekdays so infrequently that I call in sick when I’m hungover

    12. Snuck*


      If little old Aunt Mable has a tiny glass of sherry every night, and one night has run out of sherry and can’t sleep…. Does Aunt Mable have a problem? Yes. Not a big one… but she has a habit.

      If your staff are drinking to the point of poisoning (that’s what a hangover is right? They’ve put too much in for their bodies to cope with) on a regular basis, then they have a problem.

      I’d hold them accountable EVERY day they work to their performance and professionalism. Don’t make the hangover the issue, make their lack of performance.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I can’t – coming into the office right from the airport after a 14-hour economy class flight, I’ll likely look a bit worn and be not exactly at my A game.
        So I’ll try to schedule stuff like filling out expense reports rather than high-stakes meetings, but if the latter happens anyway, I’ll take a shower, get into my spare suit and tie I keep in the office, and get going.
        It’s easier to get into the right time zone when I get right to work for a few hours than trying to”sleep it off”.

  2. Dust Bunny*


    I once commented to the receptionist at Veterinary Job Many Jobs Ago that I was wiped out “after last night”, which was thoughtless of me but it never occurred to me that someone might take it amiss. A client standing nearby asked, “Wild party?” This was on a Wednesday, too.

    No, dude–I was here until 11:00 helping our boss with an extremely ill dog. And (I did not say this) I was pretty miffed that that was his first guess. But I was like 23 so I feel like most people over that age should have this out of their systems by now. I do drink but, wow, not like that.

    1. Nanani*

      As a lifelong non-drinker I absolutely hate the assumption that young-looking people can only be ill because of alcohol. There are lots of reasons someone might not have slept enough!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Where I live, binge drinking is common enough that the fact that you are a human could be enough to warrant that kind of comment from some quarters. (I’ve never understood binge drinking. I prefer quality over quantity. And waking up feeling refreshed.)

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It is where I am, too, but I was still put off. I was also annoyed that he thought my boss was the kind of person who would hire people who a) would do that and b) would be stupid enough to talk about it in front of clients.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I’m like a one-beer-a-week drinker. I’ve been hungover once, in college, and learned my lesson. Never again.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        An acquaintance who married very young jokes that when she was throwing up after her 21st birthday, it wasn’t from a wild night out – it was morning sickness from baby #1!

      3. quill*

        Chronic insomnia. Neighbors. The arthritis I’m allegedly too young to have but which doesn’t listen to the people who say that and go away…

        I don’t miss the age range where the assumption was that I had bad judgement if I was anything but 100% fine at work.

      4. sadnotbad*

        I once went to the urgent care to get fluids/pain relief for a migraine, and the receptionist assumed it was because I was hungover. It was infuriating.

      5. NYWeasel*

        I’m a relatively recent non drinker, but the reason I stopped drinking was that even one drink leaves me feeling hungover and miserable the next day, and NO, I was never impaired the night before. It’s an alcohol problem and it could definitely affect my performance at work but not at all the same type of problem that the OP is assuming.

    2. anonymous73*

      I think it’s safe to assume that OP ‘s letter is based on facts. It’s their entire team, not just one individual who has hangover-like symptoms. If not, I’m pretty sure Alison would have called them out for it.

  3. Ssmith*

    Would you wait until someone comes in hungover to address (as in your script), or proactively announce to the whole team (ideally when people are not hungover)?

    1. Blisskrieg*

      I think based on the history I’d bring it up proactively at the next meeting. If it were just a few folks, I’d address separately or as it came up.

      1. Heidi*

        Based on my initial read, I got the impression that all six employees were taking turns being hungover, but if it’s the same 1 or 2 people being hungover every week and the other 4 are not, then I’d address them individually instead of making a group announcement and hoping the one person recognizes himself as the target.

        1. Bluesboy*

          Yeah, I think this is important. 6 people, one or two a week hungover, that means on average each person is hungover once a month.

          Some of those are at work events, in a drinking culture, at which their employer chooses to provide free alcohol. Of course I’m not saying that you HAVE to get drunk, but I’ve been to events like that and when you’re with clients you do want to fit in (and it may even be in your company’s best interests to do so).

          I think it’s really important to understand the proportion of work events and the distribution of hangovers in more detail. It might be that one of the offenders is hungover, say 10 times a year, with 7 coming after work events. It might equally be that one of the offenders is doing it 20 times a year with no work events at all. The two are totally different situations.

    2. Lady Danbury*

      I would probably do both, since it’s an ongoing problem with the entire team. Announce to the entire team that it’s unacceptable and then follow up with individuals if/when it happens again. If it continues to be a problem, then the manager should take further action, just like any other problematic behavior.

    3. LMB*

      I’d be most concerned about the team routinely drinking enough to be hungover at work events. Yes for a lot of us old fogies one drink can be enough to feel gross the next day, but these sound like the type of noticeable full on hangovers that result from intoxication or at least drinking more than one should be at a professional event. It sounds like the company itself could be perpetuating this problem if this is the culture. If that’s the case there is a bigger problem of exclusion—the manager already feels hesitant to say anything because they can’t drink for medical reasons. No one should be made to feel like the are expected to drink as part of their job, and no one should be drinking enough to potentially embarrass themselves or the company in a professional setting.

  4. Lady Danbury*

    I would probably do both, since it’s an ongoing problem with the entire time. Announce to the entire team that it’s unacceptable and then follow up with individuals if/when it happens again. If it continues to be a problem, then the manager should take further action, just like any other problematic behavior.

  5. Nanani*

    If drinks consumed at work are a big factor, then maybe as the boss LW can push to cut down on those. Earlier end times? More venues that aren’t alcohol focused? Non-open bars? I don’t drink either IDK what would make sense but making it easier for people not to drink as much couldn’t hurt.

    1. Cobol*

      If it’s the culture though the boys may not want to. Japan is a great example, but there are plenty of cultures/sub cultures where not driving a lot would be a detriment. I’m not saying it’s healthy (and really I’ve never been a big drinker), but we have this assumption that the company wants something to change

    2. GlitsyGus*

      This is very much a culture thing. In my area and industry open bar, or at least open beer and wine, is standard and if it went away that would be a big deal. Good people would quit over that

      For me the work party element falls way more into how often are the parties? If, like at my companies, we’re talking maybe 3 a year? I’d let it slide a bit on those days, especially since it won’t just be your team. If it’s a monthly happy hour kind of thing, then you need to make it clear that folks need to keep it together enough to be good to work the next day. Sort of like Allison’s main answer, if it’s rare and a special occasion thing, that’s not really a problem. If it’s a regular occurrence, then it’s a problem.

    3. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      Drink tickets. Drink tickets solve this problem. At the very least, it signals that two drinks on a work night is considered an acceptable amount, rather than signalling to young people that your company thinks weeknight drinking = weekend drinking.

    4. allathian*

      Yeah, but if it’s the culture, it’s the culture. One person alone can’t change it. The LW doesn’t drink for medical reasons, but this can simply be a poor fit for the culture of company. If it’s accepted that everyone gets to work hungover a few times a month, it’s very hard to change this, and anyone who tries will be judged for being a prude.

      Before doing anything, the LW needs to ensure that the managers above them in the hierarchy see this as an actual problem. If they don’t, the LW may need to look for another job in an organization and in a field where the attitudes and expectations around alcohol use align with their own.

  6. Meh*

    Is the problem just that they appear hungover? Or are they not able to work at a level that you need?

    If they are able to push through and produce the same level of work they usually do, I honestly wouldn’t be too bothered by it. They could be telling people they are hungover to reassure them that they didn’t come into work sick and contagious.

    If they aren’t producing at the level you need, then I would just focus on that and not mention the drinking. I just feel like you don’t want to come across as critiquing what someone is doing in their off times – if someone stayed up all night gaming or reading or having a wild orgy or something, it doesn’t matter as long as they can come in and do their work. If they can’t, then you address the unable to perform work part and let them figure out what they need to cut back on.

    1. Observer*

      Is the problem just that they appear hungover? Or are they not able to work at a level that you need?

      Sweaty slumped over their desk would indicate problems getting work done.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        This. I’ve had my share of hangovers and if it’s at the point where it’s visibly obvious to others, then it’s highly likely that your ability to work is impaired.

    2. TootsNYC*

      even if they are getting work done, if they look messed up when my boss walks by, I’m not going to be happy. Or even in front of other colleagues.

      As a manager, I’m being judged by the behavior of my subordinates as much as I am by their results. So I wouldn’t be happy to be judged by their “sweaty, slumped-over” appearance. I think I’d come across as a weak manager with no sense of discipline* among my team.

      *Discipline meaning orderliness and self-control.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, but this only applies if upper management see this as a problem. The LW can’t hope to change the culture if upper management thinks that coming to work hungover occasionally is acceptable, or even expected after a big networking event.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Alcohol had zero order kinetics which means 1 drink per hour is metabolized. If you had a wild night and were out till 1-2 am and came to work at 8-9, I guarantee your BAC if tested would not be zero. (Now sober former alcohol problem person with a home breathalyzer).

      1. Burger Bob*

        That varies a lot by person. I definitely can’t metabolize 1 drink per hour. Other people can. And others can probably metabolize a little bit more.

        1. Bluesboy*

          Yeah, in my younger wilder years I literally couldn’t get drunk on beer. I could metabolise the beer faster than I could drink it, even at 3-4 beers per hour, rinse, repeat and start again. Now I’m a middle aged man it’s a completely different situation – and I’m the same person!

          The one drink per hour is a decent guideline for many, but it varies wildly (to say nothing of the fact that the drinks vary too – obviously a 3% beer and a 6% beer are still one drink, but one will take longer to metabolise than the other.

  7. DrSalty*

    Is it affecting their work? Are they less productive to point where it’s causing a problem? IMO, that’s only reason to call it out.

      1. DrSalty*

        Yeah but how many warrant reprimanding your employees? If these people are looking bad in front of clients, that’s one thing, but frankly I don’t think it’s a big deal to be sluggish while sitting at your desk if you’re still getting all your work done. Hangovers aren’t all vomiting and wearing sunglasses, sometimes you just have a headache and feel poorly. I would guess the only reason the manager knows these people are hungover vs ill/sleep deprived/etc is because there is a culture that allows them to speak openly about it.

        1. Burger Bob*

          Yep, this is what I’m wondering too. Would you know they were hungover if they didn’t say so? You might notice they looked a little ill, but lots of things could look that way. I’ve had to go to work with a hangover a few times, and it royally sucks for me, but you wouldn’t know I was hungover just by looking at me. You might notice that I’m a little grumpy, but that’s because of the headache. And sometimes I have to work with totally non-hangover-related headaches anyway, and the effect is exactly the same. It seems like this is only being judged because they are specifically saying that they are hungover, which they feel they can do because of the office culture. But other than being sluggish and sweaty, the letter doesn’t say they aren’t getting their work done. (Of course, my stance changes if they are NOT getting their work done the same as they would on another day.)

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      I would add that presenting a professional facade is also something that a manager can require. But I do think there needs to be legitimate work reasons for this, the same as any other management decree should.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      People who are hunched over and sweaty with a hangover are not doing their best work. Being hunched over and sweaty due to a hangover is also really unprofessional, especially if it’s a regular thing.

      1. Forrest*

        There are lots of jobs where being professional just isn’t that big a deal. Be professional in treating your colleagues and clients respectfully, sure. But if you’re doing a minimum-wage-or-close job and there’s no opportunity for growth and it’s just a pay check — be professional for whom? There’s nothing in it for you.

        A lot of these standards of “professional” are based around cultures where there’s an expectation of advancement and progression or pride in your work that just isn’t there in every job. Being professional isn’t a moral imperative.

  8. Kat*

    I hate that he felt the need to qualify that he wasn’t ‘prudish or judgmental’. I’m two years sober and time and time again I come up against a this weird attitude of shame around not drinking, especially in the workplace. Anyway, sounds like an office culture problem more than anything.

    1. anonymous73*

      Yeah it’s like the letter earlier where the 2 girls were chatting all the time about inappropriate things at work and they treated her like an old fuddy duddy. It’s like if you’re not copying the behavior of the “cool kids” you’re judgmental/a curmudgeon/a prude/etc. My friends and I curse and drink and talk about gross stuff all the time, but that doesn’t mean I want to deal with colleagues I barely know who are half dead from being hungover all the time, or I want to listen to you talk all day about your bout with diarrhea and your sexual activities.

    2. This is a name, I guess*

      I mean, you’ve read this blog. You’ve seen the ways that busybodies want to control the private lives of their coworkers. And, the worst busybodies usually want that control because they don’t approve of a non-conservative “lifestyles” (atheists, nonmonogamists, queers, POC, people with tattoos, etc).

      I understand needing to ensure readers they aren’t attempting to impinge upon the personal freedoms of others.

    3. This is a name, I guess*

      To add, as a fairly non-conformist queer person, I’ve had so many benign busybodies at work tell me how “weird” I am. I’ve also been bullied by “cool girls” at the office for being “weird.” The perceived weirdness is rarely actually “weird” – it’s just people being threatened by my refusal not to participate in societal norms that they derive power and status from. It’s more about policing the status quo that benefits them.

      AND, at its root, it’s usually directly or indirectly homophobic and misogynist.

      I don’t care if being single (and now being partnered by unmarried) in my 30s is “weird”. I love my queer little life and my nonmonogamous relationship (I don’t talk about nonmonogamy at work except, tellingly, with the LGBTQ ERG. We talk about nonmonogamy openly there!). I don’t care that you don’t think my clothing isn’t “flattering” on my fat body. I don’t wear makeup as a rule. I don’t dress to impress men because I’m gay…and a feminist killjoy!

    4. I'm just here for the cats.*

      yeah at my former workplace people were weird about me not drinking. I said I don’t like alcohol, maybe a fruity drink like a strawberry daquari or something but I really don’t like to drink. Plus I have medicine that doesn’t mix well with alcohol.
      There was a member of our senior team (not a manager but she was mentor for new people starting and a took escalations from clients, etc) who just didn’t get it at all. She was all “we’ve got to get you drunk, I’ve got to see what you are like.” I told her that I had never 100% been drunk. That I’ve been buzzed but never full drunk and that I don’t drink. Even explained I’ve got medical stuff. Her response “well we will have to get you some shrooms and get you high!”
      I don’t know if she just couldn’t imagine that someone didn’t need to go to the bar every weekend or drink at the end of the day or what. And this person wasn’t a fresh out of college person. She was married and had kids. She was like in her late 30’s.
      You can imagine that I never went to any of the after work happy hours

  9. Observer*

    I don’t think that it really matters if they have an official “alcohol problem” or not, although I agree that they almost certainly do (even though they are probably not alcoholics.)

    That’s all to the good, because it’s a lot simpler for the OP to say “You keep on coming in not able to really work, and it needs to stop.” Nothing about if they drink “too much” or anything like that. Because that would almost certainly become a major distraction.

    And if the hangovers are being caused by work functions, that needs to be cut waaay back. Because that means that the level of drinking at these functions is too high, and is creating some real liability for the organization.

  10. Anne Wentworth*

    This is a rare occasion when I disagree with Alison’s response. She recommends taking the next hungover person aside for a talking-to, but since it’s a habit across the team, it would not be surprising if that first employee feels unfairly targeted and suspects that something else is amiss. And if/when they tell coworkers, that whiff of deception could generate some toxic vibes in the team. LW is essentially changing the team’s norms, and that should be announced to the whole team so they have the option to adhere to the new policy and avoid the dressing down, not surprise someone with a dressing down for previously “acceptable” behavior.
    (Not saying what the team has been doing is acceptable workplace behavior, but LW has been accepting it up until then.)

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Okay, I’m trying to understand the letter – is it that it’s only one or two employees that are regularly hungover, or that they each individually drink enough to be hungover the next day 1-2 times per month, but who is hungover could be different every week? Because I feel like that really changes the advice the LW needs and I’m really not clear which it is.

      1. alienor*

        It sounds like it’s the latter: they all drink enough to be hungover regularly, but they’re not all hungover at the same time. This week it’s Alice on Monday and Miguel on Thursday, next week it might be Lisa and Clive on Tuesday and Jedediah on Friday.

      2. anonymous73*

        “I manage a team of six employees and over any given month, one or two of them will have a hangover each week.”

        Sounds like all of them take turns.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Thanks to both of you – that’s what I thought, but based on some comments it sounded like people thought it was the same person and I got confused.

          It’s a hard line for the OP to walk – I think making it clear that you need people at their best when they come to work, with the understanding that if it’s closer to a once or twice a year thing vs. once or twice a month then there’s a degree of lenience is the way I’d hope my managers would handle it.

  11. The Bad Guy*

    I can think of a couple of cities where this type of response would go against cultural norms. New Orleans or Vegas come to mind. When I lived in New Orleans, the attitude about drinking, even in the context of white collar work, was that hangovers are expected, even out or 50 year old execs. Maybe in the last decade, and as the world has moved toward homogeneous cultural standards this has changed, but drinking on weeknights is part of the culture of the city. Hangovers are just a symptom of that culture. (This was all part of the reason I hated the city and left)

    1. The Good Land*

      Yep! The city I come from has “Beer” or “Brew” in nearly all of its nicknames, slogans, and even some sports teams. While it may not be for the best, the reality is that many places in that city are fine with the consequences of a drinking culture. Having a beer or an alcoholic drink over a work lunch is so normal that when I moved away I forgot how horrifying it might look to others.

      However I will say that doing something like having a beer over lunch is different from drinking your way to a hangover. (Yes, I know that some people get hangovers more easily than others and it’s not necessarily a sign of problem drinking. (And other points of discourse.))

      But honestly, an employee coming in hungover less than once a month wouldn’t even register with me. Especially if they are able to get their work done, and especially if they generally do decent work.

      I appreciate this question to help calibrate my opinions on drinking.

      1. Plain Jane*

        Hello from Wisconsin! Years ago I worked in publishing in Milwaukee and it was amazing how ingrained drinking was in that culture.

        1. Clisby*

          My first career was in journalism (in the US South.) Nobody would have batted an eye at somebody having a drink at lunch. Assuming the lunch was out of the office, that is.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I live in the upper Midwest. Drinking is a huge part of the culture. But showing up to work with a hangover is definitely not. If you drink that much, you call in sick. And it should be a once-a-year kind of thing. You are expected to be able to be able to drink to excess & not get hungover.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        And yet, look at the DUI rates up here. The states with the highest number of residents with DUIs includes:
        1. North Dakota –
        2. Wyoming
        3. South Dakota
        4. Wisconsin
        5. Minnesota
        6. Nebraska
        7. Montana
        8. Alaska
        9. Iowa
        10. Idaho

        HMMMMMMM! These states are culturally different and yet, they are almost all contiguous with each other.

        1. CCC*

          They’re also very sparsely populated. I’d imagine that taxis/Uber/walking/the bus aren’t options, and asking a friend for a ride is a whole different ballgame when everyone lives 45 minutes from each other.

    3. Meh*

      I lived and worked in Vegas for 10 years. Being hung over wasn’t acceptable and most locals avoid the strip like the plague unless it’s to go to work.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Or to show out-of-town visitors. I had relatives in Vegas, & it was like two different cities: one tourists saw & one actual real people lived in.

        1. Rainy*

          Yup. Mr Rainy went to UNLV and lived in Vegas for years, and we visit quite often to see friends, and we don’t ever go to the strip unless it’s to have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants. We don’t even hit the buffets on the strip–there are better ones elsewhere.

    4. Antilles*

      I think the line is whether it’s affecting their job performance (and it seems like it is). The local culture might not have an issue with drinking on weeknights or grabbing a beer at lunch or whatever…but even in such cultures, it seems perfectly reasonable to set a standard of “I don’t control your personal life, but I *do* expect you to be enough of a professional to arrange things in a way that it doesn’t affect your work life from 9 to 5”.

    5. anonymous73*

      I find it very hard to believe that even in cities where drinking to excess is the norm, that it is acceptable for employees to come to work on a regular basis unable to function because of a hangover. Work is not just a placeholder for your weekdays; you’re paid to do a job, not just take up space.

    6. Kippy*

      New Orleanian here. I once had a boss, upon finding out I didn’t drive, say to me “Well, there’s no reason you can’t be drunk all the time!”

      1. The Bad Guy*

        People who’ve never lived in New Orleans have no idea just how much of everything revolves around drinking. The comments above clearly demonstrate that. Obviously, things change over time, but the norms in some locations are just different.

        1. Neptune*

          There’s that great story (possibly apocryphal) about the FBI agent during Prohibition investigating how long it would take to get hold of alcohol – in New Orleans it took 35 seconds when he asked a taxi driver where to get a drink and the driver produced a bottle from under the seat and said “right here!”

    7. Jonquil*

      Yep, I was wondering if the OP was London-based for the same reason. The UK also has a very different (much less puritanical) drinking culture than the US, and certain industries that skew young and city-based (finance, law, journalism) also have strong cultures of socialising at the pub.

      1. Batgirl*

        I remember a fellow journalist openly lamenting that the up and comers were drinking green tea at work parties and reminisced about “Ed” who was known back in the day for leaving his jacket on a chair so he could go the pub the whole afternoon. Not only was it tolerated it was seen as a way to make contacts.

    8. Random Internet Stranger*

      I immediately thought of D.C.! I have a Master’s degree in Public Policy and while I was in graduate school, spent a little time in D.C.. My academic advisor was a practitioner who had worked in D.C. for years and told us a lot about the work culture in the city and it’s something else (and not for me). Working late and drinking with colleagues is apparently a norm.

  12. A Kate*

    It’s one thing to feel bad after you drink; it’s another to openly name it as being hungover TO YOUR BOSS. Optics always matter in office culture, and these reports are not adhering to business norms when it comes to the optics of “looking alert” (even if they aren’t feeling it).

    That said, I wouldn’t necessarily harp on that aspect of it if I were OP, since then you might start seeing a ton of “stomach bugs” every Friday or Monday, which is no less annoying and definitely less productive. Your mileage may vary, though. I’m the kind of manager who has absolutely said to people that my only requirement is that you do your job and don’t make me babysit you; however you choose to make that happen is fine, but I’m not going to be happy if I have to chase you for administrative stuff or chastise you for (repeatedly) failing to understand business norms or remind you to be an adult. This seems to fall under that umbrella to me.

  13. Astronaut Pants*

    I think if you didn’t want to single out anyone, and since this seems to be a team problem, maybe it would be good to talk about alcohol as part of the work culture overall with the people who put on events and HR. Because this kind of sounds like it’s acceptable within the company to drink, maybe there needs to be an emphasis on moderation? I’m also wondering how stressful overall the atmosphere is at this company, which could lead to drinking as a way to vent with coworkers instead of relaxing.

    1. Nanani*

      If LW has input on the events, they could push toward serving less alcohol and having non-alcoholic options, or even not having the company provide the drinks? When the company is serving the booze, it seems like an obvious avenue to adress.

  14. NYWeasel*

    I just want to know what the impact truly is of team members aren’t at their sharpest once or twice a month? I often get insomnia, and come in to work super sluggish or I get migraines and I’m just as miserable as if I was hung over. A colleague is dealing with ongoing brain fog from long Covid. Neither one of us have been drinking but the impact to our work is like the same as these people. But in my experience, it all evens out—if I’m feeling crappy on Tuesday, I’m caught back up by Thursday. I’ve got to imagine these people are doing the same thing—making up for their morning sorrows once they’ve recovered. So the occasional fogginess itself wouldn’t particularly bother me. If the *culture* is celebrating being drunk or if they are sloppy in their work, the yes, I think it would be appropriate to address.

    1. ArtK*

      Please don’t conflate something that you *don’t* have control over (insomnia, migraines) with something that these people *do* have control over. They are choosing to come to work hungover. I’ll give a pass to someone who has health issues, but not to someone who is voluntarily doing something that affects their work.

      1. Cobol*

        I think we’re making judgements here. You could say problem drinking and insomnia are equally out of somebody’s control. There is an excessive drinking problem in many places, but is OP really looking to change that, or are they asking if it’s okay for people to be hungover? If the later NYWeasel’s point is really valid

      2. Loulou*

        Drawing those lines isn’t always possible either. Like many people, when I have a bad flare up of insomnia it’s frequently triggered by something I did “wrong,” but obviously my coworkers don’t interrogate me about why I looked at a computer screen after 8 PM or whatever before deciding if they’re sympathetic. It’s not always that easy to say this is someone’s fault, that is not.

      3. Burger Bob*

        It would never occur to me to call out due to a hangover. I would feel like that was wildly unfair to my colleagues. It’s my fault if I’m hungover, so I’m the one who has to suck it up and suffer the consequences of working with a headache. It shouldn’t be on my colleagues to cover for me in that scenario. But maybe that’s just me.

    2. Lady Danbury*

      Imo, there’s a huge difference between accommodating a medical issue (insomnia, long covid) or even circumstances related to a personal choice (e.g. colicky baby kept you up all night) versus something that’s solely based on personal recreational choices. Especially since it’s a regular occurrence, not a rare lapse of judgment.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        Fair enough, however details around an employee’s medical situations are none of OP’s business. The coworkers do not need to disclose WHY they are not feeling well if it’s a medical issue. OP doesn’t get to moralize what kind of illness is “deserved” and which isn’t.

        Technically, a hangover is a medical issue- it’s extreme dehydration and exhaustion due to the body expelling excessive alcohol.

    3. quill*

      There’s a line here to be drawn between “unable to work well because of a medical issue” (Insomnia, etc.) “Unable to work well due to lapse in judgement” (coming to work hungover) and “unable to work well because of a medical issue that causes lapses in judgement that can put others at risk and can usually only be treated by having multiple people let the person know that they need treatment for it, and the person admitting that they have a problem” (Alcoholism)

      We shouldn’t be treating medical issues as a moral failing, but we also shouldn’t be proactively ignoring a substance abuse disorder in the workplace. There’s room to say “we need you to do your best to bring your best self to work” without shaming people for whom doing that is a dice roll by factors out of their conscious control, though a lot of workplaces are not good at that. (And I say this in sympathy as a person whose brain is full of weasels, which are very distracting.)

      1. CCC*

        Yeah, there’s a line, but OP can’t draw it, so it doesn’t seem helpful to discuss it. Insomnia is a great example– some people get poor sleep because they have an underlying medical condition, and other people just make a lot of excuses not to put their phone down at night or practice good sleep hygiene and then get all “woe is me” about sleeping poorly. How would OP be able to distinguish between the two?

      2. TootsNYC*

        If someone is coming to work obviously impaired from insomnia, I think a boss could legitimately say, “You’ve coming to work obviously impaired. Please do something about it.”

        Then the person with insomnia would need to see medical intervention, or come up with the paperwork to assert a reasonable accommodation.

    4. StressedButOkay*

      A medical condition is not the same thing as someone going out and drinking so much that they show up to work routinely hungover. (Or even once showing up hungover.)

      We absolutely should be making accommodations and giving leeway for those with medical conditions. Something like drinking to the point of excess again and again and again and having it impact the work – that’s not something an office should tolerate.

    5. TootsNYC*

      If someone is coming to work obviously impaired from insomnia, I think a boss could legitimately say, “You’ve coming to work obviously impaired. Please do something about it.”

      Then the person with insomnia would need to see medical intervention, or come up with the paperwork to assert a reasonable accommodation.

    6. lunchtime caller*

      Honestly I agree, if these are regularly good performers and the occasional hungover day doesn’t seem to get in the way of that, then let them live. If everyone in the comments really thinks they’re bringing 150% to their job every single day without fail, they’re fooling themselves. Now if there are performance issues, it’s a client-facing thing, etc, then by all means say something.

    7. Duc Anonymous*

      Can you say that, though? I have chronic insomnia — I have worked with a sleep specialist and I have a whole sleep hygiene routine, complete with weapons-grade medication. I didn’t choose to have that condition and it’s presence in my life, despite a pretty involved plan to eliminate it, is pretty evident.

  15. Lifelong student*

    Unless the OP has direct knowledge that the slumping and sweating are hangover related (I’ve been hung over but never had those symptoms) it may be a perception issue by the OP. If they are doing their jobs acceptably, how or why they are tired or sweating is none of OP’s business. Even if it is hangover related, only the job performance is an appropriate thing to address.

    1. Rainy*

      If the person is saying “I’m hungover and that’s why I’m like this” you can probably be pretty confident–but sweating and slumping is what happens to me when I’m having a pretty violent bout of gastro symptoms. Reading through the comments here has really been making me wonder if my coworkers think I’m hungover when I’m actually having a reaction to food poisoning or being stealth-allergened.

      I don’t think I’ve ever gone to work hungover, but I’ve definitely tried to gut it out (as it were) after a violent bout of food poisoning or a bad allergic reaction.

      1. anonymous73*

        Honestly if I saw someone who looked ill, I’d assume they were ill and not go directly to thinking they were hungover. If it were just one person on OP’s team, I’d think that they’re making assumptions without knowing the facts. But it sounds like it’s the culture of the area, the team is open about it, and it’s ALL of them.

      2. Burger Bob*

        “Reading through the comments here has really been making me wonder if my coworkers think I’m hungover”
        Same. And I have indeed gone into work hungover. But on me, that looks like a nasty headache, and I get those fairly frequently whether I drink or not. In fact, the only time I’ve ever had to call out sick from work since I started my “real” job was for a particularly terrible migraine that had nothing to do with drinking. Not all hangover symptoms are due to a hangover. (And frankly when I do have a hangover, I figure that’s just tough luck for me and suck it up and go get shit done whether I feel like it or not. It’s not on my colleagues to have to pick up the slack for me just because I had one drink too many the night before.)

    2. DrSalty*

      Agree. Sometimes I sleep very poorly and then come to work in a fog. Some people get migraines. When I’m on my period I feel awful, very similar to having a hangover. To an outside observer, all of these present the same. Job performance is the only thing a manager should be addressing.

    3. Plain Jane*

      Thank you for this. I had someone accuse me of being hungover when I was newly pregnant and not yet telling my coworkers. It was awful. My brother has been accused of the same — he has an autoimmune disease. I’m currently dealing with a relative on hospice and I’m not at my best. Unless people are specifically talking about being hungover, I really caution the letter-writer to assume.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is the first time I’m hearing about a sweaty hangover, too, and I’ve had several family members with massive drinking problems, and have been hung over myself. (Isn’t dehydration the first sign of a hangover? are people even able to sweat a lot when dehydrated?) My own hangover symptoms are either similar to morning sickness (to Plain Jane’s point) or I have a headache (which I can also get without drinking anything, as I get migraines and an occasional bout of insomnia). As an old joke about life at 20, 30, and 40 goes, at 40 you can stay in all night, be in bed on time, and still look and feel in the morning as if you spent all night out drinking. I’m curious if these employees are explicitly saying they are hung over.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        Oh man, the post-binge drinking sweaty pallor is super real. Usually due to being very queasy/throwing up. It’s less directly because of the alcohol and much more because of how bodies often respond to nausea and vomiting.

  16. KWu*

    I’m a bit surprised by this answer, actually, due to looking at these two parts of the original question:
    1. “nothing truly bad will happen if someone has reduced concentration”
    2. “In our city, there’s a culture of going out drinking after work”
    (I am also reading the numbers as each employee comes to work hungover about once a month)

    This seems more in the category of, “this feels unprofessional because of looking cavalier about an employee’s responsibility to be ready to work, but there isn’t actually a work impact from a personal choice they’ve made”?

    (note: I have only ever been hungover a couple times in my life, so this isn’t a rationalization about frequent large amounts of drinking either. It just seems like a deviation from the typical position here of whether there’s a work impact)

    1. Cobol*

      This is my take as well. I don’t like being too drunk, and same with number of times I’ve been hungover. To me this is similar to public transportation is very unreliable in my area and about once a month somebody gets to work two hours late because of it.

      1. Loulou*

        Is this a real example? I’ve never worked or lived somewhere where being two hours late could be waved away with “oh, train problems!” If it’s two hours, you probably have a big story. That said, I agree with your broader point that this really depends a lot on local norms.

          1. Loulou*

            I’m familiar and have not heard of people in DC being two hours late as frequently as once a month! That seems extraordinary to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever been two hours late because of public transit in my entire life (in cities with varying qualities of transit systems)

            1. Batgirl*

              It’s the kind of thing that can absolutely happen if you join a bananacrackers transport system with “I have to live two very specific connections away in affordable-ville”. It’s less likely to happen if you’re centrally located, a few stops away and have a variety of transport options.

        1. Cobol*

          Somebody wrote in a while ago with a question asking those lines. I think they were public transportation rider, but it was essentially I can leave my house by 6 to guarantee I get to work by 8, or leave at 7 and make it most of the time, but sometimes make it by 9. Hours aren’t exact, but similar principles

    2. Observer*

      nothing truly bad will happen if someone has reduced concentration and “but there isn’t actually a work impact from a personal choice they’ve made” are totally NOT the same thing.

      “Nothing truly bad will happen” generally refers to things like “No one is likely to lose a limb” or “There is not likely to be major physical damage”. That doesn’t mean that there is no significant work impact. Not by a long shot.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        That was my take on it – there’s no immediate danger to themselves or others should they be hungover that day. But it doesn’t mean there’s not an impact on their actual work.

      2. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, agree. Maybe the worst that happens is they’re delayed in producing this week’s TPS report, but there’s still likely to be work consequences for reduced concentration. Unless the job is literally to sit at a desk and do nothing, I doubt they’re doing it as well hungover as they are when they’re not.

        Is there a big enough impact to work output? That’s for OP – and their company – to decide, but I really doubt there’s no impact whatsoever.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I doubt there’s no impact. But only totally unrealistic employers expect their employees to be 100% productive all the time. The LW’s employer may consider it a completely acceptable cost of doing business in a field with networking events where lots of alcohol is consumed, that people come in hungover once a month or every few weeks.

      3. Forrest*

        Yeah, but OP is pretty vague about what it is. I’ve had jobs where I spent all day every day transcribing audio or copying information from sheets of paper onto a database. On a good day I did 60 sheets, on a bad day I did 40 sheets, on an average day I did 50 sheets. If “a significant impact” is a 30-sheets day every six weeks from someone who is otherwise reliable, agreeable and all the other things you look for in a team that’s doing boring but essential work, it’s probably not worth disrupting a pretty harmonious working environment on the grounds that it’s “unprofessional”.

    3. Metadata minion*

      I read 1) as meaning that their work is suffering, but the LW has enough perspective to see that a marketing project getting delayed or screwed up is not the disaster that it would be if a nurse or construction worker came to work impaired.

  17. CCC*

    I don’t really know that there’s enough information here to know what to do. There are some workplaces/jobs where skipping out on drinking and events that revolve around alcohol can really harm your career, or at the very least make people feel uncomfortable if they aren’t drinking. OP doesn’t drink, so that would put a point in favor of it not being a problem, but they also note that some of the hangovers are work related. I’d start there, first– if there is a larger company culture of drinking, and people are rewarded (formally or informally) for participating in that, I don’t think OP has nearly as strong of a footing to say something.

    If OP does say something, I would hope that they are consistent and would also say something if someone was coming in unable to think clearly for other reasons. There’s a difference between expecting your employees to come in clear headed every day, versus are you expecting your employees to not participate in activities that make them less than clear headed. If someone came in tired and grumpy once a week because they had a late night pottery class or something.

    Also, I don’t think that OP can really tell if anyone on her team is an alcoholic or not by how they seem at work. So she should be prepared with how to handle it if that’s the case and we’re getting into medical problem territory.

    There are more “what if”s popping into my head as I think about it tbh.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, what needs to be addressed is the habit of working hung over. It’s not the boss’s business if a person drinks on their own time. It is the boss’s business if they are not able to do their job on company time. Yes, people I’ve worked with have called out sick if they are hung over. If it’s not every week, no one makes a comment. If they show up hung over and screw up all day, then it’s a problem, and it gets called out by the boss.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, but it really depends on the company. If this employer considers it an acceptable cost of doing business that people come in hungover about once a month following a company party or networking event, there really isn’t much the manager can do without appearing out of touch with the company culture.

        The thing is that these people are coming to work with a hangover because they got drunk at a company party, by drinking alcohol provided by the company, or at a networking event, where excessive consumption is expected and acceptable, you can’t really argue that they did it on their own time. Sure, they made the choice of drinking too much, but many employees no doubt opted to work in this field and for this employer because they wouldn’t be penalized for coming to work with a hangover.

        This LW doesn’t drink and wants to change the team culture, or even the company culture. Unless upper management feels the same way, there likely isn’t anything the LW can do about it.

        1. CCC*

          Yeah I agree completely. It also doesn’t take necessarily take excessive consumption to be hungover. If I went to a networking event right after work and had 2-3 cocktails over 2-3 hours, I wouldn’t be drunk at all but would have a mild hangover the next day; it doesn’t take much. Some of the comments seems to assume that people are getting absolutely plastered, but that may not be the case.

  18. Cobol*

    I think we’re really getting away from LW’s question in this thread. I agree drinking culture isn’t healthy, but it exists in many cultures/subcultures, and LW indicates it is part of theirs.

    The question really is, is it okay for people to occasionally come into work hungover. I don’t see a lot of answers that say no. They’re saying no because that means people are drinking too much, but I think there really is a distinction.

    I worked in PR at an agency. About once a quarter there would be industry events, often in Las Vegas. Older agency employees would go to a nice dinner with older clients, or older journalists, and younger ones would go to lounges with younger clients and younger journalists, often until late. I’m not saying there wasn’t a lot problematic with that, but it also was the job. I would coach people to avoid being hungover, but not look down if they were.

      1. Cobol*

        But…. It is. LW is asking is it okay to come into work hungover. Not do my people have a drinking problem. And we’re answering your employees have a drinking problem. It’s a fine line, but LW is saying there isn’t any problem drinking. Taking OPs at their word is a rule on this site.

        1. lunchtime caller*

          and even if they do have a drinking problem (that is presumably not affecting their performance much if at all)–okay??? it’s not a manager’s place to give them directions to AA or something

          1. allathian*

            Depends on the severity of the drinking problem. A former department director (my grandboss at the time) at my government agency who was found passed out on the floor of the walk-in janitor’s closet one morning was told to go to rehab or he’d be fired. Before that happened, he’d often smell of alcohol during the workday. That wasn’t enough to get him sent home, though, but passing out and staying at the office overnight was the last straw. Firing people is extremely difficult here, particularly in the public sector. But coming to work hungover once a month or so, following a company or networking event, isn’t the same. He ended up going on extended sick leave about the time I went on maternity leave, and never returned to work, because he died. Following that incident, my employer set up an early intervention program, and these days you’d definitely get a talking-to if your breath smelled of alcohol at work.

        2. anonymous73*

          You seem to be stuck on ONLY answering the OP’s question, but there’s more to it than “is it okay to come to work hungover?” And yes, as frequently as it’s happening, it IS a problem.

  19. TechWorker*

    At my company (less so now but definitely when I started a few years back), there were quite a few drinking events during the week. There was an unspoken understanding that if you were bad enough to affect your work then you should take ‘emergency PTO’ (which, not US, we have more of it). Basically being hungover wasn’t particularly looked down on, being hungover whilst being paid for it was :p

  20. Not So NewReader*

    There’s three things working against you here, OP.

    1) They do this routinely. So they think it’s fine. And were never clearly told it’s not fine.

    2) The culture of your area says it’s fine. This is the biggest one to combat right here.

    3) You are worried about being a prude. You are their boss. You are not there to make friends or win popularity contests. Sometimes bosses have to point out things that make everyone upset. Of these three things this is the easiest and quickest problem to shed. Decide right now that it does not matter if they think you are a prude or whatever other term you come up with.

    Since this hangover habit seems entrenched, I’d loop in my boss for support before I did anything. Ideally, my boss would make the announcement. However, I would forge ahead on my own if need be. One of the things to touch base on with your boss is that outside social pressures may mean that some people will have to be told more than once. Be prepared to fire people over it. You may think that folks do not have a problem with alcohol, but do not be surprised if they chose the alcohol over their job. Have a plan on how many times you will say this before you take action.

    I worked at a beautiful place. ha. Beautiful places can be disfunction junction. The owner drank heavily. His son followed in his footsteps. I supervised his son. One day the son come in too hung over to handle the busy section.
    I informed the son that being hungover was not an excuse for a lighter workload and I expected never to have this conversation again. (For about five minutes I was very popular with the crew. Then the rain storm came in with the owner.) I had put people in the son’s section that never had the opportunity to do that preferred section. The owner moved everyone back to where they were originally and the son did the busy section.

    The only take away was that the son knew never to mention drinking to me again. I left the job in part because of the drinking culture. Alcohol alters how people’s minds work and one day the drunk owner raised his hand to strike me. I quit on the spot. I already know from life experience I will not “win” fighting against a bottle of alcohol. Oddly his wife suddenly became my bff or tried to become my bff. And if I had a molecule of doubt about quitting, her sudden friendship cured me. I wanted to get away from that whole dynamic. I assure you there is a big, big difference between being a prude verses insisting on sanity in the workplace.

    1. allathian*

      Maybe. Your story also shows that the LW has no hope of winning this battle if the big bosses aren’t on board with it. So talk to the top management and see if they think it’s a problem. If they don’t, there’s no use tilting at windmills here. Teetotalers can’t change a drinking culture, and I’m not convinced they should even try. Best case scenario, they get fired for being a poor culture fit in the company or decide to quit on their own for the same reason. Worst case scenario, they lose their best performers who want to work for a different company where they can continue to show up at work once or twice a month with a hangover without being penalized. But unless they get buy-in from top management, there’s no chance they’ll be able to change anything.

  21. Toucan Flies*

    I worked hungover one time in my professional life and it was so god-awful I swore I would never do it again. Thankfully, I was working at home but it was so bad I could barely comprehend what people were saying (yes, I had quite a bit of wine the night before, much more than usual).

    Coming to work hungover is nasty. Once a year on accident, ok, but once a month? Ew. These people need to get their ish together and control how much they drink.

    1. UKDancer*

      Same. When I was a youngster we had one memorable celebration involving a lot of champagne provided by uber boss. This was atypical for the industry. I have a weakness for champagne and we all got very drunk. I felt wretched the next day, struggled through work and swore I’d never do that again. Now I have one glass then go onto soft drinks.

    2. JustAnotherKate*

      I also did it only once, and also can’t imagine anyone being willing to feel that dog-sick at work more than once. I drank too much red wine (super dehydrating!) on a Thursday night, but I didn’t feel that hammered so I was not prepared for how shitty I felt Friday morning. And, of course that was the day I (female, late 20s, new associate in a law firm) had to train two contract document reviewers (male, both 50 or so) who were super condescending the entire time. Eventually I was like, “I think I’m coming down with something, we’re going to have to finish on Monday” and basically crawled home.

      1. Toucan Flies*

        That reminds me of my time. My boss at the time was a hard ass, and she kept emailing and texting for some pretty detailed work to be done. It was a struggle. At one point, my eyes couldn’t even focus on the computer!

        Also a red wine evening, and so much of it.

    3. allathian*

      Yeah, I’ve only done it once. In college, I attended plenty of lectures with a hangover (drinking age 18), but as I’ve aged I’ve found that my alcohol tolerance gets worse every year. I’ve only come in to work at my current job once with a hangover, following a Christmas party, and that was during my first year working there when the party was on a Thursday. Now they’re usually on a Friday, so although I’ve drunk enough at these parties since to get a hangover, I’ve at least been able to recover at home. That said, these days I stick to one or two drinks with food at company parties, and then switch to soft drinks and leave early, if I go at all. I really don’t want to see my coworkers get drunk, and some of them drink a lot. Sadly, I’ve never learned to enjoy a party where most people are drinking and I’m completely sober, even if I think such parties can be fun if I’m having a drink or two or three as well.

  22. anonymous73*

    *If your team consistently comes to work hungover, then yes they have an alcohol problem.
    *If your team is rarely able limit their drinking in a social situation, then yes they have an alcohol problem.
    *If your team is rarely able to limit their drinking during a work event because the alcohol is free, then yes they have an alcohol problem.

    People go out and drink, and sometimes will overdo it. The frequency of it is the real problem here. Stop making excuses and address it.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      It’s not really up to OP to address whether any members of the team have an alcohol problem. She doesn’t have standing to do that. She can address how being hungover affects their work. She can talk with her peers and upper management about whether they can change the company culture around drinking. But unless a team member tells her they have an alcohol problem, it’s not on her to say they do.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. And unless top management thinks that coming to work with a hangover once or twice a month actually is a problem that needs to be addressed, which is by no means certain, she really doesn’t have the standing to change anything, not even on her own team.

  23. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

    OK, ex-Navy sailor. I’ve had professional training in these matters ;-)
    The standard rule in the Navy was, “If you’re going to hoot with the owls at night, you’d better be prepared to scream with the eagles in the morning.” Translation: “After hours” was acceptable only if it didn’t impair “the day job.”

    But maybe I’m missing something. By my math: six employees and 1-2 a week, assuming equal distribution, means one employee hangover a month. This is does not strike me as a red flag, even by my civilian standards.

  24. TootsNYC*

    One thing this manager needs to realize is that how her team behaves is affecting how SHE is viewed as their manager.

    1. allathian*

      It doesn’t necessarily affect her standing as their manager at all. Top management may be perfectly in line with this culture, and think that coming to work with a hangover once a month per employee is not a problem that needs to be addressed.

    1. TechWorker*

      1) not unheard of where I work. Common for people to drink together after work on a friday and get ‘Drunk drunk’; not totally surprising that carries over to company events (though said events are usually not on a day where people are working after)
      2) lots of people don’t actually have to get ‘drunk drunk’ to get a hangover

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Here to second your #2! With some especially friendly-to-me red wines, I’m feeling hungover before I’ve even finished drinking my first glass. That never happened when I was in college. Getting old is no joke.

    2. Batgirl*

      Pretty much everyone I’ve ever worked with honestly. It’s actually easier to pick out people who didn’t.

  25. GreenDoor*

    I’m normally not a big fan of generic performance announcements because the offenders often don’t recognize that they are offenders. But in this case, you might want to have an announcement at a team meeting along the lines of “I’m aware that many of us like to meet colleagues after work for drinks and that the company has sponsored events where alcohol is served, and that some of us have clients that like to meet over drinks. But I am seeing way too much of X behavior. Going forward, we are all expected to arrive to work clear-headed and ready to work. The expectation going forward is that if you are ill or hungover or otherwise impaired, you will use a sick day and stay home.”

    Phrases like “going forward” gives an official department-wide reset of the expectations and eliminate some of the “but we’ve always been able to” pushback you might get. From there, it will be much easier to have the “we talked about this…why is it still happening?” line of conversation as a one-on-one.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Exactly, just because alcohol is served, it doesn’t mean you have to get drunk. There are many drinks that look like they have alcohol in them but don’t. If you have a culture of people sipping or smelling your drink to ensure that you are actually drinking, then being hungover is the least of your problems.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, but this would require buy-in from top management, which is by no means certain. Top management may conclude that they made a mistake by hiring a non-drinker and fire her for being a poor culture fit. Top management may view an average of one hangover per employee a month as completely acceptable.

  26. workerbee*

    This made me chuckle because I came in slightly hungover today. Still am having a tremendous day of work! However, I was also cognizant of the work I had “on tap” for today – and it was not the type that needed deeper thinking skills.

  27. CanYallShutUp*

    Treat it as a performance issue- spell out what you expect and how their hangover days are not meeting these expectations.

    Or you could treat it as a health issue, what would you do if someone came to work mildly ill with similar symptoms? What if it happened regularly? (I am frequently plagued with allergies, for example.)

    I feel like a bit of a hypocrite suggesting anything…. In my day if we were hungover we just went to work and acted as normal as possible and didn’t mention it except to friends. You kids get off my lawn with your hangover honesty.

    1. philmar*

      Yeah, I feel the same way and I think the allergy analogy makes a lot of sense. It’s not contagious, it causes problems only for you, and you can work through it most of the time. I would be embarrassed to be hungover and say I just had a headache or couldn’t sleep or something. Or the people I was working with were also hungover and thus commiserating.

      There’s also a lot of chatter about whether or not these people have drinking problems. It is none of your business. Can’t sleep, headaches, puking, bloated, those are all pregnancy symptoms too, and if you went up to someone you suspected was pregnant, they would be annoyed and the commentariat here would leap down your throat about how you shouldn’t speculate about pregnancies, but there’s a lot of armchair “alcohol problems” getting thrown around.

      1. CanYallShutUp*

        Yes. I would not expect someone’s workplace to address their alcohol problem directly, at least not as a first step. I’d expect them to address it as a performance problem first.

    2. allathian*

      This only works if top management also thinks that it’s a performance issue. If top management thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable for employees to be a bit under the weather following a corporate or network event, then the LW has no standing in trying to address it. The only thing she might accomplish is that her employees will be less open about their hangovers when she’s around, but she won’t change the drinking culture, unless she gets buy-in from top management. And they may conclude that hiring a non-drinker was a mistake in this culture.

  28. Sarah*

    I’m not a big drinker, but in the industry I’m in there are multiple conferences with booze-infused parties and after parties. The Sales folks I work with are expected to attend and shmooze customers at these events, and drinking is a huge part of this. It is regularly joked about at 8am conference sessions and amongst colleagues how hungover everyone is.

    Is this a healthy inclusive environment? No. But if this is the type of workplace LW is a part of, they risk making waves and coming off as unlikable to colleagues.

    1. consultinerd*

      IMO, conferences are a different animal than day to day work. If you’re in a role where relationship-building is important and an industry/area with a drinking culture, hitting receptions and schmoozing with clients may be 99% of the point of going, and if you’re a little bleary in a boring panel talk the next day no one’s going to suffer for it. But that’s a different context than coming into the office, where you’re expected to get stuff done, in bad enough shape to visibly affect your work.

  29. LifeBeforeCorona*

    If there are work events and your team is drinking enough to have a hangover the next day, then a workshop on how to drink responsibly may be needed. They represent your company and seeing fellow co-workers drunk on a regular basis is not a good way to impress anyone, especially upper-level management types who can have an influence on your career.

    1. allathian*

      Depends on the company. If the company culture is such that coming to work hungover once a month after a work event is the norm, the LW is the outlier.

  30. WulfInTheForest*

    Wait, so you *think* each member on your team comes to work hungover around once a month? And you can’t confirm that the reason they are looking ill AKA “mildly sweaty, slumped over their desks” is due to alcohol (other than perhaps the work-related alcohol consumption)…

    Sure, some of them could be hangovers, but I wouldn’t be making this assumption that ALL of these instances are hangovers, even in an alcohol heavy culture like the one OP mentions. Many things can create these symptoms: migraines, food poisoning, pregnancy, lack of sleep due to insomnia, etc. Unless you saw someone overindulge at a work function the night before, or they blatantly say “wow I had too many last night” I’d tend to assume they’re just not feeling well.

  31. This Old House*

    I’m wondering how/if the answer would be different if this wasn’t a team-wide issue. If a single person came in hungover once every month or two, would it be a big enough issue to address?

    1. Batgirl*

      Well it would be an easier one to address because it’s changing one person instead of an entire culture. There’s also a very real danger if OP goes after everyone simultaneously that they’ll wolfpack against OP. If it were me I’d speak to my own manager for backup before even trying.

  32. Candi*

    The only thing I’d add is spend a bit documenting hungover vs not work, and show that their work is better when they aren’t suffering (Googles) one or more of: fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased blood pressure.

  33. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I’d first make sure that what appear to be hangovers are actually hangovers. I can tell you that when I have migraines specifically caused by exposure to cigarette smoke, I look and feel like I have a hangover.

    That said, even in a party town, I feel it is incredibly frustrating to work with people who regularly come to work hungover or even still drunk. I would say 1ce every two weeks is too much. I work in heavy construction. I have been waking around a muddy excavation when I realized the guy running the bucket loader was hungover. I was FURIOUS at the safety crew for not tossing the guy off the site for the day. I left my last firm for a whole bunch of reasons, but, one of them was because a guy who basically came in with a BAC of 0.1 every day kept getting promoted. He was protected by someone but, I found him unresponsive and unavailable far, far too often. He supposedly was a technical specialist for an item that has to be dealt with on many of my projects. Him not being available to me and others when we needed him was a real problem. Aside from the favoritism stuff, if he wasn’t hungover as well as slipping out for long liquid lunches, he would have been more use.

    That’s kinda OT, but, it formed part of my reaction to this.

    1. Bluesboy*

      “I’d first make sure that what appear to be hangovers are actually hangovers”

      I have a ‘hangover voice’ where my voice goes deeper and raspier. Of course, I get exactly the same voice when I have a sore throat…

      Now it’s great, because on the rare occasions I might come into the office hungover, people assume I have a sore throat. But when I was younger, whenever I had a sore throat everyone assumed I was hungover…

  34. MoreoftheWorls*

    I feel like AAM normally does a pretty good job of considering other perspectives but this is a very American-centric answer. Sure, that’s your primary audience, but it’s possible there are other cultural influences at play here and that isn’t addressed at all.

  35. Orange You Glad*

    I think it’s hard to say “you absolutely can’t come to work hungover” because the reality is that people are likely working hungover much more often than OP knows, but it doesn’t show in their work. Hangovers can be a variety of different things – for many it may just come across that they are a little tired or slow the next day, others may be actually sick. I’ve worked through a few hangovers in my day, but as long as they were mild I was able to work through them without others knowing. I may mention being tired or feeling a little under the weather if necessary, but I would never tell a boss or coworker that I was hungover. And there were occasions in my 20s when I went a little too hard the night before and called out the next morning.

    If someone is slumped over their desk, clearly not working, then I would send them home. I don’t care if it’s due to a hangover or another medical reason, they are not fit to work. If it happens more than once, then I would have a more frank discussion about what is expected when they arrive to work and remind them how to call out if they are sick.

  36. Forrest*

    Depends so much to me on what kind of work people are doing. There are lots of very boring jobs in the world where what you need is people who will reliably turn up, get on with everyone, do the work and go home. Not every job needs strivers and professionals and people who’ll put their heart and soul into the job and perform to the best of their ability every day! If you’ve got a stable team and the work is steady and of as good a quality as it needs to be and the only problem here is a vague sense that it’s not Professional, leave well enough alone.

    1. Snuck*

      Generally agree! If it’s a job a high functioning alcoholic can do… let them!

      I took a job for a while that was literally arriving at 5am, logging on, downloading some very large data files, pushing them through a reporting robot, and checking they’d automatically uploaded to a number of places before 7am. It was the feed files for a debt collection and associated departments nationally recognised brand bank.

      I said “Why don’t you get a robot to do this?” And was told security blah blah blah … eventually I told them I’d had enough (six months?) and to sort out their security issues or replace me… they wrote the robot. Done. Still good mates with that manager, we had some great laughs over all of this as you can imagine. I was happy to plod at that point as I was completely burnt out in other roles, and enjoyed the early morning solitude/early finish of the role… and was planning to leave Corporate Oz entirely so this was a stop gap before I went onto something else.

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