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Alcohol, you and EEO.


Yes, there is a connection. In the Office of Civil Rights, and especially during the end-of-year holiday season, we receive many reports of inappropriate and potentially career-limiting personal conduct that--but for the influence of alcohol--may not have taken place. In a significant number of instances, alcohol overindulgence plays a role in cases of inappropriate touching, insulting and/or discriminatory comments, and other conduct unbecoming of an official of the United States Government.

The point of this article is not to summarily denigrate the consumption of alcohol. This is not a sermon. Anthropologists document that most organized societies have produced and consumed some form of alcohol: beer from ancient Egyptians (barley), sake from Japan (rice), whiskey from Ireland and Scotland (grain), vodka from Russia (grain, potatoes), Madeira from the Island of Madeira and every conceivable wine from California. My own sainted mother fermented peaches in our garage for brandy home brew, and I have it on good authority that my dad in the 1930s was a part-time bootlegger in college during the years of Prohibition.

Alcohol plays a central role in numerous societal contexts: religious ceremonies, holiday traditions, weddings and celebrations of all kinds. As for courtship, just review its appearance in any Doris Day/Rock Hudson film from the 1950s.

Unfortunately, along with the pleasures of a good beer or a glass of fine wine, copious consumption of alcohol may result in impaired judgment, reduced inhibitions, slowed reaction times, and impaired speech and motor coordination. Inappropriate comments and unwanted physical contact are more likely to happen at events where alcohol is being consumed. Off-color and racist jokes that may find safe harbor in a bar have no place in an office environment. To make matters worse, the greater the amount of stress or isolation in the working environment, the greater the proportion of complaints involving alcohol overindulgence we see in S/OCR.

Whether you are a new manager, a recent Civil Service hire or a first-tour FSO, remember that people in positions to make decisions about your career may observe your conduct in a variety of professional and social settings. Your "corridor reputation" may be impacted by how you manage yourself in such situations.

Moderation and self-awareness, including abstinence, will usually be your best course of action. If you are concerned about your own drinking behavior or consequences from the role of alcohol in your life or relationships, confidential help is available from the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program (ADAP, 202-663-1904). You can discuss your concerns, make a plan to reduce or stop drinking for a while, or get a referral for treatment with a medical professional in a confidential setting. Seeking professional assistance is a great first step if you have concerns that your relationship with alcohol may not be consistent with your career aspirations.

Again, this is not a sermon, but it may be very good advice.

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Title Annotation:Diversity Notes; equal employment opportunity
Author:Robinson, John M.
Publication:State Magazine
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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