Boundary setting with high functioning alcoholics (HFAs) can be particularly complex due to their influential positions and success in their industries. As leaders and role models, HFAs may have developed a strong network of support, which can inadvertently contribute to enabling behaviours. Colleagues and subordinates may be hesitant to confront HFAs about their alcohol abuse or to establish boundaries, fearing negative consequences, such as losing their job, damaging their relationship with the high functioning alcoholic, or harming their own career progression.
Moreover, HFAs often possess strong skills in problem-solving, decision-making, and crisis management. This can make it difficult for others to recognize the severity of their alcoholism, as they continue to excel in their professional roles. The high functioning alcoholic’s accomplishments may create a perception that their alcohol use is not problematic, leading others to minimize the issue or avoid addressing it altogether.
Another challenge is the potential denial or lack of self-awareness that HFAs may experience. Due to their professional success, HFAs may have difficulty acknowledging that they have a problem with alcohol or that their consumption is negatively impacting their work and personal lives. This denial can make it difficult for them to accept the need for boundaries and support from their employers and colleagues.
The stigma surrounding addiction can also complicate boundary setting. Even if an HFA acknowledges their struggle with alcohol, they may be hesitant to seek help or discuss their situation with coworkers and supervisors, fearing judgment, discrimination, or damage to their professional reputation. This reluctance can create barriers for those who want to help, as it may require delicate and tactful communication to navigate the issue without alienating the HFA.
Why set boundaries?
The importance of setting boundaries for high functioning alcoholics in the workplace cannot be overstated. High functioning alcoholics, or HFAs, are individuals who maintain jobs, relationships, and other responsibilities despite their struggle with alcoholism. In South Africa, where alcohol abuse is a widespread issue, addressing the needs of HFAs in the workplace is crucial.
One of the key elements in helping is the establishment of clear and consistent boundaries. Boundaries are crucial in managing the impact of alcoholism on work performance and maintaining a healthy work environment. By setting boundaries, HFAs can better understand the consequences of their actions and recognize the need for change.
Open communication between the HFA and their employer is essential. This includes discussing the consequences of poor work performance due to alcohol abuse and the need for the HFA to seek help. Employers should express empathy and understanding, but also maintain firm boundaries to ensure that the HFA is held accountable for their actions.
It is important to note that enabling behaviours by coworkers or employers can hinder an HFA’s progress towards recovery. Examples of enabling behaviour include covering for an HFA’s mistakes, providing excuses for their absence, or allowing them to continue working while intoxicated. By avoiding these behaviours, coworkers and employers can encourage HFAs to recognize the need for change and seek help.
In South Africa, there are several resources available for HFAs seeking assistance, such as the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Employers can support their employees by providing information about these resources and encouraging them to seek help. Additionally, companies can offer employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that provide confidential counselling and support for employees struggling with addiction.
Setting boundaries for high functioning alcoholics in the workplace is crucial to fostering a healthy work environment and encouraging recovery. By maintaining open communication, avoiding enabling behaviours, and providing resources for support, both employers and coworkers can play an important role in helping HFAs overcome their addiction. Addressing this issue in the South African context is particularly vital due to the prevalence of alcohol abuse in the country. By prioritising the well-being of HFAs and their colleagues, we can work together to create a more supportive and understanding workplace for all.