Accused of Smelling Like Alcohol, But I Don’t Drin

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a coworker smelling of alcohol:

Recently I was reported to my H.R. dept because another colleague assumed I smelled of alcohol. I don’t even drink.

Signed, Falsely Accused

Dear Falsely Accused:

By the time you get this response you have probably had a chance to show HR or others, that you were not drinking on the job, had not had so much to drink at home that you smelled of an alcoholic beverage, and could not have such things happen because you don’t drink alcohol.If HR thought you smelled of alcohol too, maybe there is a problem you need to check on.

There are a number of medical conditions that can cause the smell of alcohol on the breath, so you may want to ask your doctor about that. Some medications leave a fermented odor as well. Mouth washes (such as Listerin) that have a lot of alcohol can also leave an odd odor later.Of course, the biggest issue for you now is continuing to work with the person who reported you. If that person felt he or she could not talk to you directly, you probably were not friends before.

Do your best to not make this a reason to be unpleasant or to gossip.Your best approach will be to acknowledge that if someone thought you were drinking on the job, it should have been reported, and you’re glad to say that you couldn’t possibly have smelled of alcohol, since you don’t drink at all. Then, move on, knowing that the employee involved has been a bit discredited by this.On the other hand, if you DID smell of something alcoholic, he or she was not at fault for reporting it, so there is no reason to be angry about it. I imagine there is more to this than the report, so that is where you should put your focus. Work to at least have a civil relationship with everyone at work, including this person. This investigation will go away quickly, but a reputation for being part of a long-term conflict won’t go away. If you think the report was made maliciously talk to your manager or to HR about it, so it won’t happen again–or if it does, you will have some protection. Then, do your part to have a friendly, cooperative workplace.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.