Drugs and Alcohol…

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard a few stories about drunk Bar Staff. Word spreads when you know a lot of people in a small town who work in the Industry. And if they were either drinking during shifts or acting like fools while out on the town, sooner or later someone will hear about it. But, we are dealing with adults here, and what they do in their off-time is up to them. However, what they do during work can be problematic…and costly.

Let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? If you work in the Bar and Nightclub Industry, at some point you will have an encounter with Drugs and Alcohol. Yes, I know, alcohol is served in a Bar. But that is not what I mean. I mean your fellow employees and Patrons using Drugs and Alcohol. There, I said it. Your co-workers could be drunk or high. And so could your Patrons. I can already hear the denials, “None of my Staff drinks!” or “We don’t allow drugs in our establishment!”, and to some extent I believe you. Well, maybe I believe about 1/4 of you.

The Bar and Nightclub environment breeds, sustains, and to some degree encourages substance abuse. Whether it is trying to get Patrons to buy more drinks (2 for 1 specials, anyone?), having the Bartenders be social (“Let’s all do shots!”), or needing a little extra energy to get through that Double Shift and Inventory (“We’ll do a tiny line of coke. No one will know.’), it happens! So, instead of working ourselves into a lather and vehemently denying that it occurs while 3 Patrons come out of the bathroom with powder rings around their noses and your bartender is slurrin’ and stumblin’, let’s look at the dangers from a  liability standpoint.

Use of Drugs and Alcohol by Security Staffers during a shift is incredibly negligent. Should anything happen during your shift, while you are drunk, not only can the Bar/Nightclub be sued, but you can as well. Why? The shortened legal definition of negligence is: “The failure to exercise that degree of care that…the law requires for the protection of other persons…that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care.” In other words, if someone in your establishment is hurt because you fail to notice a problem or issue, IT IS YOUR FAULT. They may have been acting stupid, but if you didn’t try to stop them or failed to stopped them, it’s on you. If Aunt Sally tries to dance on the bar and falls, breaking her arm because you were too buzzed to notice and stop her…you do the math. When the EMTs show up (probably with Law Enforcement in tow) and they smell alcohol on your Security Staffers’ breath? No bueno.

Any individual working Security under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an idiot. Plain and simple. At the most basic level, alcohol impairs your judgment and coordination. If your job is to consistently use your best judgment (“Does this person pose a threat?”) and possibly need to have excellent coordination (i.e. catching the drunk guy), why would you want to do the job drunk or high? I’ve heard the usual excuses, “It makes me more social/relaxes me/makes the time pass.” and while you might think these things, you are fooling yourself. Think about it this way: when you see a slightly intoxicated Patron, your first reaction is probably to keep an eye on them and see how they progress. Now what if that Patron was you…and you were trying to do a job? Again, no bueno.

We live in a litigious world. Why not take every step possible to shield yourself from litigation? If you are in the courtroom and the question, “Were you drinking during your shift?” comes up, you better be darn sure the answer is “No.” Some of you might say, “But drinking and drugs go with the territory!” Wrong. It only goes with the territory if you allow it to. I’m sure those of you who are regular readers and work in Bars know of at least one establishment that has been closed due to drug sales. Or have known a Staffer to be arrested for DUI after their shift. Why take the chance and have it be your establishment or Staffer? Sooner or later the laws of statistics WILL catch up to you.

SOLUTIONS

The easiest solution for a Manager/Owner is to make a set of Bar Rules. They can be as simple as “No drinking on shift!” or as extreme as “No off-duty patronage of the bar.” Whatever you decide to make the rule, you must stick by it, and enforce it. With drinking, I generally recommend a warning (along with being sent home for the night) for the first offense and termination if the act is repeated. Drugs are automatic termination. Period. You have to let the Staff know that you are serious about your approach. And yes, that means that you can’t drink while working either!

Another option is to write a Drug and  Alcohol Policy into your employee manual. A quick Google Search (see how easy I make things for you?) will give you a plethora of options. At the bottom of each page of your Drug and Alcohol Policy, you should have a line for your employees to sign stating that they understand the Policy and repercussions for breaking it.

Finally, you MUST enforce your rules. Let me repeat that: YOU MUST ENFORCE YOUR RULES!!! It is pointless to come up with rules and policies if they are never enacted. Not to mention that you will find yourself in a legal mess if you have a stated set of policies and you are found to be violating them. If you are the boss, act like the boss. If you are a humble worker bee, make sure your fellow employees are keeping it together. If they are not, let someone know. It could end up saving your job.

Until next time…

Disciplinary Action!

People do not behave well 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. That is just a simple fact of life. And those people can include your Security Staff. Unfortunately, when your Security is not on their best behavior, the problems they cause can end up having disastrous (and often costly) results. One of the things to consider when developing your security program is how to handle Disciplinary Action.

WHY DISCIPLINE?

Usually, the phrase ‘to discipline’ carries a negative connotation. But, in actuality, discipline is a method of modeling a person’s character and teaching acceptable behavior and actions in order to allow for a particular code of conduct. When someone tells you, “Look both ways before you cross the street”, you are being disciplined in a certain behavior to elicit a certain response. However, if you don’t look both ways before crossing and are then chastised (which at your age you really shouldn’t be), the meaning of discipline takes on a negative connotation, usually based on the negative feelings you experience.

Discipline is necessary to allow for teaching of right and wrong. And in an environment like a nightclub, where right and wrong decisions can often lead to very negative consequences, discipline is KEY. Your Staff need to know when they are doing things wrong. And they need to know right away.

WHAT TO DISCIPLINE

Every bar and nightclub has different rules. Some allow dancing on the bar, others won’t let you in without shoes. Just as there are different rules for Patrons, there are just as many rules for Staff. Depending on your establishment’s rules, you may need to discipline your Staff for a range of actions (or inaction) that other bars wouldn’t consider problematic.

First, consider a standard of behavior or conduct. What do you want your Staff trained to do or not do? Should they greet Patrons with a “Good evening.” or are you happy with a “What’s up?” Do you care if your Staff shows up on time or do they get a little leeway in regards to clocking in? Should your Staff be trained to dress or act certain way and if so, what is it?

Second, consider the consequences of particular actions. If your policy is “hands off the Patrons” (hint: it should be), then a Staffer physically lifting a Patron off the ground and throwing them out the door would be cause for Disciplinary Action. Why? Well, the Patron could be injured during the ejection,  which could lead to possible lawsuit, which could lead to monetary damages, which could lead to bar closure. Do the negative consequences outweigh the particular action? Yes. And as such, disciplinary action is necessary. You want to set a precedent for future actions and behavior.

Decide what type of behavior and rules you want in place and make your disciplinary decisions based on these rules.

HOW TO DISCIPLINE

I’m the first to say that no one on your Staff should be yelled at, under any circumstances, in front of other Staffers. It is demeaning and counterproductive, and often times can lead to more problems. It is possible to get across feelings of disappointment or anger without becoming a raving maniac. Behind closed doors I still don’t suggest yelling, but sometimes emotions can get the best of you.

First, it is imperative that you have some type of paperwork to back up and bolster to your claim. Leaving a trail of paperwork is always a good idea, especially when dealing with Disciplinary Action. It is possible that you may have to terminate an employee at some point and paperwork never hurts your cause…unless you don’t have it or falsify it.

A Disciplinary Action Form should contain the following:

Employee Name

Manager issuing Disciplinary Action

Nature of Infraction

You should also include whether or not the employee was issued a verbal warning and a written notice of suspension or termination for repeated infractions. And don’t forget to have the employee and manager sign and date the form!

Second, before you are going to confront someone with some type of Disciplinary Action, sit with it. Think about it. And go through what you want to say to the individual before the meeting. Make sure you have all of the facts straight. This might mean talking to others who were present when something went wrong.

Third, meet with the Staffer. Ask them if they have any questions or explanations as to their behavior or actions. Explain the problem with their behavior and let them know what the Disciplinary Action will be. It may be only a Verbal Warning or it could be a loss of a work shift. But you must let them know before they leave what the consequences of their actions will be.

Lastly, thank them for their time when you are done. Be firm and get your point across, but always be respectful! The Staffer may have slipped up slightly or just had a bad day. It happens to all of us so don’t jump down their throat!

When all is said and done, file the Disciplinary Action report and carry on. If you have a problem Staffer, you may need to hold further non-disciplinary meetings to discuss alternative courses of action. But usually one warning is enough for most employees. Make sure that you yourself are following the rules. No one likes a boss that talks out of both sides of their mouth and you are setting a bad precedent by breaking you own rules…have some discipline!

Until next time…