A reader writes:
I’m an avid reader of your blog, and a friend of mine has a situation that has left me bewildered, so we’re coming to you for help. He works as an administrative assistant for a very large, successful company, but his boss is a raging alcoholic. He goes out at lunch about 3-4 times a week and comes back absolutely hammered. I’m not talking a few drinks over a meeting; I’m talking so drunk that everyone knows (and gossips about it). The worst part (in my opinion) is that he drives home every night, and there is just no way he is fit to get behind the wheel. On top of that, we work in the core of a REALLY busy city, so even driving sober can be a challenge (not that drunk driving in any location is acceptable, but it just adds another layer).
Not only is he an alcoholic, but he comes in late every morning/takes 4 hour lunches/leaves a lot of his responsibilities to my friend to complete (I don’t mean regular admin stuff , I mean high level responsibilities). He has also missed numerous meetings with staff and clients, and has even come back to meet with them wasted (slurring words/smelling heavily of it/lots of giggling). They do actually have a stellar relationship and my friend loves the boss, but it’s getting to the point that the absenteeism/drunkenness is really bogging him down. The boss’s boss has turned a blind eye to it, so he has gotten away with this behavior for quite some time now. Finally, HR is involved in this in the sense that they are drinking buddy’s with the boss, so there is no point in even going to HR about it.
What should he do? He loves his job, and isn’t going to quit over it, but there really doesn’t seem to be anyone else he could really go to (except maybe the CEO, which would be the level above the boss that is turning a blind eye). Thanks for any insight on this!
There are a few different issues here:
1. The manager is maybe slacking off on his job (coming in late, taking 4-hour lunches, and leaving lots of his work to your friend). I say “maybe” because he could be working hours that your friend does see, and some people do manage to produce at a high level despite stuff like that. It sounds unlikely here, but it’s possible. In any case, this one isn’t really your friend’s business to raise; this is between the manager and his own boss.
2. The manager is behaving unacceptably with clients (missing meetings and showing up drunk) and with staff (showing up drunk). Unlike #1 above, this one is so far over the line that it’s appropriate (I’d even say necessary) for your friend to raise it with someone.
3. The manager is driving drunk. This is absolutely your friend’s business, and he has a moral and practical obligation to speak up about it.
So, your friend needs to speak up about #2 and #3.
As for who to talk to, I’d talk to the manager’s manager. He can say something like this: “I really like Bob and enjoy working with him, but his drinking has become a work issue. He shows up for client and staff meetings clearly drunk, returns to work drunk after lunch, and is driving home drunk in the evening. It must be impacting what clients think, and I’m worried it’s only a matter of time before he has an accident and hurts himself or someone else.”
He also, frankly, could say something to the manager himself, at least about the driving drunk. He could also intervene when he sees him leaving work clearly intoxicated — he could refuse to let him drive and insist on calling him a cab.
And if the company doesn’t intervene and resolve this issue after your friend brings it to their attention, your friend should seriously consider looking for another job, regardless of how much he likes his current one. If nothing else, it’s going to eventually harm his reputation to work for this guy — and it would be helpful to be able to clearly state to the manager and the company when he leaves that he couldn’t stand by and watch this.