my coworkers are coming back from lunch drunk, my manager wants me to talk to people in-person more often, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Coworkers are coming back from lunch drunk

I am writing to help a friend who is in a rather tough predicament at work. The issue involves two of her colleagues. They all work in an office environment in the same department. The manager works remotely out of state and is hardly in the office. The newest employee is an alcoholic, and the other employee (a friend of my friend) has battled alcoholism for years. Unfortunately, fate has brought these two together. My friend has witnessed both of them taking 4-5-hour lunches, coming back drunk, speaking to clients with slurred speech, and remarking that they are on their way to pick up their kids while under the influence. Needless to say, it has made my friend extremely uncomfortable.

My friend has spoken to both of them individually and as a group to let them know that their behavior has become obvious and afraid that others will begin to notice. My friend has come to me asking for advice. I told her that I would document all indiscretions and continue to talk to them in hopes that she will break through to them. If, after a couple of months they continue with this behavior and/or it gets worse, I would go to HR with the documentation.

Oh my goodness, no, she needs to speak up now. As in, immediately. She needs to call her manager today and let her know what she’s observed. Her coworkers aren’t just putting client relationships in jeopardy — although that alone would be a reason to talk to her boss — but they’re also endangering other people and themselves. Their behavior is so far over the line that this is absolutely not a “wait a couple of months and see what happens” situation. It is a “call the boss today and speak up” situation. Please urge her to do it.

If it makes her feel better, you can point out that she’s already done her coworkers the courtesy of talking to them directly about the problem. Frankly, what they’re doing is egregious enough that she wasn’t even obligated to do that, but she’s done it and they’ve ignored her warning. It’s time — past time, really — to talk to her boss.

2. My manager wants me do more talking to people in-person rather than sending emails

My manager has often told me to just go talk to coworkers (mostly on other teams) instead of sending emails to get help or resolve issues. This has always made me uncomfortable, because I feel like I’m always interrupting people who are really busy. I know that I myself hate being interrupted constantly throughout the day, and would prefer emails first for issues that aren’t an emergency.

Obviously, I need to do that my manager says. However, do you have any suggestions how to get over feeling uncomfortable interrupting people all the time?

The first thing to look at is why she’s saying it: Have you been having trouble getting answers from people? Or are things getting delayed too long when you’re waiting on a response to an email? Those are good, business-related reasons for her request, and focusing on that might help you feel more comfortable.

You can also look at the culture of your office. Do you see other people dropping by each other’s desks? You might be working somewhere where that’s just how people operate, and you need to sync up with those norms in order to get what you need.

Also, when you make yourself go interrupt someone, you can soften it by starting with “I have a question for you about X. Is now a good time or should I come back later?”  That kind of interruption is less disruptive because (a) you’re telling them up-front what the topic is, rather than asking for their time when they don’t know the topic and thus can’t assess its importance relative to whatever else they’re doing, and (b) it makes it easy for them to tell you to come back later — or to ask you to email them if they prefer that.

3. Should I tell my new boss about a personal problem that’s affecting my work?

I landed my dream job in accounting. I really enjoy the work, my boss, and my coworkers. After a bit over two months, though, my job performance has not been good and I am afraid I am going to be fired. My long-time boyfriend broke up with me the night before I started my new job, and while I am usually good at compartmentalizing, the stress has been causing me to take too long on projects and I haven’t been quick to pick things up.

My boss has been meeting with me to discuss my performance, and while I am generally hesitant to share personal problems in the workplace, I don’t want my boss to think I am not interested in improving or that this is my general work ethic. Do you think there is any benefit to letting my boss what is going on? Or at this point will it just seem like I am making excuses?

It’s worth letting your boss know that you’ve been dealing with something difficult in your personal life (and even that it started the night before you started the job), because that will give her context that she doesn’t currently have. Right now, without that context, all she knows is that you’re struggling, and she has to assume that what she’s seeing is the normal level of your work. If you let her know that it’s not and that this is unusual for you, that will help her understand what’s going on (and could buy you a bit more time).

To be totally frank, because you’re new this is a little different than if you’d been there longer. With a long-time employee with a great track record whose performance temporarily slips because of something in her personal life, it’s much easier to cut the person some slack. With someone new, your manager doesn’t really know what your normal baseline is, and so she needs to see good performance from you in order to be convinced the role is the right fit … but it’s still helpful for her to hear from you that this isn’t your normal. But that means that it’s extra important to find a way to re-focus on the job now, so that she can start to see what your normal work is like.

4. Contacting an employer before applying for a job to explain my schedule limitations

Should I contact a potential employer before I apply to them to explain that I am a college student who has classes that mean some days of the week I cannot work, or can only work part of the day?

Not every job posting includes what the schedule they’re trying to fill is, so if I apply and then find out in the interview or later that it wouldn’t work out, then both of our times are wasted.

I wanted to know for any potential good job that comes my way, whether it be a part-time position where I’m just looking for a paycheck, or something that I hope to become my full-time job/part of my career path post-graduation.

If it’s a full-time job, assume that they’re looking for full-time availability. I wouldn’t apply to those at all while you’re still in school unless the only schedule adjustment you’d need is something minor like leaving two hours early on Thursdays. But if you can’t work full-days or have multiple days where you’re not available the whole day, those just aren’t the right fit for you right now.

If it’s a part-time job, go ahead and apply, and you can discuss schedule specifics if they invite you to interview.

5. Should I redact the name of a political employer on my resume?

My career started in politics working for the Democratic National Committee as a communications director for my home state. I’ve since transitioned to the financial services/investment management industry. Do you have any guidance on how to handle my former employer on a resume for non-political roles? Would it be acceptable to redact the name of the organization to minimize the political aspects of my experience, of course providing the details upon request?

No, redacting the name of an employer would look really weird and would just draw more attention to it. The DNC isn’t terribly controversial, as political organizations go. I mean, it’s obviously partisan, but it’s not likely to draw the same response as a less mainstream advocacy organization might. As long as you’re not applying for jobs with conservative political organizations, it’s unlikely to be an issue.

{ 267 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Huh

    OP4: I applied for a full time job while I was a student. The HR Manager liked me enough to offer a part time role, although it was 30 hours per week so it was not a huge reduction of hours to suit my schedule. I also add this was an assistant administrative job where it was possible to work reduced/flexible hours without affecting others too much. Sometimes you can negotiate hours of work depending on the job requirements.

    Having said that, I now recruit a lot of shift workers where they are required to work full time and be available at specific times/days. It’s *really* annoying when people ignore the multiple references to full time schedule and apply to work 20 hours a week. Worst are applicants who make no mention of their part time availability until I ask. In the past I wasted hours going through these applications thinking they were great, only to discover at the end of the phone interview they didn’t want full time. If you do not meet some hiring criteria (but want to take a chance anyway), make this explicitly clear in your cover letter as a courtesy to the hiring manager.

    Reply
    1. MillersSpring

      OP4, if you’re applying for part-time work such as retail or restaurant jobs, it’s very common right on the application to indicate the days and shifts you’re available. If you’re applying for work that generally expects a resume, list your availability at the top, directly after your phone number and email address, such as “Seeking a part-time position up to XX hours per week. Available evenings starting at 6:00, weekends and MWF afternoons.”

      Reply
      1. Liane

        Many of these availability are down to specific hours, in a lot of cases. My ex-job also allowed you to put in recurring unavailable times that weren’t weekly, like a class every other Tuesday night or the one weekend a month you had Reserve training (US military). If you are hired, these go straight into the system.

        Reply
    2. blackcat

      Yeah, and this sounds different than someone for whom class schedule is less of an issue. For example, one of the departments I’m affiliated with offers most of the graduate classes once a week, 5:30-8:30pm. This is to allow people to work full time–and it’s actually a bit annoying for the full time students who *are* free at noon or whatever.

      Some programs make it easy to hold down a full time job. Traditional undergrad programs generally aren’t one. I think the best solution for the OP is a near-full time job, like a 30 hr/week sort of thing.

      Reply
      1. Lemon Zinger

        Great advice! I worked about 30 hours/week my senior year of high school and it was very doable. However, my course load was extremely light and I was basically coasting through my last year. College is different. I work in higher ed and we always recommend that students not work more than 20 hours/week. More than that, and grades and class attendance start to suffer.

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        1. Alienor

          For most of college, I managed to work 32 hours/week by grouping all my classes onto a couple of days, so I had four 8-hour work days, two 8-hour school days, and one day “off” to study, write papers, clean my apartment and run all my errands. In my final year, I couldn’t take it anymore and cut back to 24 hours/week–it meant I had to take out a loan to cover my last few tuition payments (I’d been trying to graduate with no debt), but it made SUCH a difference in my grades and my overall mental health that it was totally worth it.

          Reply
    3. always in email jail

      In agreement with what Alison said: There’s a difference between reading a full time announcement and telling them in an interview that you’re available full time with minor adjustments to the schedule (ie leave 2 hours early every thursday, but stay half an hour late the other 4 days to make up for it) vs applying for a full time job and then sharing you’re only available 30 hours a week, or need to work a very disruptive schedule.

      I personally get annoyed when students apply to full-time jobs I have posted then ask me to accommodate by letting them work less. It’s full time because I need 40 hours of work a week from that position for the program to be successful!

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        The only thing I’d look for is if it’s a 7 day business, you might actually have it good. A lot of people hate working weekends, and if you say “I need Tuesdays and Thursdays off but I’m all for Saturday and Sunday,” you might do very well. If it’s a five day business unless it’s open more than the usual hours, you probably won’t get away with asking for a weird schedule. But if “I can come in early on Thursday but need to leave at 4,” is where you’re at, it really can’t hurt to ask. All they can say is no. Just don’t ask as if you’re demanding or expecting them to be willing or able to fix that.

        Reply
      2. NotAnotherManager!

        We started putting the minimum expected office hours on our posting for this reason, and it’s one of the things our recruiter screens for on the first call. I would be highly annoyed for someone to come through an interview and then tell me they couldn’t work the schedule stated in the job description and double-checked by HR.

        Reply
    4. Kj

      One thing worth thinking about is that shift work can be great for students- I held down a full-time job in grad school because I was able to arrange for PM classes, while I worked a day shift. It was great. Now, I was very tired most days, but I was a good student and my grades didn’t suffer.

      Reply
      1. AK

        I agree, shift work can be great for students. Financial concerns meant I had to work at least 30 hours a week and often full time throughout my undergraduate education and I managed using a variety of different techniques over the five years it took me to get my bachelors – night shifts with morning classes, day shifts with evening classes, two part time jobs, working 10 hour shifts on Friday-Saturday-Sunday only – all kinds of things. There were semesters when I scheduled classes to fit my job and there were semesters when I scheduled my job to fit my classes. Some employers are more flexible than others, and there were definitely jobs I was turned down for because of scheduling issues, as well as jobs I had to leave because of scheduling issues. It never hurts to ask, but be aware that sometimes the answer is no, and then you have to decide what your priority is at that point.

        Reply
    5. Steph

      When I was a college student applying for part time work (approx 20 hours a week), I simply included a section on my resume with my availability listed. The people who ended up employing me even commented that this was helpful and appreciated!

      Reply
  2. Mags

    If you ever see someone under the influence get behind the wheel PLEASE call the police. They won’t always be able to do something, but you could very well end up saving someone’s life.

    Reply
    1. BuildMeUp

      This. Your friend can call the police and give them a description of the vehicle (& license plate number if she knows it), tell them that the driver is drunk, and let them know where they’re starting from and where they’re going. The fact that they’re going to pick up their kids is especially alarming.

      Please tell your coworker not to view this as potentially getting her coworkers in trouble – they are getting themselves in trouble. They are the ones putting her in this uncomfortable situation, and they are the ones putting themselves & others at risk with their behavior.

      Reply
      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Yes! She shouldn’t look at it as getting them in trouble — she should look at it as doing what she can to prevent them from killing someone.

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        1. Anon for This

          As someone with 25 years as a recovering alcoholic, I have met more than one person who has killed someone while driving drunk. One woman killed her 2-year-old because she was drunk driving with him in the car. Please call the police when you see this happening. It will be uncomfortable at work as a result, but not as uncomfortable as knowing you could have protected someone who died from your coworkers’ unconscionable behavior.

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          1. Anon for This

            And also seconding Kj’s comment below to call CPS. I have had to do this to my own family member to try and protect my niece and nephew. It may even be the push someone needs to get sober. I have heard many people say that they lost their job/went to jail/lost child custody, etc. and it was the best thing that ever happened to them because it was the impetus to turn their lives around.

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            1. JessaB

              Absolutely, if they are driving with a minor child in the car call. ASAP. It’s horrible to be drink driving, but to do it with a kid in the car goes way beyond the pale.

              And beyond that, it’s obvious that these employees are not what one would call functional drunks. I wonder if any of the customers/clients have called corporate already? If I was a client and had a drunk employee who was obviously slurring, I would be calling and complaining.

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    2. HannahS

      Yes. These people are driving drunk with children in the car. This is not the kind of situation where “keep trying to get through to them” (for months!) applies. It’s a matter of safety.

      Reply
      1. Cambridge Comma

        Yes, the driving drunk, especially with kids in the car, takes it beyond a workplace thing to a civic duty thing.

        Reply
        1. Snowglobe

          And they are driving drunk, with kids in the car, presumably near a school, where there will be many other kids walking.

          Reply
      2. Kj

        Yep. Call the police if they get in the car drunk. I would then, after calling the police, call CPS to alert CPS to this problem. Honestly, I wouldnt have a choice- I’m a mandated reported and a child is clearly in danger if his or her parent is driving drunk.

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        1. JessaB

          Yes, I’m a retired mandated reporter (I used to teach,) and I can’t even go past things like this without picking up the phone by reflex. It gets so drilled into your psyche that you’re forever doing this when kids are endangered.

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    3. MillersSpring

      OP, please tell your friend to speak to the manager immediately. This isn’t a tattling, butting-in type of situation. This is alerting the manager to something that needs to be addressed today.

      If it was one of my direct reports, I’d want to know ASAP. I would not want one of them to be upset and giving the other second and third chances.

      Reply
    4. Alice

      I agree with Mags and everyone who replied. If you’re in NYC, for example, and they’re picking up their kids on the subway, then I suppose this is a performance management question. If they are driving drunk, it’s way beyond that. And I’d say that whether there are kids in the car or not.

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    5. Mookie

      Yes. This isn’t a situation in which professional discretion, obedience to hierarchy, and the delicate handling of feelings overrides common sense: one is ethically obligated to act on what one knows, irrespective of what the consequences might be at work for doing so. If the friend is made to suffer* for speaking up, the employer is dangerous to work for.

      *given the lack of direct supervision over this department, it’s unlikely that the manager is intentionally endorsing this behavior; the manager needs to be told, as do the police when necessary

      Reply
    6. nicolefromqueens

      Was coming to say this.

      And everyone else on the road, and their kids! When school let’s out you need to be especially careful, even near a high school!

      If they hurt someone, you and your company could be sued.

      Reply
      1. Tableau Wizard

        I 100% agree that the friend has a responsibility to take action and prevent these coworkers from harming themselves or others.

        BUT, could someone actually be sued for inaction like you suggest? I’m definitely not familiar with the law here but that seems like a stretch to me. (genuine curiosity, not trying to be argumentative)

        Reply
        1. nicolefromqueens

          An ambulance chaser will certainly try. Not necessarily succeed, but that’s still time, money, and aggravation for the company.

          Reply
          1. Jessie

            “An ambulance chaser” is a really derogatory thing to say here and totally unnecessary. I really, really hate when people throw that insult around. Most of the time, injured people who want to sue are just misinformed and angry and hurt, and if a lawyer actually does take the case, it is because there is a legally valid reason to try. As lawyers we are actually subject to ethics rules (rules many people do not understand, frankly because they don’t really understand the legal system and so they laugh at “unethical lawyers” generally without knowing what they are talking about.) A truly frivolous lawsuit – as in, actually filed in court – is not a hugely common thing, and will not be tons of time or money or aggravation, but will be a quick motion to dismiss.

            Reply
              1. Jessie

                I still say those are real outlier cases – a plaintiff’s lawyer taking a totally frivolous case on an hourly basis. I know some plaintiff attorneys, and they don’t have endless time to waste on meritless cases, and neither do they want to be seen by the courts in which they practice as unethical asses. Even aggressive plaintiffs’ lawyers don’t generally want Rule 11 sanctions (or the state equivalent). When I worked in defense litigation, and earlier at a court, there were certainly *weak* cases I saw, but none that seemed truly frivolous. So developing your strategy for how to deal with something based on a fringe, outlier possibility is not a good idea, IMO.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  Oh, I agree completely on the strategy element and the very small likelihood that anybody would do this. You can’t run from every black swan.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              +1 to what Jessie said. Lawyers are already hated—there’s no need to pile on or conjure up new ideas for frivolous lawsuits.

              Reply
            2. Retail HR Guy

              But nicolefromqueens didn’t call ALL attorneys ambulance chasers, just ones who would try to sue barely-involved third parties (the deeper the pockets the better). I think a little derogation is in order for such folk.

              Reply
    7. DeskBird

      You are never, ever, going to be able to talk an alcoholic out of drinking. Especially as a coworker offering no consequences. As a child as an alcoholic – just give up right now on the idea you are going to be able to reason or convince or pressure these people into stopping drinking – it is not going to happen. They will stop when they truly want to stop or when they have wrecked their lives. Your current plan is not going to work at all – and it never will.
      Honestly it is getting to the point where if your boss or the company finds out from another source it’s going to look like you were covering up for them and you could probably get in trouble. It has to be impacting work when they are gone for 4 hours every day and you are the only coverage – who is doing that extra 8 house of work? Telling your boss will be the best thing for them both – it will at least force them to confront their problem.

      Reply
      1. Bonky

        I came here to say this. This is an illness that’s not susceptible to your reasonable arguments.

        You’ve really got to talk to your boss, and now. This isn’t something you can fix, and they’re endangering other people as well as jeopardising your organisation’s work.

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    8. I used to be Murphy

      Thank you. We have signs all around town telling us to call 911 to report a suspected impaired driver and the police take those calls super seriously (they get priority) and will absolutely go look for the person to get them off the road.

      Reply
      1. paul

        Also (I want an edit feature) don’t expect that the cops will rush out to catch them, but if they have a patrol already they might send them to bust them. I’d still call, I just dont’ want people to envision that it’ll be a magical fix.

        Reply
  3. ExceptionToTheRule

    OP1, Alison is 100% correct. I actually had to do this recently. It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but management needs to be made aware of the situation. They can help your co-workers get help.

    Reply
    1. WellRed

      We had someone fired recently for drinking on the job. Got busted for drunk driving In OUR PARKING LOT. They were fired. No helping them get help.

      Reply
      1. Senior Technical Writer

        Though that is probably still better than them running over one of your work colleagues.

        Just because they were in the parking lot doesn’t mean they couldn’t have killed someone, or totalled someone else’s car. Or their own.

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          I don’t want to even think about these people driving drunk in a daycare parking lot. Toddlers dart out in front of cars all the time.

          Reply
      2. Juli G.

        Many places have a policy that if you ask for help, you can have help. If you’re caught doing illegal or dangerous activities, you’re fired.

        Reply
  4. Soyana

    LW3, that’s a tough situation, I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with it. I had a similar experience and used phrasing along the lines of “I had a major issue in my personal life recently that’s been having an impact on my work. I am doing x and y things to deal with this, but wanted to let you know what’s been going on”.

    All the best to you as you recover – I highly recxomend therapy and reaching out to your support system.

    Reply
  5. Turanga Leela

    OP #5, I once got a resume from a candidate who had redacted details of his political experience. He gave a few employers titles like “U.S. Senate Campaign” and “Presidential Campaign” without mentioning the names of the candidates. It came off as a little strange and evasive. (The convention in this area is definitely to list the employer as “Farnsworth for Senate” or “Nixon for America,” or whatever the campaign calls itself.)

    He was otherwise a strong candidate, so we interviewed him and I asked him about the job specifics. His logic was the same as yours—he thought the candidates’ politics would be a problem for us, so he figured he would leave them off.

    Reply
    1. Captain Radish

      My great grandfather worked as a press secretary (or something to that effect) starting during the Truman administration. He quit the day Nixon was sworn in because he “knew that guy was a crook.”

      Not quite relevant, but amusing, I think.

      Reply
  6. AnonToday

    Oh, OP1, your letter gave me flashbacks to my first full-time job 30 years ago. My schedule included weekends (when the supervisor was not around) and I still remember putting my “really I’m fine” (NOT! still drunk!) coworker in a chair, wheeling her into a corner, and telling her to stay put while I did my very best to do the work of 2 people. I was so, so relieved when my more senior coworker came in and could take charge!

    But yes, have your friend tell management right away, and please have her call the cops if that’s the only way to keep the coworker(s) from driving while impaired!

    Reply
  7. Accountant

    OP3, I encourage you to share this information with your manager. Life happens, and she should get the chance to take that information into account. I had a colleague who failed a professional exam soon after the end of a 10-year relationship. Because she had not told our employer of the mitigating circumstances before sitting the exam, they applied the strictest version of the policy and she lost her job. Don’t try to tough it out in silence.

    Reply
    1. MK

      Are you sure mentioning it would have made such a difference? A manager might well think that, whatever is going on in your private life, you should be able to focus in your work at work. And, fairly or not, a breakup might not register as a good enough reason for underperforming for months, unless one is prepared to go into details.

      Reply
      1. hbc

        It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s possible. The difference between “she failed this exam under normal circumstances” and “she failed this exam under stress” would be a far greater likelihood that she would pass the second time around.

        Same for this OP. I might give someone four months rather than three to turn it around knowing there are extenuating circumstances, for example.

        Reply
      2. Freya

        Worth a shot, surely? If nothing else, I wouldn’t want to work for someone that didn’t understand, well, life – and I’d rather find out before I’d really settled myself there.

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        1. Julia

          Of course. But how is OP’s boss supposed to know that OP is usually a great worker when they have no examples of great work from OP to compare her current work to?

          Maybe the manager had a previous person always making excuses for bad performance and would “rather find out” about what she sees as OP being the same instead of being stuck with her. Not that I’m saying that applies to OP or would even be fair.

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          1. always in email jail

            ^This. This is a much different situation than someone with a documented record of being a high performer, unfortunately. It’s still worth a shot, it could buy you more time, or at least a better reference if things don’t work out. But you run the risk of the supervisor taking it as a warning that the poor performance will continue until you recover from the break up… and without knowledge of what your usual performance level is, the supervisor may not want to make that gamble.

            Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              On the other hand, the poor performance is already there. The LW can address it and let it be known that there is a finite cause (I’m getting over something bad and unexpected in my personal life, I know it’s affecting my performance and here are the steps I’m taking), address it without addressing the cause (I know I’m not doing as well as expected, so here are the steps I’m taking) or not address it at all and wait to see what happens. Seems like #1, though imperfect, might have the best chance of success.

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              1. always in email jail

                Addressing the steps they are taking is key. acknowledging the poor performance, providing an explanation, and laying out a plan to move forward. Third component is crucial.

                Reply
          2. fposte

            She’s a lot likelier to consider this a low spot if she’s told it’s a low spot, though. Otherwise the assumption is this is the level at which the OP works. So what’s the upside to keeping quiet?

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      3. Tableau Wizard

        See, I’m not sure I’d mention that it was a breakup. I think you can say that “I’m dealing with something really stressful and disconcerting in my personal life, but I’ve recognized that it’s impacting my job and I’m trying to mitigate the effects moving forward”

        I don’t think you have to say WHAT the personal issue is for this conversation to happen

        Reply
      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        It can! A coworker of mine recently got the deadline to take one of his licensing exams extended because he was in a serious car accident (though thankfully not seriously injured) right before he was supposed to take it. The bosses were very understanding that he was rattled and stressed enough from the accident and dealing with the aftermath that he wouldn’t be at 100% to sit the exam.

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      5. Marisol

        I think demonstrating that you have insight into your own performance can really work in your favor. It’s bad to have performance problems, but to be clueless about that fact is an additional problem. By proactively addressing her performance problems the OP would be showing she’s not clueless. And giving the manager the chance to avoid an unpleasant conversation can also create some goodwill. I don’t see how being proactive wouldn’t help.

        Reply
    2. NotAnotherManager!

      I think it is worth mentioning going through a rough patch, personally, provided it can be followed up with some specific ideas for turning around the poor performance. I would be worried that it comes off as excuse-making without a clear indication that OP is actively working on ways to show her usual strong performance.

      I honestly don’t love hearing the details of my staff’s personal woes because it can put me in the position of having to judge personal circumstances, which opens the door for all sorts of problems. Do I cut more slack to the person caring for a parent with dementia over the person whose significant other broke up with them? What’s an appropriate time to expect someone to return to normal performance following the death of a pet or a personal setback? It’s like reasons for time-off requests. The net effect is that you’re not here. It’s not up to me to judge whether someone’s need for a day off is worthy or not, just whether or not I need them to be here. A lot of times people will tell me why they’re going to be out, but it’s really not necessary.

      To be clear, I don’t mind chatting with my employees about their life — I know a lot about their spouses, significant others, weekend plans, what they did on their vacation, etc. But it’s in the context of being interested in them as people and not why they can’t do their job well. For people struggling with something like parent elder-care, I can refer them to HR for information about FMLA, and I do have a way to adjust affected job performance metrics for FMLA leave for staff. I can also refer for bereavement leave and other HR programs.

      Reply
  8. neverjaunty

    OP #1, I am getting the sense that you and your friend are both very conflict-averse? If you think telling the boss is i comfortable, imagine telling a the grieving family of someone killed by one of these drunks “well, I thought I’d wait a couple months and hope they changed their ways.”

    Keeping quiet is agreeing to let these co-workers place her, her company, her boss, the co-workers’ children, and grid knows who else in danger.

    Reply
    1. Sami

      Agree. Please see this as a wake up call that might prevent an enormous tragedy.
      Even the slightest bit of being buzzed/under the influence/intoxicated/drunk and then driving can have disastrous consequences.

      Reply
    2. OhBehave

      “Wait a couple of months to see if they continue this behavior?” This isn’t someone playing internet games while at work. This is a SERIOUS situation. Your friend has admitted to hearing that these intoxicated people were on their way to pick up their kids. Coming back to work drunk is bad enough because it tells me they might be driving back to work drunk. Do not wait. Your friend needs to call the police immediately when this happens again (they can’t do anything when these guys are sober). Everyone is in danger when these people are on the roads.

      Ignoring this or lacking the courage to speak up is not an option here.

      Reply
        1. OhBehave

          Absolutely! A friends’ son was killed by a drunk driver. Her son had a designated driver too. This subject hits home for me.

          Reply
    3. Bonky

      Have to agree. Unfortunately, you’ve found yourself with a responsibility here to the wider community, as well as to your organisation. Please talk to your boss today.

      Reply
  9. "Computer Science"

    #5, I’m going to echo the sentiment to disclose the full name of your employer. The oldest employer on my resume is a local sexual health and wellness centre, and I appreciate having that litmus test when sending in applications. The few times it’s been questioned in interviews has given me the chance to talk about my successes in teaching complicated, stigmatized concepts. I wouldn’t want to be in a place that doesn’t celebrate that.

    Reply
    1. blackcat

      +1
      I left “Advised Gay-Straight Alliance” on my teaching resume for this purpose. I’m in academia now and have a long, detailed professional website, and it’s there under my description of my high school teaching experience. I don’t want to work somewhere where it would be an issue that I did that work, particularly given that I will likely have contact with students (either high school or college level).

      Similarly, if someone is SO partisan that they refused to work with someone of the opposite political party (either way!), I don’t want to work with them. Something like “Speechwriter for the David Duke for Senate” campaign would be an issue for me because of the strong KKK association, but work for the DNC and RNC is pretty neutral.

      Reply
      1. VelociraptorAttack

        I would like to mention however that in political realms if you’re working both sides of the aisle you’re going to get a lot of raised eyebrows. So it might not necessarily be something where they refuse to work with the opposite side but that they know that can be an issue for their career moving forward.

        Reply
        1. MWKate

          Agreed. I worked in state politics before banking. Generally the unspoken rule was you can “switch sides” once but you can’t switch back.

          Reply
        2. blackcat

          Huh, that’s interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of DNC (or RNC) communication director applies to work in communications at Teapots, Inc.

          But I can see DNC communications director getting turned down if they apply for a job as an RNC communication director. That makes sense.

          Reply
    2. Captain Radish

      The kind of people who would have a problem with the exact place you worked are going to be people whom you don’t really want to work for in the first place.

      Reply
    3. Future Analyst

      I worked for a similar health and wellness center over a summer, and actually just listed it as “Non-profit organization” on my resume when applying for jobs later (which, in retrospect, looks so silly and hilarious). One woman who interviewed me for a different NPO job that year asked me about it, and very kindly told me to just list the actual name, since it’s weird to list “NPO” and not the actual name. She didn’t end up hiring me, but I appreciated her advice greatly!

      Reply
  10. Physician Assistant

    Please turn these drunken coworkers in tomorrow. This is light years beyond the scope of acceptable. They give no thought to you so don’t feel guilty. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. bridget

      I wonder if the OP’s friend is proceeding as if this were a “drinking at work” issue on a WAY smaller scale – her response makes sense if your coworkers took say, a 90 minute lunch to that place with the margarita special and came back suspiciously giggly. The coworkers have jumped way past “it’s unprofessional to drink at lunch on a workday” into seriously egregious territory.

      Reply
    2. Sabine the Very Mean

      When I was a teacher, I was horrified at the revelation that “Friday Morning Club” was when all the veteran teachers would drink Kahlua with their coffee in one of their classrooms each week before the school day began. Now that is a level of disturbing that is hard to articulate. I did two years (of teaching, not drinking) and GTHO. Friday Afternoon Clubs, on the other hand, is simply called survival!

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        Unless they’re teaching driver’s ed, shop or a chemistry lab they’re not putting someone in danger the way those drunk drivers are though.

        Reply
        1. Candi

          Google “behaviors when mildly drunk”.

          Read ten or so pages of Not Always Learning for stories of bad teacher behavior that might or might not have happened because of various forms of ingested chemicals. Or run a few searches.

          Then think about whether you want your kid screamed at for obeying instructions given five minutes before, ignored, denied going to the bathroom (especially a girl wanting to keep her clothes clean), denied a grade because of their teachers’ mistakes, told off for difficulties due to disability… some people are just rotten, but alcohol loosens control and filters.

          Reply
  11. Baker's dozen

    #2 Do you have a sense of whether your manager wants you to speak to people face to face because people aren’t responding quickly enough to emails or for some other reason?

    If people generally reply quite quickly then perhaps you could drop an IM or email to ask people “Hi Fergus, when’s a good time for me to pop over for a quick chat about X? Is now ok? Thanks, OP”

    In my (open plan) office it’s fairly common for us to email each other questions/subjects we want to chat about. The other person will usually stop by our desk to talk about it straight away, unless they’re focused on something else.

    Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        Well that’s annoying and I don’t think you have another choice but to adjust to culture.

        FWIW, in our world, we are very email centric because it’s efficient and leaves a trail. We’re very fast. You’d be welcome here! People who interrupt physical space with questions that could have been handled via email aren’t viewed well, if it’s a consistent habit, because we just don’t do that. Emails are typically replied to in minutes. Fast, history of documentation, win.

        So you gotta do what you gotta do for now and maybe you’ll wind up in a space that matches your preferred work style later.

        Reply
        1. AnonEMoose

          I also really strongly prefer that people email me rather than stopping by. But I generally respond to emails with questions within an hour or two. And the reason I prefer it is that my work involves some tasks that are really difficult to pick up again if they’re interrupted. It can be done, but it takes time – time I sometimes don’t really have if it’s one of the times that are particularly busy.

          Plus, it’s often easier for me to give a full answer to the question if I can look at whatever I need to in the system without someone hanging over my shoulder and talking to me. And there’s then a record of the conversation to refer back to.

          I’ve actually, on occasion, asked my boss to remind coworkers to email me questions rather than stopping by during a specific period of time. He’ll generally do that when I ask because he understands about the stuff I’m doing, and it’s no more than a week or so at a time.

          Reply
          1. Dust Bunny

            I WAY prefer email but I am not at my desk all the time so I don’t always see emails immediately. My department is small so if something needs immediate attention, I can be found easily enough in person. But if the issue is that some things are not being seen quickly enough and are disrupting workflow then, yes, the LW needs to do at least some things in person.

            Reply
          2. Jenny

            I prefer the e-mail because it’s a good way to CYA. I can say “yes, we spoke about this on this date and I said I would do X” – I work in a place where people often claim “You said you would do X, Y and Z” and really you only promised X. E-mails have been great at making sure everyone is on the same page.

            Reply
      2. Purest Green

        Do you have a chat application you can use to message them to let you know when they have a free moment? Alternatively, you could call them, which is an interruption but in a different way than showing up in person unannounced.

        Reply
      3. LQ

        Yeah, that sounds like a culture thing. We are a very just stop by kind of place for a wide range of reasons.

        One of the things I do is I estimate how long it will take to answer my question and start with that. “Do you have 3 minutes, 30 seconds, 10 minutes? Or should I come back later?” Honestly anything more than 10 minutes I always just schedule a meeting. (30 minute meeting, you can leave early, but again, culture.)

        Is it perfect? Nope. But it is the culture and I’m going to get my job done much better if I just show up at someone’s office and knock and ask if they have 3 minutes to sign this document, check that thing, etc. I have coworkers who simply never get to something unless and until you show up and plunk yourself down in their office. (And bring your phone with so you can do something else while they do the thing you need them to do.)

        Reply
      4. BRR

        I have a similar problem. I think of it as, if they don’t like me dropping by they can always answer my emails or IMs (I give plenty of time to respond). My questions are almost always for work that is for that person. I follow Alison’s advice of how to ask. I still will email or IM depending on the urgency but if you haven’t responded in two days and I see you in the kitchen I have to do the annoying thing and follow up in person.

        Reply
      5. Observer

        Then it’s not just a matter of doing what your boss wants, although that’s a thing too. It’s a matter of communicating effectively. Your are dealing with people / a culture where emails are assumed to be non-urgent, not matter WHAT you put in the header, etc. When you need an answer to something you need to ask in a way that tells the other person that you actually need and expect an answer in a fairly short time frame. In your office, the only way to convey that is to speak to people in person.

        That’s not being rude. That’s using the language that your correspondents understand.

        Reply
      6. MashaKasha

        A day or more (or forever… goodness gracious) is pretty terrible. Personally it really throws me off when people pop into my cube with a question and expect me, not only to drop whatever else I’m working on and whomever else I’m talking to via email/IM, but to have the answer at the tip of my tongue. Not to mention, we are a semi-remote team, and in many cases, dropping by a coworker’s desk isn’t possible, because their desk is several states away. But, here, everyone is very good at responding to emails and IMs in a timely manner, and hardly anyone ever drops by in person. In your case, I would not feel bad about dropping in on people, because they don’t respond to anything else.

        Reply
      7. Bwmn

        Given that speed appears to be such an issue – it sounds like the request from your manager may just be about how best to navigate your office best rather than what is/isn’t best email practice.

        That being said, I’ve recently encountered a few “email only” types that really seem to be unable to distinguish when they should email, schedule a meeting, or stop by someone’s desk. The end result can be these massive email chains that get super confusing and still cab fail to produce a cohesive “paper trail” of decision making that would likely have been easier to get via meeting notes or a summary email following a quick chat.

        So while it may very well be that this is just one type of office culture that’s best to adapt to – it’s also worth considering whether email truly is the best communication means.

        Reply
    1. Amy

      I was going to suggest the same. I usually use email but there are some people I have to go talk to to get answers. I just IM “do you have a few minutes to talk about X” or “Do you have time around 2 to talk about X” If they’re busy they can let me know a time that works better for them and half the time it gets them to respond to the email request I sent earlier.

      Reply
    2. turquoisecow

      My thought was to phone them. A ringing phone acts as an interruption that maybe you might not want to make in person – if they’re not busy, they’ll answer it, and if they are, they won’t, but they might see that you called and call back.

      Reply
      1. OP#2

        That works if they pick up. But our voicemails get trranslated to text and sent as an email, so that just puts’s me back at square one.

        Reply
  12. SarahKay

    OP#3 Definitely tell your manager, but it may be worth practising what you’re going to say the night before. That way you’ve got more used to saying the words out loud and are less likely to react emotionally when you’re talking to your manager.
    It’s also worth thinking about whether you want your manager to tell anyone else, and if not then make sure you specifically include this in the conversation. The last thing you want is your manager, with the best intentions in the world, telling the rest of the team (e.g. “OP#3 has had a tough breakup, so cut them a little slack for a few weeks”) and you then have to face concerned enquiries when you just want to get on with work.

    Reply
  13. Voice from the wilderness

    #1 You might be afraid to act, because it might feel like tattling.

    Think about this. It might help your motivation.

    If they kill someone, and it is discovered that you knew they were driving drunk, you might have big financial and criminal liability issues, which could potentially destroy your life.

    So, don’t worry about what they might think. Call the police and let your employer know ASAP.

    Good luck in dealing with this terrible situation.

    Reply
    1. JHS

      There is nothing that would make the OP or her friend liable here. There is no duty to act when other people are committing a crime. She would probably feel some moral guilt, but there would be no criminal or civil liability on the OP or her friend for not reporting it.

      Reply
      1. Sparrow

        I think the moral guilt would be more than enough motivation for most people. I can’t imagine living with that.

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          I agree. I don’t see the legal liability here, but I can’t imagine the personal feeling of guilt if a child died as a result of my inaction with something like this.

          Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        Criminal? No. Civil? I wouldn’t want to be the OP’s friend if someone sued the business as a result of something these jerks did. That is not a situation where anyone wants to be explaining or justifying their actions to a bunch of inquisitive lawyers.

        Reply
        1. Sunnydio

          There is no civil liability for the friend. Period. I’ve practiced in multiple states and never seen any state that has this kind of liability. I went back and looked at one of my law school bools. Well there are some states that have good Samaritan laws in the accident, there are no states that have any reporting requirement that somebody is driving drunk. The lot in the USA simply does not work that way. She’d have to be in another country with different laws for that to work. Even then, I’ve never heard of it and any English speaking country .

          There may be a liability for the company if they are on company time, doing company work, and driving company cars. I can’t tell you whether there is or not because that’s a matter of state law and is very fact specific.

          We don’t know enough about this to say one way or the other. I would, however, recommend informing the boss just in case the company is in one of the situations where they would be liable.

          She might not face legal repercussions from this, but might lose her job and have difficulty finding another one if the situation is such that the company is liable and something goes very wrong then the company finds out she knew and didn’t report it.

          That’s the “legal” reason to report it and not the nonexistent personal liability.

          Reply
          1. IT_Guy

            Speaking as a layman – I would tend to think that the only liability the company would face is they actually did know about it and did nothing. They cannot control what they don’t know about and if all the drinking is done outside the company building there is no reasonable way they could know.

            Reply
            1. Adonday Veeah

              If it could be proven that they “should have known” something (such as employees being absent from the office for 4-5 hours and coming back drunk) they could still be liable. Can you hear them in court? “But your honor, we didn’t know!”

              Reply
              1. Jessie

                In many areas of law, including liability around drunk driving, knowing about a thing, even a Really Bad Thing, does not make you liable. Yes in some VERY LIMITED circumstances an employer could be vicariously liable – but as some of us have noted a few times in this post, it is no where *near* the universal “you’re liable if you don’t stop them” that people seem to insist it would be. No need to add “you could be liable!” to the list of problems, because employer liability here would not be the norm. (Caveat that I’m assuming US here)

                Reply
          2. neverjaunty

            I’m not talking about civil liability. I’m talking about how the OP’s friend would end up being put under a microscope – by the opposing side’s lawyers as well as her employer’s lawyers – in a lawsuit against her employer. As you know since you have practiced in multiple states, she doesn’t need to have any personal liability to be subpoenaed as a witness, and someone who doesn’t like ‘tattling’ to an employer is really not going to enjoy being grilled by lawyers about how she knew that Fergus was drinking and how she didn’t say a word to management.

            We don’t know enough to say “yes, the company would definitely be liable if X happened”, but we have more than enough information to know that these jerks are opening the company to all kinds of potential liability (not just ‘what if they drive drunk and hit someone’), and management needs to know about it immediately.

            Reply
      3. Sunnydio

        This seems to be something commenters are wont to do with increasing frequency.

        People with no legal knowledge or experience whatsoever claim someone will have liability when they have neither knowledge of the law nor enough knowledge of the facts.

        I would never make a definitive statement of liability to anyone who was not a client whose situation I had thoroughly reviewed.

        As a lawyer and hearing officer, I find the anonymous lay analysis of the law on the net rather frightening.

        It would be amusing to me if it weren’t so potentially dangerous. I’ve had many clients over the years who took bad advice from “civilians” on legal matters. Cleaning up the messes is not fun.
        I’ve started to see cases where people did their own research on the Internet or ask for opinions on the Internet and proceeded accordingly. The results are horrific and cost the people a lot of time, money, and damage that they would not of sustained had they just simply went to a lawyer and paid $150 for an hour consultation.

        I do appreciate it when commentors frame it properly. It’s OK to open the question whether or not someone would be legally liable and ask if any lawyers have any advice. It’s not OK to make pronouncements on what the law is or the result of application of the facts to the law would be.

        This is it to shame the commenters have done it on this thread. It’s expected. It’s been encouraged in our society both on TV and the Internet. It takes active effort to not armchair diagnose medical, legal, or psychological issues. It’s a natural thing to do in our culture.

        Unfortunately, a lot of the public perception about with the law is and how it gets applied in actual situations is really off. Just read the thread from yesterday about alienation of affection.

        For information of anyone who may care, lawsuits are actually really rare, rarely make it to court, and more often than not result in defense verdicts. In the states in which I have practiced, the most frequent result of a threat of legal action is that nothing happens. The most frequent result of a case being filed is that it is settled out of court. The most frequent result of the case being brought to court is a defense verdict with attorneys fees assessed to the plaintiff.

        People worry too much about getting sued and also seem to think that lawyers and courts can resolve many types of injuries for which there is no remedy.

        I fear that much like self diagnosis throuh the Internet, this is only going to get worse. It’s a detriment to our society as a whole.

        The only people who profit from this are lawyers who get paid to clean up the messes.

        My advice to commenters who think there may be a legal issue would be to simply ask if there is one rather than to state that there is one. That’s all the difference in the world.

        Also do not think you are an expert based on 5 minutes of creative googling. Law school is the second toughest (non traumatic) thing I ever went through. It was tougher than combat training. The toughest thing was the California bar.

        Even though I graduated in the top of my class, it took me about a decade to learn enough about the law to make quick judgments on what was going to happen with cases. That’s not because of a lack of intelligence or ability come, but because you need a lot of experience in the lot to become an expert. Well there are a few areas of law that one can learn out of a book, for most you have to be boots on the ground.

        Unfortunately, most of our pop culture makes it look easy and something that any clever person can do. It is not. That’s why I say that lay people offer advices without thinking. They’ve be trained to do it.

        Reply
        1. sstabeler

          I largely agree ( and indeed, even as someone not trained in law, I figured the alienation of affection issue was bullshit- IIRC, it is usually more of a case of “X deliberately destroyed the marriage” than ” X revealed facts that caused the breakup of the marriage”) except with the provisio that a warning that there MIGHT be a legal issue, and recommend consulting a lawyer, is fine. trying to definitively say there is a legal issue is not.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            While I agree in principle with rather a lot* of sunnydio’s points, I admit I am a bit taken aback to see Senior Blogger Green co-signing a post that is explicitly stated to be for the purpose of shaming specific commenters, given the comments policy and tone of the site.

            *YMMV on the California Bar, the difficulty of which is inflated by CA having many unaccredited law schools with high failure rates.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It’s not about shaming people; it’s about asking people to stop making assertions as absolute fact if they can’t back them up / don’t have expertise in what they’re talking about.

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                There is a sentence that starts “This is it to shame the commenters have done it…” but I’m quite sure that’s an error based on the rest of the paragraph.

                Reply
        2. Bonky

          Hear hear. I’m saying this as somebody who actually trained as a lawyer twenty years ago – I’ve never practiced, and I wouldn’t dream of offering legal advice in an internet comments section because I’m aware that there’s a whole world of stuff I don’t know.

          Reply
        3. Triangle Pose

          Agreed. I must have missed the the thread from yesterday about alienation of affection but I just went back and read it and as a lawyer it BLOWS MY MIND. I wish there was less armchair legal advice and less fear mongering out there about the law.

          Reply
      4. aJennyAnn

        There is actually a civil liability issue for the OP and their friend when it comes to drunk driving. If the drinkers were to hit someone, that person or their family could sue anyone who knowingly allowed them out on the road (particularly if it came out that this was a known, longtime habit). You mainly see this with businesses (restaurants, bars, hotels, etc), but individuals can be targeted by these suits as well. You don’t have to be directly responsible to be held accountable for inaction.

        Reply
        1. Sunnydio

          Provide a cite please. An actual statute or case.

          This is common misconception because people don’t understand dramshop laws and the laws that make us responsible for the actions of other people. There either has to be a special duty or a special relationship for person A to be responsible if person B drives drunk. The only cases in which friends or coworkers would have a liability are when they were the suppliers of the alcohol or if they were taking care of someone who did not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions about drinking. Otherwise, there is no liability.

          This was actually litigated a few years ago. Two friends thought The third may be drunk and didn’t take his keys. The third friend then went out and hit someone while drunk. I believe the state was Massachusetts. No liability was found because there is neither duty nor a special relationship. The friends had not supply the alcohol and the drunk driver reason not to someone in a special relationship with them.

          Reply
          1. Busytrap

            Yup, this. And some states – Maryland comes to mind – don’t even allow you to successfully sue* the bar or social host who overserved the person, then waived them out the door.

            *I mean, you can sue anyone for anything … the question is always whether you can recover something from the lawsuit, or whether it will get tossed. :)

            Reply
            1. paul

              As a note: If you receive notice that you’re being sued, RESPOND. no matter how trivial or stupid the case is. Default judgement sucks.

              Reply
          2. always in email jail

            If everyone in society could be found liable for not preventing the actions of others, we’d all have the power to make a citizen’s arrest! (I’m screaming “citizens arrest!” in a barney fife voice)

            Reply
        2. Jessie

          Jenny, no. You can’t sue anyone “knowingly allowed them out on the road.” No one, outside of the bartenders or restaurants who had the power to stop serving them. The law places liability when a person has the actual power to stop something and has a duty to stop something (“duty” here does not mean moral duty, but a legal term of art).

          If you lend someone your car, or your child drives your car, or you are an employee driving your employer’s car, there could be vicarious liability. But that liability doesn’t attach to anyone just for knowing about a problem.

          Reply
          1. Jessie

            Wow, I edited that on the fly as I went and deleted a few too many words. Sorry my reply is basically unintelligible! :-)

            Reply
            1. Sunnydio

              I cringe reading some of my posts. I love this site, but the lack of an edit feature after you post is really disappointing. I often type on my phone when making responses. It’s difficult to get it 100% right. I don’t think anybody on here is going to be the grammar police or care about something being slightly off as long as they can understand what you’re saying

              Reply
        3. Natalie

          Dram shop laws are only relevant to someone who is actually *providing alcohol* to the drunk person. They don’t apply to any random friend or co-worker who simply knows that the drunk person is drunk.

          Reply
        4. Triangle Pose

          No. Please, please don’t give legal advice like this. This is not how dram shop laws work and the friend is not even in the universe of liable parties caught up in dram shop laws.

          Reply
        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          This is wholly inaccurate and non-applicable to OP or OP’s friend.

          Drunk driving, 4-5 hour liquid lunches, and being drunk on the job are bad enough. We don’t need to manufacture new legal threats (all of which so far have been wrong) to guilt OP or OP’s friend into action.

          Reply
    2. Candi

      ‘There’s not a law.’

      Most of the discussion seems to be referring to lack of state law.

      But what about county? City? Those laws and ordinances may cause the friend problems.

      For instance, ones about not reporting a crime occurring in front of your eyes. Like seeing a person you know is drunk driving.

      Meant to get people to knock off “I didn’t want to get involved” when they could call from a perfectly safe vantage (i.e. a third-story tinted window overlooking a parking lot), it could be used against the friend if it exists where they are -to ensure compliance as a witness if nothing else.

      One thing I know is the law is multi-level and incredibly complicated. Even the best, most informed, and longest-practicing lawyer can run up against something unfamiliar because of the way our law have developed. And that’s without getting into differences in law heritage, such as British vs Napoleonic code (looking at you, Louisiana).

      Reply
  14. Juli G.

    Since everyone is (rightly) focused on the important part of OP1…

    A 4-5 hour lunch? Why even come back at that point? Are they returning to the office to just hit shutdown on their desktop?

    Reply
    1. Bellatrix

      Good point. I guess to clock out or send that one 5 pm email to prove that they were in that day.

      I don’t blame the off-site manager for not picking up on the drinking, but their productivity should really have tipped her off by now.

      Reply
    2. Purest Green

      Right? They’d be in a better position if the story were simply, “Pat and Sam often don’t return to the office after taking lunch.”

      Reply
    3. Corky's wife Bonnie

      Good question. Even off-site, doesn’t the manager notice that there’s nothing being done for 4-5 hours from two people they supervise?

      Reply
      1. anon for this

        Not necessarily. My job isn’t time-dependent, so I could take an afternoon off and then work 3-4 hours at home in the evening, and no one would notice. They may be doing something like that. I have a very close family member who is an alcoholic, and he will generally pass out around 8 or 9 pm, but then he wakes up at 3am and can’t get to sleep again. (It’s actually a side effect of alcohol.) They could also be working early in the morning, at least enough to minimize their productivity issues.

        Reply
  15. Mazzy

    #2 – please listen to you boss. This is one I fight in my office. There are many emails going around getting half answers or sitting for days or that look like walls of text and I’m not sure the recipients really get some of them. As per interrupting, many people seem to be stopping what they’re doing anyway to respond so sending an email doesn’t even help there.

    Reply
  16. Czhorat

    for OP2, this is often a cultural thing.

    In some offices, sending an email feels like creating the start of a paper-trail for an “I told you so” later. It’s also more formal and less personal. Dropping by in person not only lets you answer followup questions more quickly, it makes the team feel more like a team who work together rather than isolated individuals in their own little worlds. [and, in other offices, personal time is at a premium and in-person interruptions are frowned upon. Remember the LW who was taken to task for being too chatty and wasting the time of attorneys in her office?

    It’s nice to see that you’re on-board being flexible about this. Maybe reflecting on the reasons why will help you navigate this issue.

    Reply
  17. Mazzy

    #1 I’m curious for an update. I reported someone drinking at work but not driving and it went nowhere, even at big fancy corporation. The person had to crash and burn before HR did anything

    Reply
    1. Snowglobe

      I think it depends somewhat on what type of job – if the employees aren’t driving, don’t have any customer contact and don’t operate heavy machinery, there may not be any clear impact on their job, which is why the company might not act.

      Reply
            1. Nervous Accountant

              I’m not going to lie, the few times I’ve drank at happy hour and gotten tipsy/drunk, I’ve wondered how it’d feel to go to work feeling like this and how I’d be with clients (def no driving obv). This will stay a morbid curiosity for now.

              Reply
              1. paul

                We joke about it at work sometimes, particularly on Fridays.

                I *have* tried to do record edits from home while drunk a few times (not client records) when things hit the fan when I wasn’t supposed to be on call…lots of typos. Lots and lots of typos.

                Reply
                1. Nervous Accountant

                  Tax season is upon us, so I suspect a lot of this kind of joking. Sigh.
                  Luckily, I always have typos so my drunk typing wouldn’t be any different lol

        1. Anon for this

          I’m a software developer and back in college the comments on my code were hilarious after going out for a few hours before pulling an all-nighter on the next day’s lab assignment.

          Reply
          1. BananaPants

            First semester of my senior year a group of us had a 3.5 hour long Thursday night undergrad elective/grad class that started promptly at 5 PM, too early to get dinner in a dining hall. Most of us had been working in the engineering lab for a couple of hours so at 4 PM the entire class would walk over to a nearby off-campus pub, have several rounds, and order grinders to bring back to class with us for dinner. It’s something of a miracle that I got an A in the class, given that I was usually in VERY cheery spirits.

            Reply
        2. Emi.

          I know professors who have “beer and grading term papers” evenings, but they’re not really drunk. I said that as a student I’d be upset to find out about this, and they said if anything it makes them more lenient.

          Reply
          1. F Manley

            As a student, I’d be all for beer-and-grading evenings! I’d much rather the person grading my paper be relaxed than stressed when looking over how I’ve done on something. And on the other side of things, I’ve found that a beer can help me unwind a little near the end of the semester and do my own studying and homework more effectively.

            Of course, I’m not studying Heavy Machinery Operation or Brains: Cutting Them Open. I imagine my feelings on beer-and-evening-work would be a bit different if I were.

            Reply
        3. Chameleon

          When I was in grad school, there were many times people would go back to the lab after happy hours. I remember one guy desperately lamenting having to keep track of 96 experimental conditions after 5 beers.

          Reply
      1. bridget

        At my job (law) people will often take a happy hour break at five, have a drink or so, and go back up to the office. Or pass around some bubbly (of which we have kind of a lot in the office fridge?) on an afternoon when someone comes back with a big win from court, and then go back to work. I think it’s generally accepted that you can still do your work with a slight buzz (although tipsy/drunk seems like it could easily get into bad territory, in that clients are paying us a ton of money per hour for our work). I, at least, do at least as good of work with a glass of wine in me at 5:30 p.m. as I do sober at 3:00 a.m., which happens not infrequently.

        Reply
        1. Busytrap

          Oh, the days of happy hour followed by 2-3 more hours of work. I do not miss them, but they were definitely typical when I worked at a law firm.

          Reply
        2. Parenthetically

          Oh my goodness, as a teacher, let me just say that a glass of bubbles when I’ve got a couple more hours of work to do sounds like heaven. My students would probably get on my nerves so much less!! :’D

          Reply
        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I was going to say this—that it’s common in law. There’s a reason so many lawyers have substance abuse problems.

          Although the obvious caveat is that being full out drunk usually is not acceptable, and being somewhere between tipsy and drunk when interacting with clients is a huge no.

          Reply
      2. Mazzy

        As I remember it was more of them wanting hard and clear evidence of it happening. They didn’t want to take anyone’s word on it. Which I sort of get, but at the same time, how often was I running to HR with crazy allegations or trying to sabotage coworkers? And they were in another city where the head office was so it was going to be really hard for someone who’s word could be taken as evidence to actually witness it. She had to go to HQ for it to come to a head. Repeated non-shows to meeting and saying weird things and having a flushed face and hugging people for no reason. I guess when I said the same things it didn’t matter.

        Reply
    2. Allocation Analyst (Retail Industry)

      I had a similar situation at an old job. Basically, my boss told me that unless we make someone take a blood test or breathalyzer, we cannot prove they are drunk. What we *can* do is document/write up the results of their behavior. Ex: taking extended breaks, becoming belligerent with coworkers, insubordination, work riddled with mistakes, etc.

      I have no idea what ended up happening with the situation because I (ironically) got laid off before it went any further than her getting written up for being late and then arguing with her boss.

      Reply
  18. Rusty Shackelford

    #2, is instant messaging an option? Not necessarily using it to ask your questions, but to ask your coworkers if they have time for a question.

    Reply
  19. Sadsack

    #2, depending on your relationship with your boss, I would really consider pushing back on this. Or, condider making a phone call to the person before dropping by their desk. My former manager was real big on dropping by people’s offices. He was with the company for over 30 years and loved to have a chance to sit and chat with people beyond the work subject. He did not understand that many people do not like drop-ins, myself included. Others told me that they don’t like it either. He would ask me to just go see someone about a very simple matter that could easily be resolved with a one-word answer over the phone or via email or IM conversation. Early on in working for him, I would listen to him and go with him to people’s desks, but then I realized no one really appreciates it but him so I refused to do it. If he said to drop by and see so and so, I’d say okay sure I’ll give her a call. Then that’s what I would do. Or I would just say OK and call her anyway. But I guess you really need to know your boss and his reasoning for the impromptu meetings before you can push back. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Mazzy

      I just want to say that it’s not about whether an employee likes drop ins or not. Some workers would rather sit in a closed room all day with the music blasting, but I don’t have to accommodate that. And I see enough emails getting responded too right away, which leads me to see them as just as disruptive as a visit (unless the person then lingers). I’ve also had numerous, countless items get lost in email or not get read or get responded to but not really understood or get partially responded to and then I need to call the two employees together to talk about what they misunderstood, oftentimes the recipient not wanting to say they didn’t understand a task or a message communicated via email. Also remember that older workers were productive with the constant phone and in person visits, so sometimes someone coming along with only a few years experience saying that they can’t be productive because of in person interruptions isn’t so much as a good argument, but makes them look unable to multi-task or concentrate.

      Reply
      1. Purest Green

        Also remember that older workers were productive with the constant phone and in person visits, so sometimes someone coming along with only a few years experience saying that they can’t be productive because of in person interruptions isn’t so much as a good argument, but makes them look unable to multi-task or concentrate.

        I don’t follow. If someone is in my office then I necessarily cannot concentrate on my work because I must instead focus on that person. I don’t see how that’s untrue for any age or level of experience. And, personally, responding to emails does not cause the same disruption in my work as an in-person visit because I can reply when I get to a natural stopping point in my work or while an application runs, etc. At least that’s how I view multi-tasking – I can do several things at once on the computer, but I can’t perform computer tasks while taking to someone in person, at least not without seeming a bit rude.

        Reply
      2. Natalie

        “someone coming along with only a few years experience saying that they can’t be productive because of in person interruptions isn’t so much as a good argument, but makes them look unable to multi-task or concentrate.”

        Apples & oranges – email isn’t the only thing that has changed about work, for one thing. For another, today’s worker is generally more productive than the worker of the past. All of those interruptions might have been affecting you more than you knew.

        Reply
    2. LQ

      I think it is more about office culture than a single boss. If just one boss wants more dropping in but the culture was email is fastest then that would make sense to push back against. But if your entire office culture is a drop by culture? Then you are pushing back against a giant wave.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        Yeah, I can see that. You are right. OP has to read the entire office, not just her boss. I guess that’s ultimately what I did, compared my boss to what others were doing and telling me, which all went against what my boss was doing. He’s retired now and drop ins are a thing if the past.

        Reply
    3. Sunshine on a cloudy day

      I’m really curious about this as well… Though maybe this is best for a Friday open thread. How do you push back when your manager is requiring you to do something that is just a personal preference of their own (but believes it to be “the best way”). Using OP2’s situation – if there’s an issue coming up from her approach (eg: requests taking too long to complete), then absolutely she should defer to her manager and start approaching people in person.

      However, what would you do when you strongly believe this is not an actual issue and the manager is requiring you to stop by and talk to people in person ONLY b/c it their preferred way, (and b/c it is their preferred way – and they are a manager – it must be the “right” way)? Using this specific example – I would feel extremely uncomfortable with this requirement. I strongly dislike dropping by in person. I’m an introvert; I feel it is disruptive and I express myself MUCH better in writing. I do push myself to do more “drop ins” when its necessary (when things are time sensitive or when I’ve learned the other person seems to prefer drops in, etc.), but if I had a manager who was requiring me to do more “drop ins”, without explaining what the issue is with my current approach (eg: tasks taking too long to complete), I would be very put off.

      I just feel like managers need to be careful in what they request/require of their direct reports to be sure that what they are requiring is actually a business need rather than a personal preference. I think good managers definitely do this, but there are a lot of managers out there too. Is there a way to respectfully push back against this when you suspect this is the case?

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        I think it’s OK to POLITELY ask for more context or inquire into the reason behind the change, Alison has given good scripts for this in her responses to other questions. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to the manager’s discretion how work flow is managed in the work unit. In this hypothetical situation, maybe the manager wants you to drop in more often in person to work on your interpersonal skills so that she feels more comfortable having you talk to clients on the phone/in person, for example.

        Reply
        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

          I guess was more curious if there was a way to politely/respectfully probe whether or not a request/requirement is personal preference of the manager or coming from a place of necessity/business need. Politely asking for more context (Alison’s scripts have been super helpful) is a great start for sure, but is there any way to move forward if you come to the conclusion that this is simply a preference of the manager? Is there a way to tactful/politely bring up that you suspect this to be the case?

          I bring this up because I had a nightmare manager who had absolutely no concept that sometimes (not all the time, but sometimes) there are different, equally effective ways to get things done. Objectively she was just a poor manager – she was young and lacked the maturity, judgement and interpersonal skills to be managing direct reports at that point in her career. I left the role within 6 months of her becoming my manager because trying to work with her was just impossible. I’ve just been curious if there was anything I could have done differently to try to salvage the situation. Probably not in a that specific situation because it was a such an overarching issue, but I would love to be better equipped if it ever comes up again on a smaller scale.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            But with the understanding that a personal preference is actually an okay reason for a manager to choose one of two equally good ways even if that’s not the same preference her report has. Your “push back” language makes me a little wary–even if the reason is simply personal preference, it’s still okay for her to require that you do it that way.

            Reply
      2. Sadsack

        In my case, I saw what my boss’s conversations were like when he dropped in and I knew or soon learned that the information he needed was easily obtained by picking up the phone or IMing in someone. When he would suggest dropping by, I would say ok how about if I just give her a call? He would usually say okay, that’s fine. But his first inclination was always to stop by. He was mostly friendly and easy to get along with, so I was able to read him and bring up my own preference without fearing that he would respond negatively. Again, this is after working with him for a while and getting an understanding of how he worked and an understanding of how others here worked, which is what I was suggesting OP do. Others here have mentioned that whether it is a phone call or in person, one is still being interrupted. However, it is much easier to end a phone call than to get rid of someone standing at your desk once the conversation has reached an end and he starts asking about your family, etc., which was how my boss was.

        I’ve seen elsewhere in this thread that OP’s boss seems to prefer in person due to time constraints, which may need to be handled differently than in my case with my boss.

        Reply
      3. NW Mossy

        Thing is, even it is a personal preference, your boss is cluing you in to something important. A lot of bosses tend to be relationship people, because relationship people tend to be drawn to managing and are effective at it because they know how to use relationships to achieve results through others (a core requirement of managing). Face-to-face and the phone work much better for relationship-building, so that’s why many bosses like them a lot.

        If you’re a task person, though, the time spent on relationships can feel wasteful and meaningless because it takes time away from tasks. But even task people can benefit a lot from having strong working relationships with others, because it helps people know you a bit and be more willing to prioritize your emails because they can picture your face and see you as a person.

        I will fully admit I’ve advised an employee to email less and use drop-ins/the phone more because one of the core issues she needs to resolve is weak relationships with others, and email misuse contributed to that issue. It’s awkward as can be while she’s learning this new way of doing, but it’s essential if she’s going to fix an issue that’s preventing her from being effective because people avoid her.

        Reply
        1. Sadsack

          Anecdotal, but my boss valued face time and completely misused it. A simple question like what is the new cost center we should use to process this invoice would turn into discussions about family, dogs, vacations, you name it. I am thinking he had to be the only person ever to be this bad, but who knows. Anyway, simple issues shouldn’t require taking up too much of people’s time, so that’s just something to keep in mind. Face time can be good, but isn’t always the best option.

          Reply
  20. smileychica

    OP2 – I will check someone’s calendar and then when I drop by ask, “Do you have 5/10/15 minutes to talk about x?” Then they understand the approximate time that I anticipate the discussion taking. I switched roles this year where I need much more input from many other sources in order to produce a final product, and learning to do this has been very helpful to me. Otherwise my emails go to email purgatory, never to be seen or responded to again.

    Reply
      1. OP#2

        I should mention that people aren’t specifically ignoring emails. It’s just that everyone is so busy, and gets so many emails, that once they drop off the first screen they get missed.

        Reply
    1. OP#2

      Good point about mentioning the amount of time it would take. Looking at the calendar probably wouldn’t help, since it’s only used for meetings when they are out of the office anyway. Generally the people I need to see are busy all the time, regardless of what their calendar says.

      Reply
  21. Tableau Wizard

    Related to #3, as a more established employee, how much detail is too much to share when you find yourself in a “my work is slacking because my personal life is exploding” situation?
    I find that I’m generally an over-sharer, but I don’t know if that applies here or not. My boss is aware that currently my husband has pneumonia and my 4 month old has a cold. This has impacted my work in two basic ways: 1. schedule – leaving early / coming in late for doctor appts and 2. mental presence – i’ve been stressed and it’s shown more than ever before.

    Based on the cues from my team, I think its an appropriate level of detail, but I’m curious what would fly in other offices.

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn

      I don’t think that’s oversharing at all. As a manager, I would appreciate the detail if someone wanted to share it; however, it’s not necessary and I wouldn’t press someone for it. I have one employee who is pretty tight-lipped about her personal life and would just say that she’s got a personal matter going on at home, whereas I have a couple that would tell me what’s going on , like a sick kid, cancer treatment for a relative, or a relationship ended. And then I have another who would lay it all out for me in minute detail. All of these are fine. I think it depends on the culture in the company and in your department, as well as your boss. Some bosses want to know everything and others just want the highlights.

      Reply
    2. sstabeler

      pretty much OK, but I might not mention the 4 month old’s cold, and would probably just say “husband is seriously ill” rather than specify it’s pneumonia. It’s still appropriate either way though (depending on your financial situation and how long you expect this to go on for, though, I would suggest either taking some PTO if you have it, or asking for an LOA so you can get things at least stabilised. I wouldn’t normally suggest it, but it apparently IS leaving you barely able to function at work, so taking some time out might be beneficial to both you and your employer.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        “Husband and baby are both sick” seems totally fine to me. But I agree with The Other Dawn that I’m basically fine with whatever level of detail someone wants to give me, and have worked with people all along that spectrum!

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          “Husband and baby are both sick” would make me think it was something like a stomach bug that will be over with in under a week. “Husband is seriously ill” lets them know it could be more long-term.

          Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              I agree. “Husband has pneumonia” informs me that he’s very sick but it will probably be limited. “Husband is seriously ill” makes me think long-term, FMLA kind of things.

              Reply
      2. Observer

        Why not mention the baby? 4 month old with a cold is actually quite serious – at that age things can get crazy very fast.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I would shy away from that–with the frequency that little kids catch bugs, you don’t want to imply your work will be substandard whenever your kid is sick.

          Reply
    3. ThatGirl

      My dad was hospitalized in early December after a heart attack and went through several weeks of ups and downs before finally recovering enough to be discharged to a rehab hospital. He lives several states away and I definitely let my boss and the manager of an adjacent team know because a) it was really stressful and what if he had died b) they generally do care about what’s going on in our personal lives, broadly and c) just in case I needed sudden time off for some reason. I didn’t share every detail but I did give general updates as his condition worsened and improved.

      Reply
    4. Jaydee

      I don’t think that’s oversharing. You’re not describing the stuff your husband is coughing up or using your one-on-ones with your boss as a therapy session to cope with the stress. By giving the specific diagnoses, it’s easier for your boss to understand 1) why there are so many doctor appointments, 2) why your husband can’t watch the sick baby, 3) how long this is all likely to last.

      Reply
    5. paul

      I’m curious too–and how much is too much when dealing with 3rd party companies you interact with? I had something explode this week that made me miss some meetings and conference calls (two year old had a brief hospital visit) and trying to clear things up it’s like…is it OK to just come out and say “Hey yeah my two year old was in the hospital, sorry about the monthly call.”

      Reply
      1. Tableau Wizard

        I have no good answer to this, but this is where I struggle.

        I have a sense that no one is going to fault you for prioritizing a two year old in the hospital, but I also am sensitive to my coworkers who don’t have kids, but do have life emergencies that they occasionally need to prioritize in the same way. I don’t want to share too many details and have it sound likes I’m playing the “BUT MY KID!” card.

        Reply
        1. paul

          Oh yeah, I wouldn’t want to imply that non kid people don’t have emergencies, it’s just that this was my specific one. I’d feel about the same if my brother or a parent was in the hospital unexpectedly I imagine.

          Reply
      2. Content Coordinator

        I think anytime someone is in the hospital, it’s okay to mention that. You don’t need to get into the details, but telling someone your kid was in the hospital is vastly different than telling them your kid had a cold. Addressing it as you mentioned would work fine: “Sorry to have missed the call, my 2 year old was in the hospital. Did you make a decision regarding chocolate teapot production?”

        Reply
    6. BananaPants

      Not oversharing in my office. Oversharing would be hearing about how much mucus your husband’s hacking up; it’s not oversharing to say he has pneumonia and is down for the count for a little while.

      A year and a half ago our older daughter was being diagnosed with a medical condition that is thankfully not severe but was still stressful and talking to various doctors and nurses was a bit of a distraction. My manager didn’t pry but I did give a two-sentence synopsis so that he understood that it wasn’t serious (when people hear that you’re taking your kid to the hem/onc clinic at the children’s hospital they tend to assume the worst).

      Reply
    7. Mrs. Fenris

      I had to cancel a day I had been specifically booked to replace someone (as an independent contractor). I called and told them my child had a doctor’s appointment. As soon as the words left my mouth I realized I should probably go into more detail-I didn’t want them to think I was flaking out just because I had scheduled a wellness appointment for that day. So I went on to explain that my child had a chronic issue and we had been wait-listed for weeks at a specialist, and they had called me out of the blue to inform me that my (very lengthy) appointment was on a certain day, take it or leave it.

      Reply
  22. The Other Dawn

    #3: Please tell your manager what’s going on. You don’t have to give details, but at least let her know there’s something stressful going on in your personal life that’s affecting the way you do your job. Without that information, all she knows about you is that you’re struggling and maybe aren’t the right fit for the job.

    I once had an employee who was struggling for months, constantly late and generally flaky. After talking to her several times about it, it got to the point where I was planning to let her go. Something came up at the last minute–I don’t remember how it came about–but I found out that she had a second job because she’d had some major necessary dental work done and couldn’t afford to pay for it with just the one job. She never said a word about it, and it nearly cost her her primary job. Had I had this information earlier, I could have worked with her to give her flexible scheduling, or lighten her load, something. When I asked why she didn’t mention it all those times we’d talked, she said it wasn’t anyone’s business and she would take care of herself. OK, fine. I told her we didn’t need to know all the details, but a heads-up would have been nice. It would have alleviated a ton of frustration on our side and we could have made arrangements to shift things around. All we knew was that a good employee wasn’t so good anymore. We ended up keeping her on and making some small changes with the schedule and workload, which seemed to help.

    Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      “It is our business when it has an impact on your job here. We, as a business, have a right to know about things that mean an employee is having problems meeting their commitment to us.”

      Reply
    2. Karen D

      I would say it depends on the workplace and the supervisors. My current supervisor is magnificent; if I ask for help or accommodations I get them, no questions asked. There are high expectations but I’m not dinged for the occasional stumble.

      The one before him? Oh heck to the no. Any personal information he got was immediately filed under “A” for “ammunition.” During one of his regularly scheduled browbeatings, he once brought up something I said the day I met him, years prior, and used it as his presumed reason I was not meeting his unrealistic and arbitrary expectations that particular day.

      Reply
      1. Karen D

        I hit “enter” too soon…. What I would say to the OP is that your boss sounds like more of the understanding type.

        If you make the disclosure very simple, and part of a bigger discussion about your plan to improve your performance, no reasonable boss would see it as excuse-making.

        Reply
  23. Ashley

    Ugh! I hate when people talk about drunk driving and ‘don’t know what to do.’ Ummm, call the cops. You have whitnessed them having impaired motor function and then drive and you want to know what you should tell your boss!!! It really should be a no brainer.

    I hate when it gets to a point that you are worried about ‘tattling’ that you don’t see the severity of the situation and that you need to act.

    Reply
  24. eplawyer

    #1 – your friend is not their manager. It is not her job to manage them or document their behavior. It is a work related concern that is affecting productivity (among other things). Her sole responsibility here is to make the manager aware of it.

    #2 – I see in your updates in the comments, it’s a speed thing. If things are not getting done because you are waiting on email responses, then yes, you need to go talk to people to ensure your own job gets done. It may also have a side benefit of building bridges to those other departments. If they see you as a person and not just a name on an email, it might help move things along faster, even when you email. Use Alison’s script and stick to the couple of minutes. Get the info you need and leave. You don’t need to socially chit chat. This is not a lunch with a friend where you are catching up on the kids/hobbies/life. It’s “Hi, I need to know about X, oh thanks for that information, I’ll be going now” conversation.

    Reply
    1. Parenthetically

      “Her sole responsibility here is to make the manager aware of it” and call the police when they leave the office drunk when they’re planning to drive.

      Reply
  25. The Other Dawn

    #2: Since this is a speed of response issue based on the comments from OP, I agree that you need to get up and talk to people. Obviously if something isn’t time-sensitive, then it’s probably fine to send an email, but if you’re needing something the same day, get up and go over there. I agree it’s annoying to have to do things face-to-face (I’m all about email and IM, and, lucky for me, so is my company) but sometimes it has to be done. You can always follow it up with an email confirming the details, if you need some sort of paper trail.

    Reply
    1. Confused Teapot Maker

      +1 (and Alison’s advice, which was spot on!)

      Depending on the speed of your industry, I would say the “Do I need it today?” rule is a good one.

      Hopefully without sounding harsh, if I were OP2’s manager, I would be really annoyed if I found out OP2 had paused projects because they were waiting for a response to an email when they could have spoken to that person.

      Of course, this wouldn’t count so much if the project wasn’t time sensitive and OP2 had other things to be getting on with in the meanwhile. But (and not saying this is true for you, OP2!) I’ve managed people who have literally sat around doing nothing for hours because they were waiting for me to reply to an email because “they didn’t want to annoy me by coming over to ask because I looked busy”. I know it comes from a good place and it would be wrong to blame them for acting with good intentions…but part of me wants to scream, “You know what really annoys me? Finding out you haven’t been working on the project I asked you to do for the better chunk of an afternoon!”.

      Reply
  26. always in email jail

    #3, I think it’s great to loop in your manager to provide an explanation (though as others suggested I’d leave it at “something in my personal life” not “my boyfriend broke up with me”) for your low performance.
    HOWEVER, I don’t want to be a debbie downer, but as Alison pointed out- you’re a new employee with documented performance issues. I think you need to include a plan to move forward or some reassuring language (“I’ve upped my level of self care and am feeling more like myself and ready to tackle this project!” or whatever) when you talk to your supervisor. Honestly, if your performance is low and then you’re explaining to your supervisor that your’e in a bad place right now, that sounds like you’re offering an explanation for the poor performance but that it’s not going to get better any time soon.
    You’re in a different situation than an established employee who’s hit a rough patch where the supervisor/company has reason to believe they’ll be a high performer again once this blows over. It sounds like you need to seek help and get your head back in the game professionally speaking- soon.

    Reply
  27. Purest Green

    #4 – Some employers go through the universities to advertise work they think would be appropriate for students, knowing of course that there would be schedule limitations. It might be worthwhile to check your email, online portal, or whatever other relevant place to find something like this.

    Reply
  28. MuseumChick

    #1 – Please say something now. Recently in a non-work context I faced a similar situation. As I watched the people involved in the situation drink more and more I figured I would keep track of it for a few weeks and then sit down to talk to them. Well, just recently one of them drove drunk, hit another car, was arrested and will have to appear in crout. I wish I had said something and not waited.

    Reply
  29. PersephoneUnderground

    #1- As someone who knows way too much about this kind of thing, I have something important to add. Turning in these coworkers/friends to management and, if necessary, the police, is likely the best way to *help them*. Often people won’t or can’t address a drinking problem until they “hit bottom” and see real consequences for their actions. Being arrested for a DUI can force someone into rehab and start their recovery (it’s often required to avoid jail time). Facing the possibility of losing their jobs because management is aware of the issue could give them reason enough to get themselves into treatment. (In the DC area I recommend Fairfax Hospital’s CATS program for this, btw, they’re very effective.) Shielding them from the consequences of their actions isn’t actually helping them in the long-term.

    Reply
  30. Emi.

    OP5, you should be fine with the DNC. That’s pretty mainstream–it’s not like you were working for the International Leftist Campaign To Bring Back The Gulags or something.

    Reply
  31. Temperance

    LW2: do you know why your manager prefers these?

    At my last job, my boss was very old-school, and thought that in-person or via telephone was the best way to conduct business. I was reprimanded for emailing our building management with a request regarding after-hours access rather than calling, because she thought it “rude” and “unprofessional”. (The request was for one of our tenants, and they had outlined a specific process for his guests to access the building after lockdown, and my email was confirming the conversation and asking for specific instructions.)

    I felt VERY smug when they walked their original promise back, claimed that they never told us they could grant access, and I had the email chain to prove it. After that, she lightened up on the email hatred.

    Reply
  32. Recruiting/Project Manager

    #5 – Unless you live in a very liberal city, there’s a decent chance you’ll run into a hiring manager that belongs to the opposite party. This is a reason why you should include the DNC on there because you certainly don’t want to work somewhere that may have been inclined to have some sort of bias against you. You should be proud of the work you did, and hiding it makes you look sketchy to employers who wouldn’t have otherwise cared.

    Reply
  33. E.R

    #3 reminds me of myself about 3 years ago. My partner of 5 years left me and I was struggling at my new job, which I really cared about. It was a very hard time. Only came here to say that it can turn around (I’ve had two promotions since then and my personal life is better than I would have ever imagined) and I feel for you. Therapy can really help, even if its “just” a broken heart.

    Reply
    1. MashaKasha

      It is a loss and a major life change. Sadly, not many people who haven’t had that experience in the recent years understand that. I had a partner of two years dump me out of the blue a few years ago. Luckily, I was at a “sort of an old” job (new job, old coworkers who had come there from the previous job) and had already built a reputation. Had a close relationship with my manager as well. He had met my partner at office functions, as well. I wasn’t in a place where I was able to think of a good wording, so I went to him and said “(Bob) surprised me with a breakup last night, so I apologize if I’m not going to be all there for the next few weeks”. Sure enough, two days later, I made a massive mistake at work (said something about a partner company that immediately got to that partner company) that I would not have made otherwise. I was ready to die of embarrassment, but everyone was extremely understanding. And I do second the suggestion of therapy, it helps tremendously.

      Reply
  34. animaniactoo

    OP1, if any piece of this is coming from the standpoint that alcoholism is a disease and performance issues need to be handled differently – stop. That is not your call to make, and it’s actually a detrimental one in this case.

    Alcoholism IS a disease, and there’s some leeway for getting someone who is struggling with it help and standing by some while they work on it. But there’s a limit to how much, and that limit is even less when they’re not actively trying.

    The sooner they have to deal with the results and consequences of how it has impacted their lives, the sooner they may seek help. But the longer it takes for that impact to be felt, the more ingrained the idea that they can “somewhat” get away with it is.

    So… it would not be okay for people to take 4 to 5 hour lunches even if they weren’t liquid. It would not be okay for them to be speaking to clients while showing signs of (temporary) mental impairment. It doesn’t matter why, it matters that it is happening, and in fact the why is all the more reason that it needs to be addressed right now and not some down the line point. This is so egregious that she doesn’t need to document more than 2 instances for it to be something serious enough to report.

    Reply
    1. ilikeaskamanager

      The ADA is quite clear–an employee can request some accommodation like attending treatment or AA meetings to help deal with his/her alcoholism, but the employer is not required to lower performance standards, or let someone drink and work, or anything like that. The situation described by the OP is dangerous and should be immediately reported.

      Reply
  35. ilikeaskamanager

    #2 I understand the OP’s concern and like AAM’s suggestions. This question raises another issue that we are talking about in our workplace. Does too much reliance on email, etc create other communication issues?

    Complaints about communication issues seem to be on the rise in just about every workplace including ours, and it certainly has correlated in our organization with the increasing reliance on indirect communication tools. Email, etc can be great tools to impart basic information, but we are finding that they create more problems than they solve when we are trying to deal with complex issues. When we are dealing with complex issues or need input into resolving a problem–we have made a decision as an organization NOT to use email to discuss or collaborate on this stuff. We might summarize what we decided via email, but we will get on a conference call, video chat, or meet personally because we’ve found these methods to be much more efficient and yield better outcomes.

    Reply
  36. Former Retail Manager

    OP#1….I am almost always a fan of butting out, but not in this situation. A drink at lunch is one thing, but a 4-5 hour lunch filled with many drinks and obvious signs of intoxication is very concerning. You should definitely alert management NOW. If your friend sees either of them saying that they’re going to leave work, she should intervene or have someone assertive intervene, if she’s not comfortable.

    Reply
    1. LCL

      OP1, your friend must tell her manager what she has seen. Not take it on herself to police their behavior. If she spends 2 months gathering documentation and goes around her manager to talk to HR, her manager will do her best to fire her. This is what management gets paid for, to step in (or not) in the event of employee misconduct.

      And then your friend needs to let it go. It’s not her job to call the cops, or try to reason them out of their drinking. If I called the cops on every driver I think is somehow impaired, I would be calling them every day, sometimes twice a day. (I live in a place with a relaxed attitude toward pot, the whole damn town smells like skunk sometimes.)

      Reply
      1. Jessie

        It’s not her job to call the cops. But it takes 2 minutes of your time, and this appears to be far different than “driver I think is somehow impaired” – these are people she knows are drunk.

        And then getting in the car to drive.

        I don’t at all understand the attitude of “Oh, this isn’t my job, I don’t have to” when the subject is a known drunk person known to you to be getting in a car and driving.

        Reply
      2. HannahS

        Legally? No, it’s not her job. But morally? I’m really surprised that you think it’s fine to turn a blind eye to someone who’s drunk is about to put kids in their car and drive through a school zone.

        Reply
      3. Candi

        There’s a book by Piers Anthony, “Isle of View” (careful who you say it out loud too)

        The main character is Jenny Elf, a Wolfrider.

        Have you read the afterword in which he tells the story of the human girl who Jenny is named for?

        A drunk driver, with a record and suspended license, sped in a school zone, cut around a car that had stopped to let some students cross, and hit Jenny.

        The courts FINALLY threw the book at him.

        Jenny was in a coma for a long time.

        She survived. She sort of recovered. But she’ll never be the same.

        That’s why you call.

        Reply
  37. Crazy Canuck

    #1 – When I was 17, I was t-boned by a drunk driver. He hit the passenger side of my truck at about 50 mph while my best friend was sitting there. I was trapped in my seal belt with a broken arm, and I got to watch him die while he choked to death on his own blood. As a result, I have extremely strong feelings about drunk drivers. Very, very strong.

    Ask your co-worker how she would feel if she heard that one of her drunk co-workers killed someone. Ask her how she would feel if that someone was a child. Ask her how she would feel if that parent of that dead child asked them why she didn’t do anything to stop her drunk co-workers from stepping behind the wheel of a lethal weapon.

    Is this a guilt trip? Yup, it absolutely is. I’ll lay out all the guilt trips in the world so no one ever has to go through what I did again. Please don’t stand by and say nothing.

    Reply
    1. always in email jail

      That’s horrible, I’m very sorry you had to go through that. Thank you for reminding everyone what a serious issue it is, and using your experience to put it in context.

      Reply
    2. anon today

      Yep, I find it really hard to have sympathy for folks who stand by and say nothing. I’ve been excused from jury duty, because it was a drunk driving case a couple times. They ask if I ever knew anyone involved in a drunk driving accident and I respond, “Ya know Melanie’s Law? Melanie was my classmate.”

      [Melanie’s Law is a law in MA that increases the punishment for repeat-offence drunk drivers. She was 13, walking home from a birthday party one Saturday afternoon, and was hit by a drunk woman, who had prior DUI’s. Her friends basically had to watch her die. It was terrible and really shook up our school.]

      Reply
    3. MuseumChick

      I am so sorry you had to go through something so horrific.

      I disagree somewhat. In my experience, people with addictions (alcohol, pills, whatever) this logic doesn’t work, they don’t take it in. More often than not they don’t see they have a problem until it effects *them* (losing their license, custody of their kids, etc)

      That is why I would recommend talking to the manager and if nothing comes from that calling the police when the OP’s friend knows the co-workers are driving drunk and reporting them.

      Sadly, (I mentioned this up thread) I recently had a person in my life who was drinking to much. When a person we both know did try to talk to them about it their reactions was basically “I’m (insert nationality stereotypically associated with drinking) it’s fine.” Well, that person drove drunk, hit another car (no one was hurt thank goodness) lost his license, and has to appear in court. It was only after that he admitted he had problem and started seeking treatment.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        The person who needs to speak up is the coworker who is sober, not the drunks. Sober One needs to speak up so that there is some chance to get Drunks off the road.

        Reply
      2. Crazy Canuck

        I don’t expect words to change an addict. The only thing that can change an addict is themselves.

        As Observer said, I’m hoping the OP’s friend calls the cops. It would be smart and a good CYA move to notify her boss, but that won’t change bupkiss. What will change things is as soon as she sees drunk co-workers leaving knowing they are driving, she calls the cops. I’d have a vehicle description with plate numbers all ready to go. I wouldn’t tell my drunk co-workers any of this either. I have little sympathy for those who drive drunk, I save it for their innocent victims.

        If the OP’s friend balks at this, I would tell her that this is how drunks hit bottom. They get arrested, they lose their license, sometimes they realize that the drinking has become a problem. The OP’s friend is enabling them right now, which is about the worst thing she can do in my book.

        Reply
        1. tigerStripes

          For them to get arrested and in trouble for it is much better for everyone, including them, than for them to kill or injure someone while drunk driving.

          Reply
    4. regina phalange

      Ugh. that is awful. I am so sorry you had to go through that. A guy I went to high school with was the passenger in a car being driven by a drunk driver. He hit a telephone pole. My high school friend died and the driver walked away. I judge people so hard for driving drunk, especially today where pressing approx three buttons on your phone will summon an Uber or Lyft. No excuses.

      Reply
      1. LCL

        The level of competence exhibited by the driver of the one and only Uber ride I have taken was as poor as that of a drunk driver. Uber isn’t an awesome solution, even though people say it is. I’m not defending driving drunk, just saying Uber isn’t easy or seamless.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think the point is that a person should not drive drunk, and with the advent of informal “cab” services in areas that are not traditionally well-served by taxis, there is even less of an excuse to drive.

          Reply
  38. Boo

    OP#3 – Sorry you’re having a rough time! I was in a very similar situation a couple of years ago and was very nearly put on a PIP. In the space of a year, I’d cared for and lost my father, nearly lost my mother, was sexually assaulted and made up for redundancy. Suffice to say, I was not operating at my peak! My manager was actually aware of all the above (she was a horrendous manager, but that’s a whole nother conversation) but as she’d only joined the organisation right after my bereavement she had no idea what my usual standard of work was like and was Not Happy (she waited until my mum had been given the all clear for cancer to tell me so in no uncertain terms).

    To be quite honest I felt the whole thing was unfair BS, but I produced my own version of a PIP detailing what I would do to improve my performance, how and by when which I think impressed her, and steeled myself to check in regularly with her to see if she was happy. I’d suggest you do the same thing – inform your manager you’ve been dealing with a personal crisis, acknowledge your work isn’t up to your usual standards, tell her how you’ll change that – maybe table a brief document outlining your targets – and meet with her regularly to check in on how you’re doing.

    Good luck :)

    Reply
    1. always in email jail

      I’ve said it a few other places in the comments, but I think the make-or-break here is ensuring that #3 outlines an intention/plan for improving as part of the conversation with her supervisor. The way you did it is great, I know it’s a risk (wouldn’t want to end up just documenting your own shortcomings/firing) but I would be impressed if one of my employees did that. I would also be reassured that they recognized where they weren’t performing well, and were actively working to improve it. Personally, it would make a huge difference to me, but others might feel differently.

      Reply
      1. Boo

        Well I’d seen a draft email from my boss about putting me on a PIP so in my case I thought it would be a much smaller risk if I took control of it myself by heading her off at the pass! If you know firing is on the cards I’d say it’s a risk worth taking :)

        Reply
  39. Data Architect

    OP1 — please say something. These two are better off fired than dead or having killed someone else. My cousin (one month younger than me) passed away WAY before his time to the devastation of my aunt and grandma because of heart failure due to alcohol abuse. If he had consequences in his life sooner we wouldn’t have had such heartbreak in our lives.

    The best case scenario, however, is that these two go out on FMLA and do a treatment program and spend their lunches at AA meetings and go on to live happy and healthy lives.

    Reply
  40. Abby

    #2: Definitely agree with the suggested wording! Particularly being upfront about the topic at hand. It always irks me when someone goes “Hey Abby, do you have a minute?” without elaborating on what I’m about to get myself into. More often than not, it takes way more than a minute to resolve, but at the same time, I don’t want to delay if the answer turns out to be a simple “it’s in the drawer in room 201” or something.

    Reply
    1. Confused Teapot Maker

      I’m also loving the suggested wording as “Do you have a minute?” also irks me. I used to either go a straight “yes”, and slowly get wound up when it really was more than a minute, or “no”, only to make the other person feel put out (or, worse, getting caught in the trap of the “When do you think you’ll next have a minute?” game). These days I tend to go for “Yes, but I’m quite busy so I’d appreciate you being quick” which tends to a) speed people up and b) hopefully doesn’t make them think I’m being short-tempered if I need to stop them with a short “Wakeen really knows more about that than me. Please ask him” or “This sounds quite complex. Please drop it in an email and I’ll keep an eye out for it and review it when I have more time.”

      Reply
  41. AnonAnalyst

    I agree with a lot of the comments already made about OP #1, so I won’t repeat those. However, I would also add that not saying anything to the management team might reflect negatively on OP’s friend once the manager learns what has been going on. This is so far outside of what’s acceptable in a professional environment that I think many managers would have concerns about OP’s friend’s judgment if they found out that she was aware of the coworkers’ behavior but thought it was best to wait and see how everything worked out. Thinking back to my great past managers, I suspect all of them would have lost at least a little bit of trust and confidence in me if they learned that I had known about something like this but had not said anything to them.

    Reply
    1. Jenbug

      This is an excellent point. If I were a manager off site and found out this was going on, I would be very suspect of anyone who was in a position to know and didn’t notify me.

      Reply
  42. Beachlover

    OP# 3- I know exactly what you are going thru. I was in a similar situation, when I started my current Job. My husband had left me, leaving me to pay all the bills. Then I was laid off from my job. I sank into a deep depression, but I had to work. When I interviewed, I was very up front about by situation. They were very understanding and hired me anyway. Even going to so far as to start me on med. insurance early, so I could continue to see my doctor. Due to my medications, I was absent a lot the first 6-7 months of my employment. I don’t know how much detail you need to go into, but I hope your boss would be understanding if you explained that you are in a difficult situation at home and it has caused you to lose focus, and this is not normal. You may want to see about getting some counseling to help you work thru it.

    Reply
  43. Rachel Green

    #2-In my office, we communicate via email, instant messaging and in-person. All methods are acceptable, but only using IM or email is a bit frowned upon. If your manager is asking you to communicate more in-person, it could be that you’re giving the impression that you are a bit of a hermit or anti-social. I know it sounds harsh but that’s how it’s interpreted in my office, anyway. My organization highly values “exposure” and being “seen.” I am quiet and introverted and prefer email, but I also make the effort to go talk to someone if I know they’re in the office. It takes a while to get used to, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Another way to look at it is that you’re getting up and moving around rather than sitting stationary at your desk. It’s nice to get a break from the computer every once in a while. Maybe you could make it a habit to get up and walk around the office a couple times a day (like a morning and afternoon walk), and get in some of that in-person communication at the same time.

    Reply
  44. amanda2

    #2- I also ran into this issue during the first part of this year, except I self-identified the problem. I work across 6 different campuses and it’s often difficult for me to communicate timely information in person and, accordingly, it’s much easier to e-mail. However, I got into the habit of emailing too much and sending emails that were too long. I negatively affected one of working relationships with a team that way and the general vibe I’m currently getting from that team is that the project we’re working on got “too complicated”‘ and it doesn’t need to be that way. The team has since minimized my role with them and has kind of circled the wagons, so to speak. Reflecting on their feedback, I believe that my long and too frequent e-mails helped cause that feeling of complication and mis-communication. People genuinely don’t read long e-mails well and often don’t understand all the information included in them. I’m taking this as a learning opportunity for me…. I damaged that working relationship and I need to change my communication going forward. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to salvage my reputation with that team, other than giving it time and changing my communication habits going forward.

    Reply
    1. ilikeaskamanager

      It takes real maturity to say what you did and I sure hope things work out. Best wishes. I would love to work with somebody like you!

      Reply
  45. Valerie

    OP#1, if your friend can’t bring herself to talk to her manager NOW or to call the police when she sees someone getting behind the wheel drunk, ask her if she’d at least let you know next time so you can call the police. Maybe if she sees that you are taking drunk driving very, very seriously, she’ll be able to take a step back and realize this isn’t a job performance issue. It’s a public safety issue.

    Reply
  46. Shakti

    Re Q#1:
    Please tell your friend to stop coddling her alcoholic drunkard coworkers!!! Report all of their drunken escapades to the manager with documentation, pronto. It’s not only the self interested thing to do, it’s the compassionate thing to do.
    It’s not only a question of the lives of other innocent people on the road (“remarking that they are on their way to pick up their kids while under the influence”), the company’s reputation (“speaking to clients with slurred speech”), it’s also a question of HER job (“My friend has witnessed both of them taking 4-5-hour lunches”). How much of their slack is she picking up while they’re hungover? How much work isn’t getting done because they’ve decided to act like ad company execs in Mad Men? If they go and hit someone or a car while they’re on their way to a client — guess what? It’s very likely the company will be sued. In addition to firing them, they’ll fire your friend. Or if she’s very unlucky, they’ll just let your friend go and keep them.

    They should take their EAP or whatever to go to rehab or AA — but it shouldn’t be your friend’s problem to babysit them.

    Reply
  47. Kate the Little Teapot

    OP #3, Captain Awkward has a post called “How to Tighten Up Your Game At Work When You Are Depressed”

    I am pretty sure links will get caught in Allison’s spam filter but that post will in part be applicable to you.

    Reply
  48. A Noni Moose

    What kind of person breaks up with a partner just before he/she starts a new job?

    No. 3, you are well rid of this jerk.

    Now talk to your boss.

    Reply
    1. MashaKasha

      The person who has to have their needs met the minute they arise, come hell or high water. I agree with your assessment. Best of luck to #3!

      Reply
  49. Manager-at-Large

    For OP#1 – if there is a manager for any department in your local office, you could start there. I have sometimes been the only manager-level at a location for my subsidiary, and the company’s view was that if something happened that required on-site management, it fell to me – even for those employees who were not my direct reports.

    Reply
  50. Username has gone missing

    My friend was killed by a drunk driver. Please report these people before they wind up dead or in prison.

    Reply
  51. KC

    OP #1–It’s bad enough that these people are putting themselves and their careers on the line, but to put their children and other people in harm’s way too? My God. Speak up, stage an intervention, do something.

    Reply
  52. J-nonymous

    OP #5 – I echo AAM’s sentiment…unless your particular candidate has really poor associations (nationally or locally).

    What springs to mind are local candidates who have national name recognition (for bad reasons) like Anthony Wiener.

    Reply

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