employees drinking on the job and the ethics of firing without warning

A reader writes:

I’m the GM of a small company.  I have 2 employees who handle important parts of the company.  I started at the company 4 years after them so have leaned on them to teach me the “ins & outs” of the company.  Since they were both very capable I never took the time to learn how to do the things they do (manage inventory, shipping/receiving).

I’ve recently discovered that they are both drinking on the job.  It started with an occasional suspicious smell of alcohol after lunch but now has escalated to the point where one or both of them is red-faced and smelling of alcohol nearly everyday (sometimes even in the morning).  I think they feel like they can get away with this because they know they’re essential to the company and we wouldn’t be able to do certain things without them (or at least there’d be a lot of mistakes until we did).

Obviously this isn’t a good thing and I need to get rid of them (the owner of the company agrees).   I’m working on a “How To” handbook where I’ve told all the employees that I need their help to document every function of the business.  I feel like this will help me glean as much information from them before I fire them.  I think that’s a good plan.  My biggest problem is that I’m having trouble separating my knowledge of their personal lives with this decision.  One employee is having big financial problems which are affecting his marriage.  The other just recently got divorced and is all excited because she just qualified for a loan for a new house.  I figure that I’ll have my How To book done in the next 4-6 weeks, which is probably about the time she’ll be closing on that new house.  Great timing to fire someone, eh?  That could bankrupt her right out of the gate as she tries to establish a new life on her own for her and her son.

My question is this, I feel like I owe it to these employees to warn them of their impending doom.  They have been good loyal employees for a long time, it’s just been in the last 12-18 months that things have really gotten bad.  I don’t think it’s salvageable because I’ve had other problems with their attitude toward changes we’re making.   It’s time to move on with some fresh blood.  But I feel like it will be devastating to both of them if I just tell them one day that “You’re Fired”.  Is it dumb for me to tell them “hey, just so you know the owner and I know that you’ve been drinking on the job and he wants you both gone.  I’ve been able to stall him a bit but it’s coming soon.  I thought you should know so you can look for something else before you buy a new house, etc”?   The one risk there is potential sabotage to the company (i.e. intentional shipping mistakes, not ordering inventory replenishments).  Or do I just need to be cold-hearted and think of the company first and forget about how this will affect their personal lives?

Why haven’t you spoken with them about their behavior — both the drinking and the resistance toward change?  It’s hard for me to imagine discovering that an employee is drinking on the job and not immediately calling them on it, and making it clear that if it ever happens again, they’d be fired on the spot. (And are you letting them continue to drink at work during this waiting period?) I’m also wondering why you haven’t warned them that their resistance to the changes you’re making has the potential to jeopardize their jobs as well; it’s basic fairness to warn someone about their attitude and give them a chance to change it before you give up on them.

I’m somewhat torn here, because it sounds like this situation has been very poorly managed, but on the other hand, drinking on the job is a big enough offense that no one is owed a warning. And if you really think they’d resort to intentional sabotage, that says something pretty un-salvagable about their integrity too.  So really, no one here smells like roses.

And I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m really stumped about why you’ve had employees who smell like alcohol on the job and didn’t immediately say something to them. Surely you didn’t think they’d insist on continuing to drink once you called them out on it?  And how do you not think it was your role to address this the very first time you had suspicions? So this part makes no sense to me, and it’s making this situation way more complicated than it ideally would be.

Anyway, I think you have two choices now:

1. Talk to them. Tell them the drinking needs to stop immediately, and their attitudes need to improve in X, Y, and Z ways. (Be specific here; just saying “bad attitude” isn’t descriptive enough.) Tell them that their jobs are in jeopardy unless there is immediate, significant, and sustained improvement, and even a single instance of further alcohol use on the job will cause them to be fired.  However, this scenario assumes you’d be willing to keep them on if they do make the changes you’re asking for, and I don’t know enough about their performance to know if you should be. (It’s worth considering, though, that there might be an alcoholism problem here, particularly given the early morning drinking. Not that that obligates you to keep them, but it’s worth pointing out.)

2. Fire them and absolve yourself of guilt. Drinking on the job is such a major violation of trust and good sense that you really aren’t responsible for the impact getting fired has on their lives. People who want job security don’t sneak drinks on the job. (Although consider offering them severance because it will make everyone’s lives easier, including yours.)

Given the ethical questions here about allowing them to move forward with financial commitments like buying a house when you know that they’re soon to be fired, I’d give real consideration to #1 … but it’s really, really not good that you didn’t do #1 “12-18 months ago” when things “got really bad,” and I think you’ve got to ask yourself some hard questions about why the situation has been allowed to play out this way.

Regarding your idea about warning them that the owner wants them gone:  It’s a compassionate idea from a fellow-humans standpoint, but it isn’t a great idea from a management standpoint. (And yes, it hugely sucks when the two are in conflict.) The problem is that going this route implies that you, personally, don’t have a serious problem with their behavior, which would seriously undermine your own ability to manage, and plus, you say you’re worried about sabotage if you do warn them. (But at a minimum, if you do go this route, don’t blame the owner. You should own your own decisions here and not turn it into a good-cop/bad-cop situation.)

Anyway. Your business presumably deserves employees who will come to work sober and perform at a high level. There are lots of unemployed people out there who would happily keep up that side of the bargain with you. It’s not your fault that these two decided not to, so you either make it clear that they need to meet that bar starting right now, this very instant, or you just go ahead and replace them with people who will.

One last thing:  Usually when a situation gets this out of control, it’s not the only management problem in that workplace. So I’d recommend doing some soul-searching about your approach to management in general, and especially on things like asserting authority appropriately, dealing with problems, giving feedback, and even planning for disaster, so that you’re not in a situation again where you’re held hostage to bad behavior because someone is indispensable (and besides, people quit, get sick, die, etc., so you don’t want to be that dependent on someone).

Okay, lecture over. Anyone else have thoughts?

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    This just angers me to no end. I was laid off 16 months ago, and have yet to find another job. I would (almost) kill to get a job – any job. And the fact that this manager has allowed 2 employees to drink on the job for more than 5 minutes is infuriating. Shame on this manager. There are good potential employees out there, practically begging for work, and it seems as though this manager is lacking the backbone to, well, manage.

      1. Suz*

        Hire me! I spent 16 years working hard, getting promoted only to face a layoff myself. It’s been 2 years since I’ve had a professional job (discounting the soul-sucking state job I had to take to make ends meet) and I’d love to be contributing to a company (who values it’s employees, that is).

  2. Slaten*

    I think managers that are too chicken to talk to their employees about behavior that they don’t like until they have talked themselves up to firing the employees…. well they shouldn’t be managers!!

    1. Liz*

      I agree. It’s incredible to me, to wait “12-18 months” before making a decision and taking action. But then for that action to be creating a book that will take “4-6 weeks” to complete?

      And this drinking, while clocked in to work, still hasn’t officially been documented?

      This is really bad.

  3. Wilton Businessman*

    Got to agree. Letting it go on this long is a serious mistake. 4-6 weeks to get your “manual” together is way too long. They need to go and they need to go today. Companies survive. Who knows, you might even find a better way to do something. Is it going to suck for a while? Yes. Will you get through it? Yes.

  4. Chris V*

    I work for an Irish company in the US where they serve alcohol at work every Friday afternoon and for special occasions. There is nothing inherently wrong with drinking at work. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a drink at lunch. None of the workers take advantage of the situation by doing their jobs drunk. Everyone is treated as the adults they are. In fact, up until the last few decades, workers regularly drank at their places of work.

    The problem occurs when the drinking effects the performance of your job, which looks like the case in this example. There is no excuse to tolerate someone who can’t do the job right.

    1. Karl*

      I’d have to agree, this is a cultural thing. Drinking a little bit at lunch or at work is acceptable in other countries, but I’d need to know how this drinking effects their performance before I brought judgement down on them.

    2. Anon y. mouse*

      My (new) place of work is like that as well, and it’s an American born-and-bred company. I was shocked to see that along with tea and coffee, the company stocks beer in the fridge – and not cheap stuff either, but good stuff, and several types of it! It gets broken out in the late afternoon for any holiday or celebration, plus the last Friday of every month. There’s usually wine made available as well.

      But like you said, it stays well under control. I haven’t seen anyone have more than one drink, and have heard disapproving comments about people who help themselves to a drink during the day. The company was founded ten years ago and still thinks of itself as a startup, and seems to have inherited the drinking culture as part of that. I’ve never worked somewhere that would balk at an employee having a drink with lunch, as long as it wasn’t in the office and it didn’t affect their work.

      That said, a drinking problem on the job is a major problem, and I’m astonished that it’s apparently been going on for so long with nothing being done about it. What the OP describes does sound like alcoholism – at least, I would assume getting tipsy more days than not qualifies as such, whether it’s happening at work or at home. Sometimes people like that can shape up when given a strict warning. Others… well, some people need to hit rock bottom first. And even then some of them just decide they like it there.

    3. Long Time Admin*

      Chris V – “In fact, up until the last few decades, workers regularly drank at their places of work.”

      Not where I came from! I was born in a heavily industrialized area with factories everywhere. It was NEVER acceptable for people to drink at work. Even the unions agreed with that. Drunks working the assembly line? Drunks loading and unloading heavy equipment and machinery? Not acceptable. There was no drinking in the offices, either. Unprofessional and unbusinesslike.

      Just not done.

      1. No way*

        I just fired an Irish-American employee for being drunk on the job. Frankly I don’t care what your culture is, you leave that at home when you’re at work on my clock and I pay you. Incompetence spiraled off this employee like fractals. Nothing was getting done.

        Finally I smelled alcohol on him at a meeting and put two and two together, and fired him.

        FYI, it was a morning meeting. This knucklehead was drinking before noon. Culture be damned, that’s just psycho.

        1. Anonymous*

          You say you don’t care what someone’s culture is, but it appears that you do, given that you felt compelled to mention this person’s background. And then you state, “Culture be damned.” Being Irish doesn’t make you a drinker, although you apparently think it’s their “culture” that caused them to do it. I hope that if you are a manager you are scheduling yourself for some cultural sensitivity training. On another note, someone who is drinking before noon probably has a problem. In some places that employee would have the right to seek treatment for a their medical condition (addiction) and could not be fired for doing so.

  5. Nate*

    You are their superior – your role is clear: to uphold the rules of behavior you expect of subordinates in the workplace. If people are not upholding the rules of what you want in the workplace, it is your role to call them out on it and make corrective action. If they do not adhere to your corrective conversation, it is your job to fire them.

    It is not your responsibility to consider their well being, because their well being is tied to being able to do their job to your standards. I hope you see where I am going with this statement.

    1. Anonymoustoo*

      I agree with Anony.mouse that this sounds like alcoholism. This is probably causing their personal problems as well as their career problems. I’d give them a chance to recognize to enter AA or therapy but let them know that if they don’t take the offer, they’re gone.

    2. Tim*

      No it’s not your responsibility to consider their well being if you want to be a shitty manager like nate. There is a hell of a lot more to being a manager than nate thinks. Employee assistance programs are out there for a reason.

  6. Anonymous*

    I worked at a company that actively promoted drinking every Friday. People would stop working around 3:30 and just drink for hours. They even sent out an email every Friday to discuss the upcoming Beer Friday and had a person in charge of getting the beer. To me, that’s a crazy practice because with the way people drink, you never know if someone is going to get into an accident on the way home, and then who will be liable? The company would certainly take a hit to reputation, if not a monetary hit should lawsuits stem from the accident.
    I agree with the others that the manager should have said/done something a lot sooner when the problem was first discovered.

  7. Liz in a library*

    It’s true that the use of alcohol in the workplace (or not) is a cultural norm, but in any workplace I’ve ever been in, its been very clear, with no grey areas, whether it is allowed or not. A drug and alcohol policy is pretty easy to find in any decent policy manual or staff handbook. Also, it sounds like these people aren’t just having a drink at lunch (or at least it takes me more than that to get red-faced and smell of alcohol, and I’m a lightweight).

    Also, I’m curious as to what an average workday looks like for these people – drunkenness in some jobs could be a serious safety hazard, not just for the tipsy ones, but for other employees as well. If there was an accident, I wonder if the employer could be considered liable, given that s/he knows about the drinking.

    It is pretty unconscionable to keep them around just to write a procedures manual, then ditch them without warning. Even though the employees are in the wrong, they are human beings, and it isn’t just to toy with them. If you want to fire them, fire them now before they cause greater damage to the company. If you want to help them, or think they are too valuable to the company to lose, does your company offer counseling services to employees? I agree with most of the comments that this is indicative of a substance abuse problem…

  8. Jenna*

    Ok, here’s my (long) two cents:

    Drinking on the job– no, no, no. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have one drink with lunch outside of the workplace, but saying that they smell of alcohol means that it’s going far beyond that. (Even the lightest lightweights I know wouldn’t be red faced and reeking after just one). I agree that the onus is on you here for not saying something immediately, the first time it was noticed. Just a “Hey- are you ok? You don’t seem like yourself, maybe you should go home” would probably have been enough to let them know that it isn’t going unnoticed like they think it is.

    But since that didn’t happen, and knowing what’s going on personally for both, I would handle it the following way to try and alleviate some of that guilt but still get something done about it and quickly:

    Sit them down, separately. Have the oh-so difficult conversation, and be plain about it. “It’s become clear to me that you’ve been drinking on the job, and your performance has reflected it. We’ve also come into some attitude problems that aren’t helping the situation. This needs to absolutely stop as of this minute, and I need to see some real improvement in your performance. You’re a valued employee, but this is unacceptable and without an immediate stop to the drinking at work and a noticeable improvement in your performance, we’ll have to let you go.”

    And, in 2 weeks, if there’s no improvement or change, let them go. That way, you’ve given them a chance to redeem themselves, given they’ve been good employees (I’m assuming) in the past who have unfortunately made some poor decisions during difficult times in their personal lives. And if they ignore it and don’t shape up, then you can get rid of them (and quickly) without feeling as though you blindsided them. Unfortunately, during difficult times, people make very poor decisions to deal with their problems and I’m assuming that they think that you haven’t noticed and that their performance is fine, so they don’t see the consequence. It should be obvious, yes, but sometimes people need some light shone to see the whole picture.

    Now, if they are operating heavy machinery or anything like that, fire them immediately. I can see thinking that being a bit tipsy while sitting at your desk isn’t harming anyone, but around heavy equipment is an absolute no brainer and shows a wild disregard for the safety of others.

    1. No way*

      Manager – “It’s become clear to me that you’ve been drinking on the job, and your performance has reflected it.”

      Employee – “I am not! You’re a liar, and well YOU (fill in blank with baseless counteraccusations, malicious statements, lies).”

      Employee then brushes up his act, stops drinking long enough for the alcohol to go out of his system, consults an attorney, and sues you for defamation and harassment, or worse, comes to your office once you do fire him, and shoots you and all the rest of your employees.

      And people ask us why we don’t want to have “that talk”.

      Surely you people must all be “employees”. Try being a boss for a while.

      Add 2 cups of your own hard-earned money paying people who wreak this kind of destruction to you and your company, and stress you out of sleep, for extra fun.

      1. roma*

        I know this is an ancient thread but it showed up at the top of my google search, so…
        I am a small business owner who currently suspects an employee of drinking on the job, hence the search.
        I have absolutely ZERO tolerance for job-place intoxication and high and will, and have, fired people on the spot for being intoxicated at work. A drinking employee is a liability and I will not hesitate to fire them.

        I may (and have) offer support and help in getting and staying sober on the job but I just wanted to chime in as a business owner and boss who will fire an intoxicated employee in a New York second without a single qualm.

  9. MillenniMedia*

    “I think they feel like they can get away with this because they know they’re essential to the company and we wouldn’t be able to do certain things without them (or at least there’d be a lot of mistakes until we did).”

    Err…I disagree. I think they feel like they can get away with it because they ARE getting away with it, and have been for quite some time. You have managed this situation so poorly that they are brazen enough to come in red-faced and reeking of alcohol and yet they still collect a paycheck.

    For everyone talking about culture and having a drink at lunch, this is way beyond that. I can go have a beer at lunch too, but the behavior of these employees is unacceptable (and potentially a huge liability, depending on what they do).

    Whether you decide to choose AAM’s option 1 or option 2 (and those really are the only options), you also need to take a really serious look at yourself. The owner knows you’ve been letting these guys get away with being drunk at work and that you’re so clueless about their duties that firing them immediately would be an immense hardship on the company. Consider the possibility that the owner has come to the (reasonable) conclusion that you are not qualified to manage. This would be much less messy had you been doing your job all this time, but instead you totally dropped the ball. In addition to taking immediate steps to discipline these employees, you need to do some serious damage control and make sure you keep your own job.

  10. jen*

    I can only imagine what morale is like at this company when employees have been watching for over a year as two senior workers are drunk on the job and management does nothing about it. This is a huge safety issue and morale issue and it should have been addressed the first time it was noticed. Good luck to this manager having any remaining credibility with his staff after allowing this to go on so long.

    1. Jamie*

      I am in complete agreement with Jen.

      If I’m an employee with even tertiary involvement with any of the principles in this story any respect I may have had is gone – and the bad management practices are appalling enough the damage would be irreparable.

      I can’t even think of a solution to this, since I can’t get past it not being addressed the first time the drinking was noticed.

      I will say I think the OP owes an apology to the colleagues of drunk and drunker who have been picking up the slack. Because if this is as pervasive as it seems, someone was overburdened while this was allowed to slide.

  11. Joey*

    I’m a little more compassionate than what everyone else is suggesting so I’ll suggest a third option. I’m not sure how bad the resistance to change issue is, but these employees are going through a devastating life changing event. I think it’s worth considering telling them if they can’t stop drinking at work they need to take some time off until they get their personal lives in order. Of course you wouldnt allow them to take off an unreasonable amount of time.

    1. Dan Ruiz*

      I agree with Joey. Since “…One employee is having big financial problems which are affecting his marriage. The other just recently got divorced…” obviously there are serious personal issues involved. These issues have resulted in alcoholism as others have pointed out.

      The most compassionate thing to do is to offer them the opportunity to fix the situation immediately (counseling, AA, therapy, etc.); then revisit every couple of weeks. Most everyone deserves a second chance; however, the minute improvement stops, they should be fired – no one deserves a third chance.

      You’ll feel better about it, the company may retain two long time employees that were presumably once very valuable, and you may regain the respect of your other employees and the owner by salvaging a horrible situation and demonstrating that compassion for your employees and making a buck are not mutually exclusive.


      1. The Pragmatist*

        I think it’s a bit presumptuous to say that their recent personal problems have caused their alcoholism. For all we know, they’ve both been alcoholics since well before they took this job, but are now drinking more heavily and/or not covering it up as well as they used to. It’s not worthwhile to guess at the “cause” of someone’s alcoholism, or to guess about their status as to whether they are an alcoholic or not. Frankly, since the OP hasn’t actually seen either of them drink but has only observed “alcohol on the breath” and “red-faced” could mean one has diabetic ketoacidosis or some other medical condition that causes the symptoms he sees. He didn’t actually say their job duties were suffering, so for years before this discovery they could have been coasting the way most drunks in the workplace do: as functional alcoholics. You’ve got one in your workplace too, I promise.

        Are they still doing their jobs well? Are they hurting anyone on the job? If the answer is YES and NO, respectively, you need to sit down with them both separately and tell them that you smell alcohol on their breath, that their face is red, and that those things lead you to believe that they’re coming to work under the influence of alcohol, which is unacceptable. Give them two weeks to change their behavior. If there’s no change, they’re out. If there’s progress towards change, consider your options then. If they go back to not being boozy on the job, you’re good.

        Now, if the answers to the above questions (“Are they still doing their jobs well? Are they hurting anyone on the job?”) are NO and/or YES, respectively, it is your responsibility to fire them immediately. You’re probably in an at-will state. If you’re looking for a way to show compassion, meet with them individually on a Friday afternoon, and tell them, “We’re unhappy with your performance, chiefly because your behavior and demeanor lead us to believe that you’re under the influence of alcohol on the job. I’d like to give you the opportunity to resign right now, and we will not contest your application for unemployment.”

  12. Anonymous*

    I work in an office environment in the USA where people regularly drink during lunch and with clients. It’s actually just a part of the culture of our industry and people think nothing of it. However, we don’t drink until we are drunk and/or flushed and we don’t work in a warehouse environment. I would personally just sit the two down and explain to them why drinking is not acceptable in that workplace and how they will be fired if it continues. That’s decent behavior and fair warning.

  13. Mike C.*

    When you’re done firing them, fire yourself. The problem isn’t a few drinks, the problem is that when you noticed that they were visibly intoxicated you ignored it and your job.

    How in the hell could you even begin to allow senior employees to be visibly intoxicated on the job? Does workplace safety mean absolutely nothing to you? Were there any accidents that you didn’t bother to mention? Has OSHA been by recently? Should they? Did you let them drive home in that condition as well?

    You are the damn general manager! Why the hell didn’t you do your job to protect the safety of your other employees? Do you not care if they make it home at the end of the day? Their families certainly do!

    12 to 18 months ago you could have actually sat them down to figure out what the hell is going on and to help them and yourself and your business. But no, you wussed out. You turned a blind eye. You simply didn’t care enough to do something about the issue. Then it got worse.

    This is your problem and you need to step up and take responsibility. Sit them down, lay out a strict plan about how things are going to go and the consequences for not following it. You owe it to them for spending the past 12 – 18 months approving of their behavior. That’s right – by not saying anything you basically said, “Yes, go right ahead and get blasted, that’s totally fine here!” Oh, and be sure to remove them from anything that might, oh, maim or kill other employees.

    Then write one for yourself.

  14. Any Town USA*

    Your comments about management introspection in this case are key, yet your lack of understanding with regard to valuable employees who gradually show signs of addiction (drinking on the job is a very late stage development) is where my attitude differs. Many highly sophisticated people struggle with this disease of the brain, and the science of the last (20) years is there to prove it is a disease and not a moral failing. Many companies, through their HR departments can offer discreet or direct assistance in helping these people get the right treatment for their illness. Imagine if we treated cancer patients the way we treat people who suffer from addiction.

    1. Jamie*

      From a legal standpoint an employee is covered under FMLA for substance abuse, the same as they would be for cancer.

      So if the employees in question had requested time off for treatment (up to the legal max of 12 weeks unpaid leave) the employer is legally required to honor that, as they would if the employee had cancer.

      However, it’s certainly not the company’s place to diagnose people based on their behavior. If the employee him/herself isn’t addressing the issue, why would any manager need to talk to them about treatment?

      Without a diagnosis and FMLA forms it’s just a workplace problem, regardless of the root cause – and that’s what the employer needs to address.

    2. fposte*

      Sure, addiction is a disease. But it doesn’t relieve the victim of the responsibility of dealing with it and its effects. It doesn’t have to be your fault to be your responsibility.

    3. Natalie*

      Having an addiction and even invoking FMLA to seek treatment does not protect an employee drinking on the job from the repercussions of that action.

      I think offering one or both of them the opportunity to enter treatment (if they are interested) and save their job would be compassionate, but it has to be done with the understanding that the drinking on the job will cease immediately and never happen again, and that the other performance issues are corrected when they return to work.

      1. Jamie*

        I totally agree – drinking on the job or even absences relating to the substance abuse is always inexcusable.

        I was just pointing out the lack of logic of suggesting that an employer address the issue of addition when the employee’s rights in regard to that are very finite. Aside from FMLA, when applicable, any substance abuse issues aren’t the employer’s concern – how behavior affects the business is.

    4. A. Nony Mouse*

      Addiction is not like cancer. The only way to help an addict is to drop the responsibility for their problem and the associated consequences for their behavior squarely on their shoulders and make them deal with it, the earlier the better. That doesn’t exclude compassion and offering to help them get treatment, but if you give them extra consideration the way you’d give a cancer patient, they will spin out the ‘treatment’ process forever. Biological basis or not, addicts think they can have their addiction and a normal life too, and recovery doesn’t happen until they’re disabused of that idea. The OP has done this pair no favors by (as far as we can tell) enabling this behavior for so long.

      1. Jamie*

        “Addiction is not like cancer.”

        Thank you – I really hate when people infer that addiction is analogous to having cancer.

        How much of addition is due to genetic predisposition is a question of debate for researchers – so I doubt we’re going to supply the answer here…but it’s still a disingenuous comparison.

        An alcoholic can choose each day not to drink – I think that’s actually the basis for the treatment many here are advocating. Treatment helps people learn to make the correct choices.

        My mom had cancer – she couldn’t chose to have cancer Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends and be cancer-free M-W-F. Losing her fight with that disease had nothing to do with choices – and there was no 12-step program that could have saved her life.

        Good people can have addictions – I am sure there is some merit to biology playing a role in the cravings…but you can’t compare the two in life and you certainly can’t expect any employer not to draw distinctions between the two situations.

        1. Mike C.*

          Lets be real here, alcohol addiction is a serious condition and doing something like going cold turkey has incredibly serious side effects often requiring the supervision of a doctor. It’s a real medical condition and saying that they can choose not to drink like we choose the color shirt we put on in the morning is not the case.

          These people are sick and need help, but in doing nothing they put others at risk.

        2. Dan Ruiz*

          Yes you are right. Addiction is not THE SAME as cancer, but it is much more like cancer than it is like loud gum chewing.

          Addicts have to fight to keep their addiction under control and they must be vigilant for the remainder of their lives.

    5. Mike C.*

      I assume you’re talking about my comment so if not, I apologize.

      First off, I’m angry because the first thing any responder knows about responding to someone who is possibly in trouble is to not endanger yourself or others in your actions. By not addressing these issues (specifically the apparent addiction problems), other employees are put at a distinct risk of harm. I’m concerned that someone is going to be hurt, and the dice have been rolled every day for 12 to 18 months. I never mentioned this in the light of addiction ==m oral failing; the moral failing is allowing others to be put at risk of life and limb.

      If you look at my advice, I don’t say to fire them right off the bat. I should have been more clear about a proactive approach and suggest that perhaps some FMLA (if it applies) or vacation time be taken off for some sort of treatment. Ideally I want these people to be healthier and if you visit here often I’m almost always on the side of the employees. Natalie has a great approach. But these plans can be implemented WITHOUT continually endangering other coworkers.

  15. Anonymous*

    Why is everyone so quick to come down so hard on the op? He didn’t come here to get reamed, he came for advice on how to fix the current situation. I’m sure he already knows he should have nipped it when it started.

    1. Nichole*

      Really? Does the OP know that? While I appreciate your compassion (we could all use a little more of that), the plan to tell the offenders that the owner noticed that they were drunk- a lot- and making the OP sound like a hero for “buying them a little more time,” and then firing them, sounds like further evidence that the OP’s default reaction is to pass the buck, followed up closely with deny deny deny as Plan B. It makes me suspect that this isn’t one incidence of really bad judgement, it’s part of a pattern of terrible management and if the OP wants to keep his/her own job, some introspection is in order. AAM was nice about it, but the OP could probably benefit from some of the straight talk in the comments as well. Hopefully writing here will be the beginning of a productive process of reevaluating him/herself along with the changes being instituted at the company. Start with handling this situation the way it should have been handled from the start, then go from there to keep something similar from getting this far out of control again. It’s important for bosses as well as employees to realize that no matter how essential someone’s job is, if they don’t act like it’s important to keep it, as my high school drama teacher always said, “You can be replaced.”

      1. Dude*

        “…the OP’s default reaction is to pass the buck, followed up closely with deny deny deny as Plan B…”

        Most of the managers around here have been very successful with this strategy :-P

    2. Mike C.*

      I’m coming down hard because the safety of other employees isn’t even on the OP’s radar. It should be the foremost concern.

      1. Dude*

        I got the impression the problem employees were paper pushers not likely to do much more harm than jamming the copier…

  16. Anonymous*

    Everything Mike C. said. All of it.

    But some additional points…if these people are drinking (to the point of visible intoxication every day) it’s an addiction and you, Mr. OP are the enabler. I’d actually put just as much responsibility on you for the problem (and perhaps even more disgust in your behavior than theirs). This has been going on for A YEAR AND A HALF?

    How can anyone with any sort of judgment sit idly by while people are getting wasted all day every day for a YEAR AND A HALF?!

    I’m completely appalled. I am a manager myself (and in HR to boot) but even as a bystander, I couldn’t sit and watch another employee do that for a YEAR AND A HALF.

    You clearly shouldn’t be managing. Anyone. Not even a small animal.

    Immediately rectify this using AAM’s advice and not for nothing, but if they hit a child on the way home from work and kill/maim them, their parents can come after the company and quite honestly, you for allowing it to happen given the amount of time you’ve known about it.

  17. Natalie*

    I generally agree with the rest of the commenters that you need to address this immediately. I wouldn’t worry too much about the procedures manual. I was hired at my current position after the abrupt departure of their only 2 administrative employees (in an office of 5) within weeks of each other. There was no policies and procedures manual, but anyone reasonably capable will figure it out. Hire a temp or two to handle the easy stuff and help you with the hard stuff. Hell, if you like the temp enough you can usually hire them from the temp agency. (That’s how I got my job.)

    All that said, I think you should consider that one or both of them may be struggling with alcoholism and may be ready to enter treatment. If that’s the case and they use their FMLA leave to enter a treatment facility, you may see real improvement when they get done. But using FMLA to enter treatment does not mean they get to drink on the job should they relapse!

  18. Laura*

    I think it may be past the time for this to happen at the OP’s workplace, but at my former workplace, we did allow an employee to attend rehab while keeping his position – as the FMLA leave mentioned before. He was a good employee with a bad problem. The OP could offer this option without necessarily diagnosing the employees. However, regardless of this, there still needs to be strong response to excessive drinking on the job and it needs to be immediate. Not only is it liability like others have said, it also creates an environment where “anything goes”. You can seriously expect other employees to stick to the rules and maintain work ethic when they see you allowing their colleagues run the show.

  19. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Minor note, but since the OP said this is a small company, it’s possible FMLA doesn’t apply to them (only kicks in when a company is 50 employees or more). Of course, smaller employers can choose to offer similar benefits if they want to.

    1. Anonymous*

      I was thinking exactly the same thing about the FMLA.

      Regardless of past mistakes, OP can only go forward in time. OP needs to meet with each employee and state that they need to get treatment, starting now, and that they are both on very unsteady ground. If you have a probationary period, put them on it. Require proof of treatment. If you haven’t already done this, you need to before you end their employment.

  20. Talyssa*

    I don’t think anyone else has mentioned it, but as soon as the OP talks to these people in any capacity, you can probably kind of kiss that “How To” book good bye (depending on how conscientious people are) — by the way that book is scaring the crap out of ALL your employees right now. Everyone knows what it means when your manager asks you to document HOW you do what you do.

    And if these people think they are being wronged (which they will, because as far as they know they are doing a great job) then you’re REALLY not going to get good documentation out of them. I think the best you can do is assure EVERYONE that they are not being fired, this book is just to do ..whatever thing you can think of that doesn’t involve firing people, then when your book is done, go talk to your 2 drinkers and let them know what aspects of their behavior are causing issues. Put them on a performance improvement plan or something. You kind of have to treat this like this is the first time you noticed the issues, because you haven’t ever told them that there WERE issues. Plus if you’re concerned about these people in a personal-life way, shouldn’t you give them a chance to turn it around?

    1. Ms. Nikki*

      “Everyone knows what it means when your manager asks you to document HOW you do what you do. ”

      On my last two jobs it meant I was doing a good job and I was just the person to document all my processes so we could have them for cross training or posterity or whatever. It also meant I could take a vacation without a million phone calls. I was not on my way out of the door in any respect.

      The VP almost wept when I left one job, not saying it because I think I’m so great. Just saying, if there’s not documentation, there should be, for a LOT of reasons.

      1. Talyssa*

        Yes, but that is a different situation. If documentation is a business as usual thing or something where your role is documenting then it is just part of your job – I have also had roles at my current job where I’m supposed to document everything I do, with the express purpose of using that as a way to transition as much as possible offshore (Although I guess its worth noting that in that case SOMEONE was probably losing their job, just not me).

        Or you get a new manager and they say “hey I want to document EVERYTHING!”

        But otherwise, if your manager of 2 years suddenly says “you know what, you should document your daily processes” and you’ve never had to do that before, and nothing management wise has changed (like a new owner or senior manager) then most people get worried, with good reason.

  21. b1tech*

    This was every self absorbed, self important, incompetent manager I ever had before owning my own company. If this manager was working for me I would have fired her before firing the 2 senior employees. Obviously they are both going through rough points in their life and while I don’t condone drinking on the job I do think that long time loyal employees deserve a fair chance. Unfortunately for them their manager is incompetent and I only have to point out 2 reasons why:

    1) She never confronted them straight on about their performance, attitudes, or drinking and has been essentially stewing and having closed door meetings with the owner about it for 18 months! Really, 18 MONTHS?! I’m sorry but my brain just can’t process this in the least.
    2) She has been managing them for HOW LONG and still doesn’t know how to effectively do their jobs or train someone else to do it? Now after all this time she is creating some stupid “How To Book”. Really?! Strap on your work boots and get in there and learn what your employees do! I don’t allow my managers to not know what or how their employees do their jobs. This is essential for effective management. Any manager that doesn’t do this is really just too lazy or feels it is beneath them and guess what they shouldn’t me managing. A tip for the owner – fire your GM, she is clearly incompetent at her job and resorts to blaming others in order to cover up her inadequacies.

    Clearly this manager needs to go back to where she belongs — A non management roll pushing paper in the basment because clearly she doesn’t understand the first thing about effective management.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Hooray for saying exactly what I was thinking. I was getting so furious reading the original post. Clearly the OP has no place in management, for all the reasons b1tech mentioned.

  22. Anonymous*

    It saddens me that so many of the comments are people taking out their own personal frustrations on the op. Anybody can point out the problem. And it gets really boring reading essentially the same comment. How about actually trying to find a solution?

    1. Mike C.*

      It saddens me that you can’t be bothered to actually read the responses because most of them actually contain solutions.

  23. Gina*

    As someone else stated, the OP came here for advice on handling a difficult situation. Many of the comments are valid but the demeaning statements are not productive for the OP. I hope those of you making the snide comments who are managers or HR professionals don’t actually talk to your staff in the same way you have responded to his question (i.e. he should not be managing a small animal).

    1. b1tech*

      While I understand your point I have to disagree. Honestly the OP is in desperate need of some tough love. All to often I have seen mangers get by with what can only be described as incompetent behavior merely to preserve their feelings. Here’s the deal — the world isn’t a bed of roses. My whole life I had managers who were incredibly tough on me some because they were jerks and others because they cared. In the end it made me successful as an employee and also in running my own company. And guess what I may not have a manager now but I do have clients and a client will almost NEVER sugar coat their feelings. A client just wants you to fix it. If this OP can’t handle the tough comments being dished out then it proves they are the problem. The ultimate solution here is for the manager to take a hard look at themselves and fix their deficient management style.

        1. b1tech*

          Obviously they have already made up their mind to fire the employees. The question of whether or not to tell them ahead of time is honestly pretty stupid. Really if it is that big of a problem then they should be fired right away. But this manager obviously doesn’t know how their 2 employees do their job and now because of their own laziness needs a “How To Manual”. Really the question in and of itself further proves that this manager is ineffective, indecisive, and self serving.

          If they actually cared about being an effective manager they would have asked a more open ended question like “how should I approach my employees about this?” or “what steps should i take prior to terminating them? (ie probation first or straight up termination)” I don’t feel for the OP in anyway because it is apparent that they aren’t even looking for a real solution just an “out”.

          Like Jamie said below really the best thing that can come out of this is that the manager takes some advice on actually how to manage or get out of management all together. Down the road if their behavior doesn’t change they will be facing the same problem with new subordinates. So the advice is to accept that they failed horribly in this situation and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

    2. Mike C.*

      I hope my comments regarding the safety of others wasn’t too snide for you. I’d hate to think that some tough words got in the way of a serious workplace accident.

      Maybe I’m just strange, but I like coming home with ten fingers and ten toes. I like staying healthy. I like that my family comes home in pretty much the same condition they left.

      Why don’t people like you take workplace safety seriously? What the hell is wrong with you?

    3. Jamie*

      It’s frustrating because for many of us this is a really familiar scenario – not the specifics of the drinking – but passive and ineffective management letting situations fester – without any regard for the employees who are picking up the slack for the mismanagement.

      The way it was phrased is such that it seems like his biggest question was does he give them a b.s. heads-up laying it on the owner, or blindside them after he gets them to churn out the documentation.

      I’m reading a lot of the frustration I’m feeling in the comments of others – and if he can take away from this that his current management style is not okay maybe some good can come of this.

      1. Not okay to disregard safety of co-workers or innocent motorists who have to share the workplace/roads with people half-lit.

      2. Not okay to let any significant management issue fester for 12-18 months with no regard for how this affects the company.

      3. Not okay to even consider lying to them about a heads up and being hands off about making the tough call to fire people.

      Being a manager generally comes with a price – making the hard calls and actually managing. If someone isn’t willing to do that then maybe they should hear it from a bunch of anonymous strangers on a forum before they hear it from their boss as they are being escorted out.

      If I were the owner of that company there would be three people getting exit paperwork over this. If the OP doesn’t lose his job over this, he should consider himself lucky and really look inward about making some changes or getting out of management.

  24. Anonymous*

    I must have missed the op stating the employees operated heavy equipment or that co workers were in danger somehow. And if you’re referring to them driving under the influence wouldn’t it be really easy just to take their keys away and make them take a cab home?

    1. Meredith*

      If people are showing up to work under the influence of anything – even if they have “desk jobs,” they are a danger to others. And that’s really not a difficult concept to grasp.

      1. Anonymous*

        Forgive me, but That doesn’t pass the logic test. That is, unless you say people at bars, restaurants and every other place where people drink are going into highly dangerous places.

        1. Anonymous*

          Then there really isn’t any hope for you. Being intoxicated at a place of work is a danger to yourself and others. Any other person on the planet would grasp that.

        2. Anonymous*

          Of course going into a bar where drinking is taking place is dangerous. Alcohol use significant increases the risk of violence, poor decision making, and the list goes on and on. But here’s the difference: When you come to work, you are reasonably expecting that you are in a safe environment. When you walk into a bar, you know that you are entering an establishment where the majority of people are intoxicated.

    2. Mike C.*

      Having intoxicated workers is a danger regardless of the job. I’m not sure why you have to be operating heavy machinery for this to be true.

      Sure, it might be easy to take the keys away from someone and make them take a cab home, but that wasn’t done either. Nothing was done. It doesn’t help the larger problem of the manager not doing their job.

    1. Anonymous*

      Of course going into a bar where drinking is taking place is dangerous. Alcohol use significant increases the risk of violence, poor decision making, and the list goes on and on. But here’s the difference: When you come to work, you are reasonably expecting that you are in a safe environment. When you walk into a bar, you know that you are entering an establishment where the majority of people are intoxicated.

    2. Grace*

      I think I can clarify how having employees with substance abuse problems can be dangerous. Despite their thinking that they can get the job done, they are impaired, make a ton of mistakes in their work, make mistakes in the work for clients, can’t communicate effectively due to alcohol/drugs, can’t listen properly to instructions and engage with co-workers, are sloppy,
      waste money, don’t care about the end product. Anyone who
      is clean and sober can see the impairments in work, work ethic, productivity, good work, etc.

  25. Angela C.*

    I have a feeling that the drinking is just the tip of the iceberg. Once these two employees are gone, there is bound to be more unpleasant discoveries.

    1. Suz*

      Maybe there will be more to add to the “disgusting desk finds” thread!

      Just thought a bit of levity might be a relief…

  26. Cary*

    The following assumes alcoholism has been medically diagnosed and this isn’t simply a case of alcohol abuse.

    In BC alcoholism is considered a disability and as such you can’t discriminate on the basis of a alcohol addiction and must attempt to accommodate their addiction. However it doesn’t mean that the ER has to tolerate repeated incidents of intoxication or repeated absences. What it does mean is you must give the ER time and the opportunity to sort themselves out. However ultimately if their behavior does not improve you can fire them for cause. Since this manager has chosen to ignore the EE’s behavior and has failed to provide any kind of accommodation (say time off to seek treatment) they can be taken to the BC Human Rights Tribunal for breach of the human rights act and failure to accommodate.

    1. Natalie*

      I’m not sure about Canada, but in the US you have to self-disclose if you require accommodation. I don’t know if you have to tell your employers the details, but you definitely have to directly inform them that you require accommodation.

  27. Charles*

    man, oh, man. AAM, remind me to never send you an email asking for help if I am a manager ’cause I would get so b*tch slapped by commenters here! (AAM, do drinking posts bring out the violence in folks?)

    Yes, the OP is at fault for not mentioning this problem sooner; however, NO ONE, and I mean, NO ONE is responsible for those two drunks being drunk except those two drunks.

    As far as the OP is concerned, she needs to do exactly as AAM says, choice 1 or choice 2; there is no choice 3.

    But do NOT give warning, for “compassionate reasons,” that they will be fired. That is just cruel. If she does warn them not to commit financially or otherwise, what does she except them to do? Sit their and twiddle their thumbs just waiting for the axe to fall?

    The OP needs to think about the safety of other employees – without really being there I cannot say for sure; but I would not really want a couple of drunks still coming into work AFTER they’ve been told they will be fired in due time. If she does this, will we read about the OP’s office in the news soon?

  28. Anonymous*

    B1tech and Mike- Just what I was thinking! I defintely agree that the two senior employees deserve their fair chance. They are obviously going through some tough time thus not making the best choices. I think you should only fire someone if a warning was already given but with no improvement – but to fire them without a warning is just blah. I just dont understand people like that. How would you feel if the owner blind sided you and fired you on the spot for letting this matter get to this point (12-18 months to decide you need to do something- thats a laugh). So far it seems as if this GM just has an issue with the two employees- hence “It’s time to move on with some fresh blood.” Why would you want to kick good and loyal employees to the curb? I can’t help, but to shake my head at this GM.

    1. Maddy*

      Oh and one more thing.. I don’t see anywhere in the post does the GM mention that their drinking has effected their job performance. The GM talks about how it’s inapproriate (which it is), but does not mention that it hinders their performance…. so again why would she want to fire them if she hasnt even talked with them about the issue.. Still shaking my head. I just dont get it.

    2. Liz in a library*

      Under normal circumstances, I completely agree. A good manager, when she sees a performance problem, will immediately address it and lay out steps for corrective action to be taken by the employee. Good managers don’t allow employees to be blindsided by a firing.

      However, there are some behaviors that are serious enough as to warrant immediate termination: physical violence, theft of any sort, willful endangerment of customers and colleagues, etc. In my workplace at least, showing up drunk to work would fall into the last category.

  29. Katie*

    Talking to the employees about their behavior and corrective action shouldn’t even be a question. While it should have happened months ago, I don’t see why anyone would recommend letting such behavior continue even just for a few weeks. Talk to your employees. Lay out corrective action. If there is even a fraction of a slip, let them go.

    Honestly, I’m sort of confused about why the owner of the company and the OP think it’s necessary to wait until they fire them to address these issues. As far as I’m concerned, this is a terrible way to manage people. You don’t like the way someone is performing, and instead of addressing it and basing further decisions on whether the employee takes corrective action, you just wait until you get completely fed up with it and fire them without any prior warning? I’m glad I don’t work for this company. It sounds like a total nightmare.

    Out of curiosity: is this company doing any sort of regular performance reviews, for the employees *and* for management? My guess is no, and if this guess is correct, OP needs to work with the owner of the company to get this put in place IMMEDIATELY.

  30. Anon*

    Just a thought… There are some illnesses like diabetes that can cause breathe to have an alcohol like smell. In my last job we had a strict reasonable suspicion drug test policy because we had a lot of people that drove company vechicles. We breathe tested one person for the “symptoms” the OP listed and it turned out they had uncontrolled diabetes (which the person didn’t know they had either) and were not intoxicated at all. If you are going to fire these employees, I think it would be worthwile to prove they actually were drinking on the job through something like a breathe test. It can be easy to jump to conclusions and get all worked up about perceptions without having the whole story. Especially if their behavior or performance hasn’t changed (which is different then being unreceptive to new changes).

    1. Liz*

      Good point – it’s just such a weird situation to have a manager convinced, for a year and a half, that employees are drinking on the job, but he/she makes absolutely no move to find out for sure?

  31. Anonymous*

    After reading all of the comments I’d love to hear from the OP.. what did you decide to do and how has it worked out (for all concerned).


  32. Anonymous*

    I am having a similar problem, i employe my step dad and every second day of the week he come’s in stinking of drink . He turns up at eight in the morning for work and you can still smell it till late afternoon.I know he drinks till 5am when he does, then thinks it exeptable to just turn up for work stinking of alcohol. I work dealing with customers on a regular basis and they are starting to notice, also its starting to make my blood boil , i am a respectable person but fear he is bringing me down.

      1. Anonymous*

        I have given him his last warning but its a nightmare being family and all that, i am pretty young and this is my first business, which is doing pretty well apart from this situation. I was basicly looking for info on how to deal with this in a professional manner.

        1. Grace*

          A suggestion: So why don’t you look up Al-Anon, which is for the family and friends of those impacted by someone else’s drinking, and go there to get some support.

  33. Anonymous*

    or should i just wait for the last slip up and fire him which to me would be a great sye of relief .

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh. Family businesses — they terrify me for exactly this type of reason. Yeah, I’d do one warning (if you haven’t already) and then fire him if it continues.

  34. Anonymous*

    No problem thats what i had in mind,but its sometimes better hearing it from someone else thank you

  35. Anonymous*

    I personally would want to fire them for even coming to work smelling of Alcohol. But I would find out how you stand regarding unfair dismissal, not to mention health and safety.

  36. Tony The Bartender*

    Hi.I’m Tony and I’m a bartender and a local shot & beer joint and I drink everynight on the job plus I get paid well making out in tips. The owner doesn’t mind as long as there is no slip ups which I never do. I start my shift at 6pm and start hitting the draft beer around 8pm and then switch to vodka & Sprites around 9:30pm and by the time 2am rolls around, I’m pretty drunk but I managed to stock, the bar,clean up,count the money and I still get it all done right. Even the owner says I do an amazing job. So you see, drinking on the job in my profession is ok. Thats why I love my job.

  37. Sel*

    I was drinking in the job last week passed out was hospitalized. Now i am on admin leave waiting for my fate.
    Noone drinks without a reason. I have been dealing with a lot of problems, have no support system, no family , just moved into a new area, no friends, and i just lost it. We are humans, we all screw up sometimes. Getting rid of employees for screwing is not going to help the situation. That employee is going to get more depressed and maybe commit suicide. It is so easy to judge for you all but try to be a little more understanding. Alcoholism is a disease, by far not a choice. Trust me.

    1. Grace*

      @Sel, Go to the rooms of Alcholics Anonymous. There you will find support and friends. Yes, people have problems. But we’re not doing them any favors when we enable them with their addictions. Getting put on probation from a job or fired may be a “wake up” call that someone needs to get clean and sober. An employee with a substance abuse problem may commit suicide. They also may drive drunk and kill or maim someone too. They also are much more likely to commit suicide if they keep drinking. Facing the natural consequences of their drinking/drug problems is one of the most important things you can do for them. It’s called “raising the bottom”. Best wishes.

  38. G2*

    Seems real easy to me – if they are USA citizens then fire them immediately.
    The Chinese will pick up failures in company / business/ manufacturing.
    Tell them begging bowls are of Chinese manufacture and origin – Walmart sell them, McD’s and all other fast food places give them free with a soda!
    Fire them, they have earned the liberation from employment.

  39. David R*

    I’ve been at my place of work for 7 months now, and I’ve noticed some disturbing behavior from the people in the office including the owner of the company. The owner and most of the supervisors and office staff will go to the bar for a few hours at a time and come back loaded its really starting to bother me. Its unsafe and unprofessional, and everyone in our shop knows that they are drinking on the job but no one does anything about it. I don’t know what I can do? I don’t want to see a co-worker get injured on the job or get in an accident on the drive home but being at the bottom of the totem pole I feel like there is nothing I can do.

  40. Eurkie Man*

    I have worked with an individual that was drinking on the job for 14 years and got his 3rd DUI couple years ago only to receive his 8th promotion to a Sr. Mgr. because he has made the right friends and has a military background. This individual would have 7-8 pints at lunch. Supposedly after his accident he has been clean but other employees state rumors that he has been drinking again.

  41. Grace*

    It is well worth its weight for businesses to join their state’s
    Chamber of Commerce, since most have excellent human
    resources tools available, websites, checklists, stores for ordering(employee handbooks, sexual harassment and discrimination training, legally required pamphlets and posters, information on how to deal with leaves, substance abuse, workplace violence, etc.). My state’s Chamber of Commerce even has employment attorneys for members to consult with about employment-related problems.
    Plus very good webinars too.

  42. Fedup*

    What actions can you take if the owner boss drinks, supplies and encourages this behavior during operating business hours? There are those of us who do not participate who have to hear the office get loud when the truck drivers come in and finish shift who get loud, hang around the building drinking or outside drinking. People have even been fired for their alcoholism getting in the way but the boss encourages and allows it even buys it for them. I think its unprofessional and ridiculous. They get to play and get excused a lot of the time when us others are stuck working, should we be allowed to call it a day at 3:00 opposed to 5 as well? Regardless if they are on the clock or not can’t this be addressed – take happy hour somewhere else? What can HR do if its the boss?

  43. joe smith*

    I’m an employee being accused of drinking on the job. No breathalyzer was taken and the company took five days to approach me on the situation. Can they fire me?

  44. Alex*

    This sounds like a dependency issue has developed for both of them. If this is making you feel like that, what about their close family and children. This makes me sad as I came from an Alcoholic mother and saw her lose jobs when she was very good at her high end position. It is a mental disease. You wouldn’t sack someone for cancer, hiv or post natal depression. You could argue the guy smoked – got cancer. the woman was a bit easy and got HIV and the woman had a babe……they are all medical issues,

    They must have been good people at one point. Support them and get them out of this mental lock and reliance that they have gained. They lose their jobs, their home and their world wont be anyone else’s fault but their own, but if one person can try to help and succeed, maybe you have an employee for life, who will always respect what you did. Corporate social management is not just about the environment, its about how a company can also relate to humanity, with all its flaws.

    It also makes me glad not to hire those who would take these jobs without thinking of the other side of the coin and the affects such callus comments that can instigate in a group of people traits of hate.

  45. Art greene*

    Two employees were recently fired for distributing payroll information to the entire staff. A sister to one of these who also works at my office, and understands why her sister was fired, started to talk about serious issues in my business that I am unaware of.
    I would like some advise on my dilemma and also am asking for legal consequences I am be facing as an employer.
    What occurred took place on a Sunday when my business is closed, however the staff does work on this day. Apparently my office manager decided to have a painting party, without my permission. She or some others brought alcohol into my business and several members of my staff drank, which is bad enough, but 2 minors below the age of 21 (minors in florida) we’re permitted to drink. One became drunk and was driven home.
    In my opinion many violations took place, aside from the fact of bringing alcohol into my business. As a business owner what are the possible consequences I could face regardless or the fact that I was unaware that this behavior took place.
    Since we fired 2 employees for breach of confidentiality, is there not a double standard if I do not take action against my office manager for permitting alcohol in the business which is against office policy. One other question, in florida there are blue laws about selling alcohol before a certain time on Sunday, does offering alcohol before this time
    to others who did not solicit the drink constitute an illegal act as well?

    1. Mike*

      Go to an attorney if you have alcohol questions, they vary from State to State and in some states county by county.

      You do not have to fire everyone you don’t want to, sometimes a final warning and making someone not eligible for a bonus/incentive pay is enough consequence.

  46. Melinda*

    Thank you so much for your advice! I have an employee with a drinking problem and you have given me the strength and belief to deal with it! She is friend unfortunately and I will have to deal with that too. Thank you sincerely,

  47. Drvannostran*

    Sounds like this company needs a new GM……and I’m kinda thinkin that the one employee’s marriage problems might kinda possibly be associated with his alcoholism…kinda maybe

  48. Deborah*

    I just want to say, before I did any research on the disability of alcoholism I did not have much patience for those that drank . I thought it was just an excuse and that they should grow up and take life’s challenges just like the rest of us.. However, it is a disease, most are inherited from childbirth and that once faced with life’s challenges and alcoholic is unable to deal with his stress and anxiety attacks so the only medicine is alcohol…… They are unable to understand the effects it has on their own lives and the jeopardy it puts their loved ones in.. Not until they seek help… Allowing an employee to drink , the employer needs to address this issue immediately…. and offer help … as a good will gesture for reasonable accommodation… The liability is too great and the business needs suffer as well as not treating the other employees who do not drink the same ….. IF the alcoholic refuses to complete a program than the employer has no other choice than to fire the employee.. for liability reasons…. BUT if the employee adheres to a rehab program the employer should have the right to address a last right issue so the alcoholic knows the importance of doing the right thing at work. Trust me < I live with an alcoholic, he lost his job, the employer could care less if he got help or not , even after he asked for help…. SO these employees should appreciate an employer that is willing to give them a chance to help themselves……..

  49. Mike*

    You had plenty of time to 1.) speak about a downward trend in performance 2.) learn about their jobs or have cross-functional training of other employees.

    I wonder why the owner is keeping you, you are not a leader.

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