my boss is a raging alcoholic

A reader writes:

A friend of mine has a situation that has left me bewildered, so we’re coming to you for help. He works as an administrative assistant for a very large, successful company, but his boss is a raging alcoholic. He goes out at lunch three or four times a week and comes back absolutely hammered. I’m not talking a few drinks over a meeting; I’m talking so drunk that everyone knows and gossips about it. The worst part is that he drives home every night, and there is just no way he is fit to get behind the wheel.

Not only is he an alcoholic, but he comes in late every morning, takes four-hour lunches, and leaves a lot of his high-level responsibilities to my friend to complete. He has also missed numerous meetings with staff and clients, and has even come back to meet with them wasted (slurring words/smelling heavily of it/lots of giggling). They do actually have a stellar relationship and my friend loves the boss, but it’s getting to the point that the absenteeism/drunkenness is really bogging him down. The boss’s boss has turned a blind eye to it, so he has gotten away with this behavior for quite some time now. Finally, HR is involved in this in the sense that they are drinking buddy’s with the boss, so there is no point in even going to HR about it.

What should he do? He loves his job, and isn’t going to quit over it, but there really doesn’t seem to be anyone else he could really go to (except maybe the CEO, which would be the level above the boss that is turning a blind eye).

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. NJ Anon*

    I’m sorry but your friend needs to call the police the next time this guy gets behind the wheel while drunk. People’s lives are in danger.

    1. Rainy, PI*

      This. You can and should call the police to report drunken driving when you know it’s happening. If nothing else, getting thrown in the drunk tank and having his license pulled might be just the slap in the face he needs to realize he needs to get help.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Getting help wouldn’t even cross my mind – he should be thrown into jail for a long time.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Juuust coming on here to say that.

      This is way beyond the point where your friend needs to worry about “tattling” or how it might affect the manager: The manager does not have the right to endanger the rest of us. Report that sucker.

        1. Bibliovore*

          two friends of mine were killed by a drunk driver with numerous DWIs, the horror of this was compounded by a trial in which they were blamed for not wearing seat belts in the back of cab. Take down his license plate and call the police the next time you observe that he is intoxicated and gets into a vehicle to drive.

          1. Artemesia*

            Me too. When I was in college the 19 year old brother of my best friend and the uncle he was driving with were killed when a drunk driver crossed the center line into their car. 19. No one should ever stand by while someone they know is driving drunk; if he won’t take a cab, call the cops. If you worry about your job if you speak up, just go ahead and call the cops without speaking to them.

        2. Tiffin*

          A family friend’s son got drunk at a party, did the responsible thing and called someone sober to pick him up, and then was killed when a drunk driver ran into them.

          Absolutely call the cops.

    3. dawbs*

      I have called with make, model, route and lic# (or whatever information close to that I have). The police are helpful, and sometimes that’s a wake up call.
      If nothing else, it *might* be a wake up call on the driving part of it–even if it doesn’t change anything else

    4. OrphanBrown*

      This would be my first move. I’m not sure I’d want to work for a company that turned a blind eye to this, so on that note I would also look for another job.

      1. Lehigh*

        Yep, that’s what I came here to say. He can try to reason with him first if he wants, but the next time that dude gets behind the wheel drunk the cops need to be on his tail.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Same here–I can’t stand it when people are like, “I have this problem [insert absolute lunacy here] and it’s driving me crazy but I really like the situation!” I’m like, WHAT THE HELL.

        It’s gone beyond the boss just having a huge quirk. It’s also affecting that job he loves so much. Run, run like the wind.

    5. pope suburban*

      Yuuuup. I mean, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t feel a gnawing in my stomach if I had to call the police about my boss drunk driving, but that I would do that is a foregone conclusion. There are things more important than keeping my boss happy.

    6. Caro in the UK*

      If he’s driving home drunk every night then it’s a case of when, not if, he gets into an accident. Best case scenario he only hurts himself. Worst case… I don’t even want to think about it.

      As other commenters have said, your friend can call anonymously. And given that everyone at work seems to know, it’s unlikely to come back to your friend when he does get pulled over, so it shouldn’t put his job in danger.

    7. Steve*

      If you are going to call the police for someting you know ahead of time is going to happen then tell the guy first. Say to him you will report him if you see him get into his car drunk. Be direct instead of behind the back.

      1. KellyK*

        I don’t think you owe someone who’s knowingly doing something illegal and dangerous a heads-up that you’re going to call the police, particularly when they’re you’re boss and have the ability to fire you. For a friend, neighbor, or someone else who doesn’t have huge amounts of power over you, I think this is good advice.

        1. Steve*

          In the update, they did call the police and nothing happened. So in addition to being the right thing (in my opinion), being direct might have been more effective. Who knows though. It was a tough situation.

          I had a disagreement here yesterday, where the preson wasn’t obligated to do someting. I think (and it is my thinking only) that I would want to do beyond obligation and treat others as if I was in that situation. I do understand what you wrote and don’t disagree, just think something different.

      2. pope suburban*

        The thing is, the guy in question is the boss, who is entirely capable of firing the OP in a drunken fit of anger. While I know that OP would have a pretty good chance of appealing the firing with the higher-ups, or getting unemployment (and possibly filing suit for wrongful dismissal, though IANAL), that’s not something that anyone wants to go through. Plus, it’s not a big secret that drunk-driving is illegal and dangerous; I’d argue that the boss has had ample warning and chooses to do it anyway. I mean, I see your point, but the power dynamics at play here do kind of change things.

      3. LBK*

        I’m in agreement with the other responders. If this were a friend or a family member I might agree that the right thing to do would be to at least give them a warning, but I think the power dynamic here gives you a pass on that.

      4. aebhel*

        I disagree. If it’s a friend or relative, sure, but the boss has the power to fire you. There’s no moral obligation on the part of the OP’s friend to risk his job in order to give a drunk driver the benefit of the doubt.

      5. Artemesia*

        That puts his job at risk. Yeah tell your father that, or your best friend, but this boss does this all the time. No one owes him a warning. And it is a risk to the OP.

      6. Turquoise Cow*

        Problem is that not only is he the boss, he’s also drunk and therefore not thinking rationally. Maybe he’s an angry drunk who threatens to fire his employee, or maybe he just giggles insanely. Maybe he’ll reply with something contrary, like “well I’m going to speed also so there!!” and makes the situation worse.

        If the boss is really as drunk as described, talking to him, especially as a subordinate, probably won’t have any effect and might make things worse.

        I don’t know if I would call the police, but if I did, I wouldn’t tell the boss first.

      7. INTP*

        If it’s a friend then I agree with this, but with someone that has power over you, you don’t owe them that warning. OP could stay anonymous if she reports it secretly, but there is no way to do so if she threatens first. And while OP has a good relationship with the boss now, that could literally change instantly through something like this – addicts don’t tend to maintain good rapport with people that stop enabling them.

      8. FiveWheels*

        He has repeatedly and unrepentantly committed a serious crime and will continue to do so. He doesn’t deserve anything other than handcuffs.

        The alcoholism is a complete red herring. I know more than one alcoholic who chooses not to drive.

        1. Charisma*

          Seriously this. There are alcoholics everywhere who make good decisions everyday by consciously choosing the path of least harm. They know what they may be doing hurts themselves, but they still go out of their way to lesson the harm they may cause others. Not everyone under the umbrella of Alcoholism is a horrible person who drives drunk and beats their spouse and children or gets black-out drunk, etc. (fill in any other alcoholism trope here) It is a very nuanced disease. And people should be held accountable for their criminal actions regardless of their state of sobriety.

          And if the police ignore you the first time, keep calling him in. I bet you they will eventually get the hint that this guy is a continual menace to society when they realize that he isn’t doing this just once in a while but on a regular basis. (And maybe take some video documentation or something to backup your story to prove you aren’t making crank calls).

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Definitely, a person can be a hard core drinker and choose not to drive after some drinks.

    8. Specialk9*

      Yes. Call the police, with his license plate number. This guy could kill someone, any day.

    9. Don't Dead Open Inside*

      This. I am firmly I the opinion that anyone who turns a blind eye to Dru k driving is just as at fault if an accident occurs. If he kills someone because he was driving drunk and you knew about it? You are partially responsible for that death. That may sound harsh and sensational. But you had the chance to stop it and chose to do nothing, knowing full well what could so easily happen.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        No, it is not sensational or overly dramatic whatsoever. This is far from a “not my business” type situation. The OP’s boss is the one making it the business of everybody who is unfortunate to have to share the road with him or reside/work on his routes.

    10. Wintermute*

      This is an old letter, and I think your comment is illustrative, because if I recall the letter writer’s update says he did, but the police were never able to do anything about it.

      People always say “just call the police” as if it’s going to be a 100% solution but frankly, the police are rarely effective, and that goes double in ambiguous circumstances and quadruple where risk factors (being a minority, in any sense, being economically disadvantaged, etc).

  2. Hannah*

    When the boss leaves in his car drunk, call the cops, give the approximate location and license plate. He’s likely to kill someone. I believe this can be done anonymously.

    Other than that, I don’t think there’s much one can do. If “boss gets arrested for drunk driving on the way home from work” doesn’t create any movement at the workplace to do something about this, I doubt anything will.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      This. Ansolutely. I would do this in a heartbeat–couldn’t live with myself otherwise, especially if he took someone’s life.

    2. Erin*

      Agreed. One it’s moral, what if he kills someone. Also, If his boss’s boss find out he’s hammered driving home from work, because he got a DWI, it’s obvious he’s drunk on company property while on the clock and they may do something about it without getting OP involved.

  3. SSS*

    The boss’s boss might not know he’s driving home drunk. That needs to be stressed to the upper management. Then if nothing is done, the police MUST be notified.

    1. Rainy, PI*

      Almost right: tell upper management now that boss is driving drunk after his six martini lunches, AND call police the next time he gets behind the wheel drunk.

      1. anonimal*

        Yep. Both. This is a moral obligation and the rest of the world, and even the drunk boss eventually, will thank you.

        1. KTZee*

          > and even the drunk boss eventually, will thank you.

          While of course we’d like to believe this to be true, I wouldn’t bet the house on it. Don’t bother telling yourself “They’ll thank me eventually” as justification for making this kind of choice – just do it because it’s the right thing to do.

  4. Tammy*

    I had a consulting client like LW’s friend’s boss once, and it was awful. We had multiple conference calls that got cancelled because Fergus had come back from lunch and was passed out unconscious on the floor under his desk. He engaged in all manner of inappropriate behavior, including having sex workers come to the office after 5pm on Fridays to provide their services to the project team. And on at least one occasion, I watched him get behind the wheel and drive home, after consuming an amount of alcohol that left him slurring his words and staggering to his car. Ultimately, his alcoholism caused him to lose the contract I was consulting on, and shortly thereafter he declared bankruptcy (leaving $15,000 in consulting fees to me, and close to $100,000 in consulting fees to other project team members, uncollectible.)

    LW, your friend needs to start looking for another job. Talking to the CEO might help, but either way, your friend doesn’t want to be in the blast radius when all this catches up with his boss.

    1. Tammy*

      One more thing I wanted to say: my comment should in no way be perceived as shaming or judging sex workers. I have friends who earn a living that way, and I don’t judge…but bringing sex workers into the workplace isn’t appropriate, any more than duck club was appropriate. :-)

    1. neeko*

      Completely disagree. It’s certainly case by case but there absolutely are ways to support someone with an addiction that aren’t enabling.

        1. neeko*

          Yes, really. I’m a recovering alcoholic that got here with the support of friends and family. I absolutely got tough love and hard truths but no one threw me away.

          1. Ashie*

            Glad you’re in recovery, and glad to hear you had people helping you get better. Alcoholics (recovering or otherwise) deserve love and friendship just like everyone else.

        2. IrishUp*

          I understand why many people have this kind of belief, but it reflects very outdated thinking on the nature of addictions, and what kinds of interventions are helpful and possible. Including the old “want to get help” canard, which is a primary assumption first formulated by Freud, that has not been borne out by evidence when applied to many serious mental health diagnoses, including addiction.

          Evidence-based treatment of addictions is possible, and friends and family members can absolutely make supportive contributions, without further rewarding (“enabling”) maladaptive addiction-related behaviors. Motivational interviewing techniques and “invited interventions” (like the “ARISE” method) are two validated methods for helping a person with entrenched destructive behaviors.

          1. Astor*

            Yup. The idea that you must ‘help’ someone reach rock-bottom is really outdated, considering how much evidence we have that support and community can help mitigate a lot of the problems associated with addiction.

            There are cases where you have to leave for your own health. I certainly think that constantly hiding that someone is struggling, ignoring risks of danger, and taking their responsibilities on for yourself are often enabling. And it’s hard, so I understand why people struggle to do so. But ensuring that someone is safe and loved with personalized support is something that’s been proven to be not only kind, but effective for a lot of addicts.

        3. LBK*

          I haven’t dealt with addiction but speaking as someone who went through treatment for other mental health issues, just getting to the point that I was ready to accept help was a process that I couldn’t have done without the support of others. If they’d abandoned me up front years before I finally got into therapy, I’d never have gotten there.

      1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

        And I disagree with your disagreement in this circumstance. This isn’t a personal relationship; the OP’s friend’s reputation and livelihood are in the hands of the addict. If he were truly in a friendship, it might be something to consider, but in this type of situation, I agree that ongoing support is completely unreasonable to ask or expect of the employee. That leaves enabling (continuing to cover and not call the police) or leaving.

        1. neeko*

          Liz2 made a blanket statement about addiction. It was not specific to the circumstance.

          1. Liz2*

            Good point, although I think my statement has merit, it should not be so blanketly conveyed.

            Rather to say- either the addict is seeking active recovery, or I will remove myself from the situation. I am glad there are addicts who used support to make better choices, but I won’t stick around if active progress is not being made.

            1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

              And I don’t think it would be fair to imply you should stick around. Some people may be equipped emotionally and socially to be this type of support, but I don’t believe most people are, and they shouldn’t be judged for correctly assessing their own abilities and needs.

            2. seejay*

              it’s a choice that each person has to make for themselves, based on the addict, the level of addiction, the current consequences of the addiction on friends and family, and what people close to the addict are capable of handling (mentally, emotionally and physically)… and it’s a choice that no one else can make, nor can be made in a bubble or with a blanket statement, including “staying with an addict is enabling the behaviour”. Each situation is unique, what works for one might not work for another. What some people are capable of handling others might not be able to.

              My mother started drinking again *for some really dumb reasons* after over 20 years of being sober. Because she’s an adult and my sister and I weren’t about to tell her what she could and couldn’t do (even if we thought it was wrong), we let her make her own choices and decisions, although we did voice hesitation and concerns. Then we sat back and waited and watched. I got the brunt of her bad behaviour when she essentially went back to drinking almost daily. She’d get drunk over anything that pissed her off, annoyed or frustrated her, but she felt that was a normal reaction because everyone else in the family drank (ie, my sister and I). Except we didn’t drink when we were upset, nor every day, or in the amounts she did. And we didn’t call anyone up and start yelling and acting belligerent.

              We staged an intervention after two months of this poor behaviour and told her that if she didn’t stop outright, we wouldn’t be coming around because we weren’t going to tolerate her acting like this. She didn’t have to hit rock bottom and fortunately she had enough background of AA and her previous sobriety to recognize that what we were telling her was true that it was a fast wakeup call and she knew we were telling her the truth and there were serious consequences.

              The thing is, she’d already hit bottom 20 years earlier. She didn’t need a bottom again, but this kind of intervention wouldn’t work on someone else probably. The point is: we knew how to approach it and what we needed to do specifically to handle this situation. It likely wouldn’t work for others.

    2. PhyllisB*

      Liz, I agree with you. Or make them leave/shut them out. Having had all three of my children get addicted to drugs. Three different children, three different approaches. My youngest got addicted to Loritab. Her wake-up call was when she got arrested for shop-lifting and spent 10 days in jail. She went on her own and got help. The only thing she asked of us was keeping the grands while she went to meetings. She is clean and sober for over three years now. My middle child got addicted to Zanax (I know I’m spelling these wrong, I’m too lazy to find a dictionary.) He got arrested for possession of Morphine tablets, and trying to resist arrest. Got charged with a felony. He went to jail. We told him we would hire an attorney but he would have to get treatment. He agreed so we hired an attorney who managed to get him ordered to drug court. If he stays clean for five years, charges will be dropped. If not, he’s facing up to 15 years in federal prison. Well, he screwed around, wouldn’t go to court, skipped out on his drug tests…finally a deputy came and took him to jail for non-compliance. He spent a month in jail that time, and the judge agreed to give him a second chance if he would go for treatment. He agreed, so when we picked him up we took him straight to re-hab where he was to spend 90 days (with Sunday afternoon passes to come home.) Well, on day 87 he was home for a pass and managed to get his hands on something, and of course was kicked out. I was done then but my husband said give him another chance. He started trying to sneak around and do stuff like spice that doesn’t show on the tests they give. By this time I was REALLY done. I didn’t care what his dad said, I told him if we was going to live like that, to pack up and leave because I was not going to stand by and watch him kill himself. He finally did, and is doing fine now, he will be through with his drug court obligations in less than a year.
      Our oldest daughter was addicted to meth. She wasn’t living with us so did not realize how bad she was until DHS got involved (she has four kids.) We agreed to take the children but told her she was on her own. We would allow her to come for the day to see the kids, but not stay at the house. We didn’t know what she was on, she kept denying she was “doing anything” but every time she came to the house she would steal money and a couple of times, my credit card. The straw that really broke this camel was when she managed to find/steal my credit card the THIRD TIME I said that’s it. Do not come around, do not call, you can’t see the kids until you get help. That was the saddest Christmas of my life. That January she called me and told me she was ready to get help. It’s been nearly two years and she is clean, sober, and working at a rehab center training to be a drug addiction counselor.
      I realize that none of this has to do with this person and his boss, but seeing these comments and especially about “loving them through it” made me want to speak up. We tried loving our kids through it, and of course we never quit loving them; but sometimes love and emotional support don’t work.

      1. Working Rachel*

        Holy crap, your family has been through a lot, and it sounds like you and your husband have handled it all admirably. So glad there are people like you in the world!

      2. neeko*

        I think the point that I and others have been trying to make is that every situation is different. Very happy that your kids are in recovery now. I know dealing with addiction is incredibly hard. Best wishes to your family.

        1. PhyllisB*

          I want to thank everyone for the kind comments. It was a really hard time for all of us. Things are much better now. I have learned a lot about addiction, and I know addicts can never declare themselves “cured.”

          I believe my girls have a good shot at making a go of it, but I’m still not 100% sure about my son. He’s sober now, but he doesn’t go to meetings, and I know that’s where a lot knowledge/support comes from. When he finishes drug court, who knows?

  5. Snark*

    It’s time for the band to strike up that old-time classic: the Your Boss Sucks and Isn’t Going to Change Blues.

  6. starfire13*

    I don’t think it’s that easy to go up to your boss and stop him from driving drunk. Doesn’t Allison always mention power dynamics? I’d be afraid of getting fired if I tried to stop my boss and/or control his behaviour, especially on the clock.

    Just call the cops.

  7. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Your friend needs to get out. No matter how much he loves his job or feels loyalty to his boss he needs to go. I worked for an alcoholic once and saw it all go south multiple times. Each time I thought it would be the one to wake him up. It wasn’t. This behavior is not only hard on the office but it will take its toll on your friend.

  8. Fleeb*

    If you friend is performing the boss’s high level work, maybe he should try to find a job where that type of work is part of the description. He could potentially get a bump in pay and a better title, with the added bonus of having a better boss.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Also, the fact he is covering for his boss so well could be one reason why this craziness has been able to continue.

  9. Mythea*

    I want a follow up to this – Did we ever hear back from the Letter Writer or the friend?

      1. (another) b*

        Yeah but did anyone ever call the cops? Even after it all happened I would still call in a tip with his plate number and car model; because even though he was fired he is probably still drunk driving somewhere.

        1. Kyrielle*

          The update says they did call the cops, before his firing, and that nothing happened as a result as far as they know.

  10. Carin S.*

    I had a boss who was exactly like this boss… a year before I started working for him. His boss came to him and said, “Sober up or get fired.” And he took option A. So it is possible, and to bosses out there who’d rather look the other way, please don’t. You could be the kick on the pants your employee needs.

    1. Artemesia*

      I worked with someone who was a tenured professor who would show up for class drunk, miss class, but mostly kind of rocked along. The dean told him that he could either go to rehab, which the university paid for, or they would start the process of firing him. He chose rehab, it was successful. He and his wife had a second child and they were both very grateful for the moment he was told to shape up or be fired. It transformed his life and his marriage. It is astonishing that a boss allows one of his managers to behave like this.

      1. fposte*

        I worked in a corporation where they did much the same thing for a guy there. He was a very nice guy, very low key, and the company handled it really well and discreetly; I only pieced it together later on.

      2. Mephyle*

        And yet, not so astonishing that the boss allowed one of his managers to behave like this since there were no consequences for the company or the boss, with OP’s friend working extra to fill the gaps and alcoholic manager remaining accident-free by sheer luck.

  11. Menacia*

    If he is an alcoholic, and a raging one at that, until that is addressed, nothing will change. Your focus should be calling the police to report your boss when he drives drunk. If you feel you have no internal recourse, then you must get the authorities involved because he’s causing a dangerous and potentially fatal public situation. I realize this is difficult because of the relationship your friend has with his boss, but think about how he would feel if his boss (or someone else!) was hurt or killed in direct relation to his impaired driving? It’s hard to take up the mantle for doing the right thing, but in this case it’s the imperative. His luck is going to run out, please don’t allow him to involve others in his poor decisions.

    I have witnessed first hand with my ex-BIL the toll alcoholism takes when people just accept it as part of doing business. It’s not, it’s an addiction, and until people stop enabling addicts and getting them to the point of rock bottom, the behavior won’t change.

  12. Ann O'Nemity*

    I wish we had an update on what the OP’s friend eventually did.

    I left a job once because of my alcoholic boss. He would start around noon and would be drunk by the time I left. It caused all sorts of issues with the team, his partners, and even our customers. I eventually realized that my “boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” I was not at all surprised when the office closed a year later.

  13. MommyMD*

    Call the police anonymously next time he is driving drunk and give his name and license number. He’s a menace. Keep doing it until it takes.

  14. EmKay*

    Your friends needs to:
    1. Get the hell outa Dodge, yesterday.
    2. Call 911 everytime he sees his drunk boss get behind the wheel.

  15. sam*

    Also, if the company is aware (which they are, because boss, and HR are clearly aware) that direct boss is getting drunk on company time/during the day and then driving home drunk, the company itself could open itself up to liability issues by not at least attempting to address the situation.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, as long as Friend agrees not to make waves, everything is fine.

      Many alcoholics are nice people, they are very likable. So I do understand that Friend actually likes his boss. However, it’s not that unusual to like people and really dislike their choices. This can come up often in life.

  16. Katniss*

    How awful for your friend, and how awful for his boss too, because living as an alcoholic is miserable. Just further proof that this is a disease that destroys the life not just of the person suffering from it, but often affects everyone around them negatively.

    I hope the friend got out and the boss got the help he needs.

  17. LBK*

    I always wonder about these letters where the boss is a complete disaster but there’s caveats about how much the person loves the manager aside from that/how great the job is/how much they like working there. My manager is usually the #1 factor in my job satisfaction, so it’s so strange to me to try to picture a job where my manager was doing something like this but I still loved the job. I just don’t know what that would entail.

    1. fposte*

      You see that in relationship columns, too, so I think that’s just humanity. We often don’t calculate an average for people like this; we see the bad thing as something separate and removable, even though it’s really part of them.

      1. LBK*

        Oh, I like that framing of “calculating an average”. You’re right, we definitely have a tendency as a species to keep the extreme ends of someone’s personality separate and say “If they could get rid of the bad stuff, look how great everything that would be left is!”

    2. aebhel*

      My job was kind of like that before my previous manager left; she was pretty lousy at what she did as well as kind of being an awful person, but my work is very independent, so I didn’t have to interact with her much. Dealing with her was immensely stressful, but I didn’t have to deal with her all that much (primarily because she didn’t show up to work half the time).

  18. S*

    If he is driving drunk, you call the police. Knowing that someone is regularly driving drunk and doing nothing to stop it makes you a horrible person.

  19. That Redshirt*

    In your friend’s place, I would be calling the police when I saw my boss driving drunk. He is putting lives in danger.
    Calling the police may have unexpected benefits. If boss is not driving, perhaps that will be a wake up call for behavioural change. He might then become a better supervisor.

    He is not a good boss right now.

  20. C in the Hood*

    This reminds me of the letter where the drunk boss wanted the non-driving secretary to drive him back to the office…and it seemed that everyone in power in the office didn’t care that he was a drunk.

  21. Quickbeam*

    Just FYI: are you sure he is drunk? I am an RN and many health issues can present like drunkenness when manifested. I’d make sure you describe the behavior and not assume anything about its cause. That doesn’t lessen the seriousness of the driving issue or the professional lapses.

  22. Don't Dead Open Inside*

    Two things about this situation really p*ss me off. Pardon my language.

    1. Why the heck haven’t you called the cops on the drunk driver? If he kills someone, that blood is partially on your hands for constantly turning a blind eye.

    2. Why do people never go to HR?! “Oh, he’s friends with them” is not a valid excuse. Even if they are friends they have to take your complaint seriously. If nothing else, at least it will be on record that you have lodged a complaint, which is incredibly important. Always cover your butt by going through the proper channels, even when you know it is a futile process. Because if they do nothing about such a serious infraction you are within your rights to escalate even further, which would probably get rid of the drunk guy AND the incompetent HR staff, making your office much better.


    1. LBK*

      Even if they are friends they have to take your complaint seriously.

      Do they? HR isn’t bound by a governing body of some kind, and I don’t think there’s any rules around mandatory reporting, at least not for this topic.

      If nothing else, at least it will be on record that you have lodged a complaint, which is incredibly important.

      Again, I don’t think there’s anything that obligates HR to make a record of the complaint.

      1. amy l*

        Our HR department is utterly useless. They process paper work. That is all. Sure, I suppose you could bring an issue or complaint to them, but the company has stripped them of anything remotely resembling “authority.”

        1. Quickbeam*

          That’s my company’s HR dept as well. No way I’d take anything if import to them.

      2. Dont' Dead Open Inside*

        While OSHA doesn’t specifically prohibit alcohol in the workplace, it does define it as an avoidable hazard and most companies have alcohol and drug use policies because of this. I bet that the OP’s company does, which means that if an employee reports a violation that HR is required to keep a record of it. HR departments exist to serve the company’s best interest and if employees are reporting a fellow staff member (particularly a management level staff member) is regularly intoxicated while working and illegally operating a vehicle on their premise (if the parking lot is owned by the company), you bet they will take it seriously, friends or no. And if they don’t? Well, you just reported illegal activity going on and they did nothing, which is also illegal. So, yeah. Protect yourself.

        Also, here’s a good general overview of HR operations. I’ve never heard of an HR department that doesn’t keep records. That would be way outside professional industry norms. So again, the OP would be wise to report.

        1. LBK*

          Hmmm, I still think a lot of this rests on the size and formality of the culture of the company. In many smaller companies, “HR” is more or less just a payroll admin who occasionally gets dragged into interpersonal issue, lacking any kind of formal HR training or background. A good HR person would do what you describe, but I’m skeptical that HR people who apparently know the boss, presumably know this is going on and haven’t already done something about it are particularly good at their jobs or committed to following best practices.

          1. Don't Dead Open Inside*

            Doesn’t matter. You still file a complaint. Because if this guy ends up going off on a drunken Bender and hurts someone or damages personal property while at the work place (likely to happen if he’s drunk driving…he could easily hit another staff member getting to their car) and it comes to light that the company was aware of him being regularly intoxicated on-site (because you and hopefully others lodged formal complaints), they are up a creek without a paddle and you will be covered. If it was your property or you that was injured, you’ll be getting a nice settlement. And if nothing does happen, you will still be morally covered for attempting to do something and will know that your company is corrupt and can feel better about your new job search.

  23. Emma*

    I do think your friend needs to leave. It’s going to start reflecting badly on him eventually. Even if he’s great, people will assume he must not be, because he’s got such a slacker boss. They may think his job is a joke/really easy and thus is not learning/does not have any skills. I’m not saying that’s true, but the impression could be if his boss isn’t doing anything, he’s not either and is just riding the gravy train.

  24. Jaybeetee*

    Strange as it might seem, I’m actually wondering what eventually happened to the boss – but that’s because I’ve had a lot of alcoholism around me, and when you’re at the point of day-drunk/losing your job, you’re pretty deep down the rabbit hole, and losing your job can take away the last reasons to even try to keep it together (this is not to say the guy shouldn’t have been fired – clearly that was the only move to make!). I wonder if he was able to get better, or if losing his job just made things worse?

    1. Liane*

      There’s a couple posts above with links to the update.

      tl;dr: Boss eventually got fired for unknown reasons but OP’s friend, the employee, couldn’t afford to leave until he eventually got a new job.

  25. Midge*

    In addition to what AMA said about your friend’s reputation potentially being harmed by continuing to work for the manager, your friend doesn’t want to be in a position to rely on this guy for a reference down the road. It might not affect your friend’s next job search, since hiring managers typically don’t contact your current boss. But when your friend interviews for subsequent jobs, people will want to talk to the current manager. Especially if your friend worked for him a long time.

    If the manager is slurring his words during meetings, he’s going to be doing that on the phone as well and hiring managers will pick up on it. If your friend works in a small field, hiring managers will either have first hand knowledge of this guy or will have heard stories. IMO the sooner your friend gets out, the better.

  26. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I get the sense, from the OP’s wording, that OP is in the UK? If so, you could call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 and report your boss’s name, car make and registration, and give details of his daily pattern of driving. He’ll be picked up pretty sharpish by a police officer or PCSO.

  27. RA*

    I have a question: How in the world do people not get fired over stuff like this?? I just read the update (link is in the comments) so I know that the boss was axed eventually, but OP said that this has been going on for years. YEARS!! I know of hardworking, professional, and honest people who have been fired for making simple mistakes, so this just boils my blood.

    1. Audiophile*

      I think sometimes it’s just a matter of what the company higher ups are willing to overlook. When it’s a high level position and the employee produces work, I’ve seen a lot of companies let a lot of things slide. It’s bewildering. Clearly, this guy wasn’t producing anymore, but they must have liked him or been unwilling to have a difficult, but very important, conversation.

  28. RB*

    There are not all that many letters we get where there are just no good answers but I feel like this one falls in that category, given that the chain of command is useless here.

  29. Apricots*

    Also came here to say: Please call the police the next time the boss is about to drive home drunk. As someone with alcoholism in my family, I can tell you that alcoholics don’t stop drinking because they want to; they stop when they hit bottom and have no other choice. By reporting this guy to the police, you’re likely helping him, although I realize it won’t feel that way. But you are. And you’re possibly helping his family, and very possibly saving the life of someone he could hit with his car. If he gets arrested, that will be a wakeup call. It might not be enough to get him sober (usually alcoholics need more than one incident), but it will be better than doing nothing. And it’s the only ethical thing to do. You not at fault for any part of this situation, and should not feel guilty about calling the police. The alcoholic created this mess, and is harming and endangering other people.

  30. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Your bosses might be motivated by money. Explain to them that if their employee drives home from work drunk and they knew, the company could be sued into bankruptcy by the family of whomever he killed.

  31. FiveWheels*

    I know attitudes to drink driving vary in different countries, but my inclination would be to call the police when you know he’s in his car, report him as driving dangerously, and wait for him to get lifted. He’s routinely committing a serious, morally reprehensible, and completely inexcusable crime. To me, that’s something that requires jail time, not HR.

  32. NCKat*

    I don’t know where the OP is, but if the boss is driving drunk and there is a fatal accident on company property, the company may have to face legal consequences for allowing him to drive while under the influence, especially if it’s discovered management knew about it and didn’t do anything.

  33. Manager-at-large*

    If the friend doesn’t want to call 911 on the spot perhaps s/he could call the non-emergency line of the police and they could have an officer swing by and be ready to observe the driving directly the next day.

  34. Myfinancekits*

    I will suggest he works straight to the CEO and report the matter.If he truly loves boss, he should be able to take steps that can help him stop his bad habits. Not only is it a bad habit, it can even cost him his life.

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