Coworker Over Indulges at Industry Events

I have a dilemma and am hoping to get some advice on how to handle the situation. Many of the folks within the company travel quite a bit, and host or attend many industry events throughout the year. One of the folks who attends these events, seems to always over indulge. Seems now the indulgence is being noticed by outside constituents, who are letting me know what they observed. The person is in a position that would not receive any conversation willingly. How does this person recognize the issue? How do I let this person know there is an issue without consequences?

Signed, Concerned Without Consequences

Dear Concerned Without Consequences:
I understand you want to help a coworker gain awareness of her/his pattern to become intoxicated or near so at corporate sponsored or related events. And you ask how to raise that awareness so that the individual will avoid such in the future and how to do that without endangering your own good standing with that person. Is that possible? Possibly. Here are several options:
1. Send an anonymous note to your Human Resources Department or that individual’s superior about what information you have on this situation requesting an investigation.
2. Approach the individual one-on-one about your concern.
3. Speak to other coworkers about your concern and learn if they will join you in determining what to do, when and how.
4. Specifically place this topic on the staff agenda as important to company liability and good standing

There may be other approaches, but before you do anything there are important matters to consider, such as your relationship with that individual, her/his status in the company, and what actual data you have about that person’s behavior, as you say, is over-indulgent. Employer responsibility is similar to that of a parent who allows drinking of minors at an event in her/his home. The doctrine is known as respondeat superior. Your company policy should address practices regarding drinking at its events or related events.

Rather than report poor behavior, I prefer to approach it as a requesting an investigation. You are right to be concerned because inappropriate behavior of an employee resulting from alcohol can be held against an employer, such as sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination—racial, religious, physical disability, etc. and automobile injury after an event. We don’t provide legal advice, but you can check with your corporate handbook to learn what is its policy regarding drinking are company-related events.

Now how should you approach this matter? From a distance, we can’t know the culture of your workplace nor the coworker relationship; therefore, my advice consists of options you can weigh in light of them. So in light of the extent of this coworker’s over-indulgence and the ill will or damage that has or might occur, you can decide what you might do, and then seek the best advice you can from one or more trusted individuals before acting. I suggest it’s most often wise to act in keeping with how you would want to be treated if you were the one who over-indulged. I know you don’t want to risk your job, but I would prefer to be told face-to-face rather than he get anonymous criticism. Also, it is not only your own good standing that matters, it is saving face of that individual.

Do any of these thoughts assist you in answering your question? Your concern is what matters both to the individual and the company. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Please feel free to update us on what you do.
William Gorden