CEO Caught Doing Cocaine!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about CEO drug use and womanizing:

The CEO of our small company has been caught several times by co-workers doing cocaine. This person had no fear about doing it in the restaurant bathroom during our Christmas Party. While intoxicated at several company functions he has managed to hit on just about every woman in our office. He is married with two children!Here is the dilemma; the founder of the company will not fire him because he brings in a large sum of revenue each month. This is causing a huge division in our small company. No one respects or trusts this man to lead our organization or wants to report directly to him. I once loved my company and would do anything for the people and its founder. But now it is increasingly harder to work for a man you don’t trust or fear because of his drug induced mood swings. Please help! What should I do?

Signed, Stranded in NC

Dear Stranded in NC:

Well, there certainly is a problem–but unless you and others create such a stir that the founder can’t avoid taking action, you may be stuck! That’s when you’ll have to make some choices, based on your options. Keep in mind that the CEO is breaking the law. If the CEO uses cocaine while at work–and I would imagine he does–the business is the site of Illegal activities. If the local narcotics team and the Drug Enforcement Administration closed the business down while they searched everything, perhaps your founder would be less supportive of his criminal CEO. (That’s a harsh statement–but it’s a fact.)

You say the founder won’t do anything, but I wonder if the founder is the only one who could take action. Do you have a supervisor or manager with whom you could discuss this and develop a strategy? Is the business large enough to have an HR section or a legal section? Are there attorneys, either always available or sometimes work for the company, who might be able to advise? If you have a CEO, do you have a board of directors or a higher echelon that might not be aware of how much of a problem this is? Is anyone willing to be a witness about criminal behavior and call the police to report it? (Contact the local police and ask to speak to someone in the narcotics section. Then, tell them your concerns and ask what they can do. There would need to be evidence and a witness.) Check the yellow pages for an attorney who was a former prosecutor–there is nearly always one of those listed! See if you can get a free consultation to ask about this from a legal viewpoint. Consider looking in the yellow pages for any hotlines to help about cocaine addiction, and tell them your concerns.

Perhaps they have resources that could provide more localized advice. If you must work through the founder, try it again. If every employee with concerns would write a letter or ask for an interview, that would certainly get the attention of the founder. In your letter, consider pointing out that you are concerned about the CEO’s behavior at work and what risk that places everyone with regard to liability issues. You may want to mention that drug usage is massively expensive, so you have concerns about how he might be financing his habit. Consider mentioning the CEO’s behavior at functions and tell the founder that the CEO has lost the respect of employees. BUT the big emphasis should be that if the CEO is using drugs at work or is under the influence of drugs at work, he is committing a crime in the offices shared by others.

Whatever bad things might happen at any time, the company could be held liable if they knew about it but didn’t do anything. Further, how can action ever be taken about criminal behavior by any employee–or any other performance or behavior problem–if the CEO is committing crimes? And how would it look if the CEO were arrested either at work or someplace else? All of those things are why reputable businesses do not tolerate drug use. They know that a drug addict will do anything–embezzlement, fraud, selling drugs to other employees–or whatever it takes–to get more drugs. Perhaps the founder also has the habit–and that’s why the CEO isn’t removed! Or, it could be that the CEO is using equally illegal or unethical methods to bring in the money that he does–and the founder wants to keep that going at all costs. Nothing will change unless you and others push it further than you have so far–and keep pushing until something is done. You would certainly have protections from a civil standpoint, if anyone tried to take action against you for your efforts to stop criminal behavior.

Finally, you need to decide your own future in this kind of company. If enough people feel the same way you do, perhaps the threat of major loss of staff would get the attention of the founder. I hope these thoughts trigger your own thinking. Please let us know what develops about this.

Follow Up: Lest you think I am focused solely on the criminal aspect of your CEO’s behavior and the potential for liability–all very real, but only part of the picture: When you write or talk about this, emphasize also the tragedy of NOT intervening to get the CEO the professional help he needs to break this habit, whatever it takes. He will ultimately destroy his family, his health, his body, his career and his life. Magazines and newspapers are full of stories of people who had money, success, good families–and lost it all because of alcohol or narcotic and drug addictions.

Surely, if anyone cares at all about the CEO, someone will care enough to make him get the help he needs. If your founder is a decent person, surely that decency will extend to wanting to help. If that is not the case at least it will give you a better idea of where to go from here–and what kind of organization it is in which you are working!In the meantime, the rest of you who are suffering as a result of the CEO’s addiction need to join to together to find some solution. If you can’t get others to support you, you will need to do it on your own. But for all the reasons I mentioned last night, as well as these I wanted to be sure to share today, something needs to be done. Building a WEGO workplace sometimes demands intervention.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.