Co-Worker Coming to Work Reeking of Alcohol

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker drunk:

I have worked at a CPA’s office for 4 years now, and I love the job and they love me. But I have a problem with a drunken co-worker that the boss won’t do anything about. The alcoholic co-worker shows up drunk.

The office manager, who has worked there for 24 years, tells the boss to send her home and he does nothing. She smells really bad of alcohol; clients have smelled it and complained. She is still working on the books for them and sees them when she reeks of alcohol. I had a good client complain to me to get to my boss, and still he did nothing when I told him what she said.The alcoholic co-worker drives from home to work drunk all the time. Police will only get involved if I call 911 from behind her car when she is drunk. If it is on the way to work, how do I know if it is a drinking day or not? I can’t report her if she is sober. I won’t know she is sober until she is at work! I am very upset we have a small office, and she is impossible to avoid. I work with her on stuff, and we only have 8 people working in our office. Three are owners, the rest employees. Help!!!!!!!!!! Thanks.

Signed, I’m Sober; She’s Not

DearĀ I’m Sober; She’s Not:

You are in a family-kind of business and you think your coworker has an alcohol problem that is being overlooked. You said the office manager, who has worked there for many years, once told to the boss to send this coworker home, but got no action and also that you once told the boss a client complained about the smell of alcohol on this woman but the boss did nothing. Are these the only examples you know of in which the boss was told of the woman smelled of alcohol or a complaint of it was made? Are there other instances in which her performance suffered because of her habit?

In short, from what you say, apparently her job performance must be satisfactory except for the odor and one client and two of your complaints to the boss? Might she have an under the influence accident? Yes. But apparently you have been told that the police can’t or won’t stop her driving unless you are within sight of her and report seeing her driving erratically. So what can you do? You now have to choose to wait until this individual has a serious performance problem or driving accident due to her drinking or to confront it when she is sober or not. Have you spoken with her about her about this? Have you done more than complain to the boss? Have you privately spoken to the owners? These are options before you.

Since you have a small family-kind of firm, you haven’t established policies about such matters, and therefore the boss and owners and you as concerned individuals might not know how to handle this. You probably don’t have an Employee Assistance Program or Human Resources to handle such issues. But you, as one individual, want action. If so, you must confront the boss and owners and get them involved. How? You want to say that you don’t want to work with this woman when she reeks of alcohol.

You can make the case that this should be investigated because should a mistake be made, a client could hold the firm responsible, and especially find them liable if they fail to act.You will have to decide if you will first inform this woman that you are requesting that the boss and owners investigate if she comes to work smelling of alcohol or if you will contact them without first confronting her. One way to determine whether you will inform her is to ask yourself: If you were she would you want to be informed first? In a small family or partner owned business, it is not easy to be anonymous. Therefore if and what you do or don’t do can’t be hidden. So far, those in charge have protected this woman by ignoring her behavior.It might be that they will choose her over you even though you are fortunate to have a job you love and you think that they love you. There are many jokes that treat drinking on the job lightly. But it is a serious matter at work as it is to get behind the wheel after drinking. Treat it seriously; however, don’t allow your self to become obsessed or soured over this. Be of good friend. Good friends do not condemn, but they have the courage to seek help for them when in need. When working together with hands, head, and heart we get to know both the good and the less good in coworkers, and it takes and makes big WEGOS to make things right. Keep us posted about what you do or don’t do, if you like.

William Gorden