Intoxicated Boss Protects Harassing Supervisor

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about drinking on the job and  protecting his pet:

There are several issues in our workplace. One employee who is a supervisor is picking on her subordinates. This supervisor is the boss’s pet and he takes her word over that of the employee’s she is harassing. The boss has been drinking on the job on several occasions, to the point of intoxication. He has acted inappropriately with subordinate staff. We feel that no resolution will occur if we talk the boss, since he is the problem. We have decided to go the Board of Directors. Are we doing the right thing? Will our jobs be at risk?

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

Your workplace certainly does sound as though there are problems; especially if your boss is being intoxicated at work. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how the Board of Directors will react to your report about problems. If many of you make the same complaint, it’s more likely they’ll realize the problem is severe; and they can’t dismiss everyone!One thing to consider is if there is someone above your boss that you could go to before you talk to the Board of Directors. Or, if there is an HR person or section that could provide some assistance. If so, use every level above the boss before you go to the Board of Directors, to show that you are trying to work within the organizational system.

If you write to the Board, emphasize the liability problems of having an intoxicated manager and how problematic it is that he behaves inappropriately with the employees. They will be much more concerned about the liability of that situation than they will be with how employees feel about the supervisor. You don’t say what is happening with the supervisor except that it is the opinion of employees that she picks on them and harasses them. That might only mean she is an unpleasant person or rude to people, or it could be you mean she purposely does things to cause them to fail at work or to get them fired or in trouble organizationally. So, if you’re going to complain about her, have very specific instances documented and the names of those who witnessed it, as well as the negative results.

I’m not minimizing how you feel about your supervisor, but it helps to show there is a negative work result rather than just that she is not well liked or that people think she is hyper-critical or otherwise not good to work with.It also helps to be able to show that the employees involved were otherwise doing very good work and they were not making errors or doing anything else wrong that the supervisor was required to take action about.

I was involved in a situation recently where employees disliked the supervisor very much, but she had documentation to show that the employees who complained had made mistakes, come to work late, done poor quality work or otherwise were not up to standard. The higher level reviewers felt; and I tended to agree with them; that those complaining were not high quality employees, so it harmed their credibility.

This was especially true since there were some excellent employees who did not agree with the others.That’s why I think it’s important to have something to show to verify your accusations. One way to do that is to have past evaluations of employees, to show that they have been considered good to excellent workers.It may seem that you cannot communicate with the supervisor about this matter; and by now you may not be able to do it. But, if there is way to desensitize yourself about her, it might help. Right now I’m sure you and others notice everything she says and does and quickly jump on the things that are irritating and offensive, and there may be plenty of that. It would help if you could categorize her negative feeling actions mentally as minor (not worth stewing over) to serious (serious enough to tell her to stop talking to you in that way).

I have seen many times when all an employee would have had to do was say, “Jan, you’re tearing me down and making me feel terrible with all these negative remarks. Please stop doing that.” Instead, the employee complained to everyone else for months and years. If “Jan” was a mean person it won’t help, but the employee won’t be any worse off. If Jan doesn’t realize how she’s coming across it might help and at least the employee would have expressed herself, which might help in the future.

You know your situation best, but be sure you can show that you have tried to do something constructive to improve things. In your case you may be able to tie that into the problem with the boss by saying that if he was sober and more involved with work, he would have realized the problem with the supervisor and would have done something. Best wishes in dealing with this complex and challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.