Retaliation By Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about retaliation: I reported a co- worker for coming in so drunk

A month ago I reported a co- worker for coming in so drunk that she has knocked over other employees and me into equipment, walls, and floors. She also brings her 14 year old son to help her work. She is related to our direct manager, so he lets her slide. I got sick of it and told the head manager.For the past month I have revived write ups for “not completing my job duties” by our direct manager only.

Last week I asked for a meeting with my direct manager and the head manager. I was able to prove by our 24 hour 32 camera surveillance system that I do in fact complete all my job duties. When asked why he did it my direct manager had no answer. I have been at my job for three years and have not gotten a single write up until I reported my coworker. Is this retaliation?

Signed, Write Ups

Dear Write Ups:

Yes, likely they were. However, what does that matter? The fact is you have a job and so far you haven’t been fired. So what have you learned from this? To keep your mouth shut and that reporting a coworker is similar to whistle blowing; that whistle blowers can become targets? If you’ve learned that work is hard and that workplaces are political, you’ve learned something.

However, it will be sad if you’ve learned to bite your tongue and not speak up; in spite of retaliation.The important thing to learn is to pick your battles and not come off as tattling. Perhaps you’ve learned not to report this coworker without first confronting that individual firmly and respectfully telling her how you were “sick of it”. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

Ideally your managers should have handled this coworker themselves. They should have been aware if she came in drunk without your reporting it. In this case, you might not have been able to do anything differently than you did. You were frustrated and as you say, “I got sick of it and told the head manager.”But that is past.

Now I hope you can prove you have the company’s best interests in mind and heart. You’ve met with your direct manager and the head manager and fortunately have cleared you name.Can you earn your way back to a good working relationship, one in which you endeavor to make the one who wrote you up to look good rather than to lose face? That might mean having a time out head-to-head talk with him and asking what you should have done rather than report the drunken coworker. That might mean you pledge to follow orders and to be as responsible as is possible. That might mean you honestly praise him for the good he does in spite of the write ups he gave you.

Re-establishing your good name takes time when you have challenged those above; however, since you have been there three years, I predict you can do that if you display a good spirit. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and wanting the best for managers, coworkers, the company and yourself is what you want.

******************* Tina Rowe’s response: Dr. Gorden and I often add to the response of the other if we have another perspective. I do have a slightly different viewpoint and wanted to include that after his answer. My view is that you did not violate a rule, law or ethical guideline and you were correct to report the problem at a higher level if the supervisor failed to take action. Being drunk at work has the potential for having tragic results, according to the situation. The employee may not be able to deal with her addiction to alcohol, but the supervisor is responsible for the workplace no matter how much he wants to help an employee (or relative) keep his or her job.

If he did not supervise effectively, it’s reasonable to go around him to get help, especially in a serious case such as this.You don’t specifically say that you had talked to your supervisor prior to going over his head. My reading of your question was that your boss did know about the problem, whether you had talked to him or not, but never did anything about it. After this happened more than once; it sounds like it happened a lot–your frustration and anger about it resulted in you going higher to report the situation, which is understandable.

When someone mentions an employee being apparently under the influence of alcohol (or drugs) I always have five concerns:

1.) Were they stopped the moment they arrived and told to go home, been taken home or a taxi called for them? (It’s one thing to arrive at work drunk, another thing to BE at work drunk.)

2.) Did they drive to work drunk and will they drive home drunk unless someone intervenes? That is an even more important issue than some of the rest of it. They should not be told to go home, they should be taken home, preferably by a taxi to avoid confrontation with a coworker or boss on the way home.

3.) Are they staying drunk by drinking at work or do they sober up as the shift wears on? If they’re drinking while at work that’s an even more serious problem.

4.) Are they producing substandard work or are others covering for them or correcting problems? What kind of work is the company getting from them for the salary being paid?

5.) Are they getting treatment for alcoholism, so this problem doesn’t continue? (However, even though they are getting treatment, they may be too much of a liability or a problem to retain the job.) It sounds as though the employee had been drunk at work repeatedly, indicating a long-term habit of getting drunk and coming to work that way. I feel sorry for her 14 year old son who probably wished he wasn’t involved with his mother’s work at all! That’s another reason to insist that she get treatment as a requirement for staying employed.

You ask if it is retaliation to now be falsely accused of not getting work done. It certainly appears to be. It isn’t a legal issue but it is an internal one for the higher level manager to decide about. It may be that the manager of your direct supervisor issued a reprimand or wrote him up in some way. You wouldn’t know that, but it may have happened. Certainly if it happens again you should ask for further protection from that kind of revenge accusation. And of course, you will want to continue to be the kind of employee where your supervisor has no way to make an accurate accusation.It also sounds as though you and your immediate supervisor don’t get along well anyway and don’t communicate much.

Consider talking to your manager and just telling him why you reported your coworker and why you think you were justified. You can start the conversation by saying, “Lee, if we don’t talk about this, it’s just going to get worse, so can we talk?” Then you can tell him your reasoning and close by asking him to realize that if you thought you could have gotten action by talking to him you would have and you hope both of you are better able to talk about problems from now on. You can tell him that you make a promise that the moment you have a concern you’ll tell him rather than letting it get so bad you become angry and frustrated.He might not accept your justification, but at least if something happens in the future you can tell the higher level manager that you made a good faith effort to explain things. And, it might get through to your direct supervisor that he is being upset at the wrong person in this scenario; he should be angry at himself and determined to fulfill his role better. (But, it won’t help for you to tell him that!)

You may also want to talk to the coworker briefly about it and say you regretted having to make the report but you felt nothing else was getting her attention and you felt something needed to be done for everyone’s sake. Now the issue is, will your coworker be able to solve her drinking problems and come to work sober? Your supervisor should be monitoring that situation. The moment you realize she is not sober, go right then to your supervisor and ask him to help by having someone drive the employee home. If he responds correctly, you’ll know that he is trying to do the right thing. If not, you’ll know that you have no choice but to go higher again. He probably is aware now that you will do that, so that will keep him honest about it.Best wishes to you with this situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens. TLR

William Gorden