Should I Have Reported My Hung-Over Team Leader?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about lead’s smell of alcohol:

I have noticed my team leader coming into work with a strong smell of alcohol. This has occurred often enough to raise concern. I had previously observed my team leader exhibiting unstable mood swings. I was presented with an opportunity to share my concern with my supervisor. Now I am not sure that I did the right thing. I feel I may have jeopardized my team leaders reputation.

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

You did the correct thing–and may help your team leader in the process.Anyone who repeatedly comes to work smelling strongly of alcohol or who repeatedly behaves in an unusual way, is showing indications of alcohol or drug addiction. Sadly, talking to him or her yourself would probably not have made a difference. It nearly always takes intervention at a higher level to get help for an employee or require them to get help for themselves.I teach about intervention and often point out that the time to intervene about work problems, physical or mental problems or any other behavior or work performance problems, is BEFORE the harm.

There are five stages of problem development, when intervention can take place:
1.) When there is a potential for a problem, but no indication of a problem yet.
2.) When there are early indicators that a problem might be developing.
3.) When there is an identified problem.
4.) When the problem is chronic or acute.
5.) When there is a crisis and there is little that can be done except mitigate the damage to the business or the employee.

It sounds as though you have notified someone at the early indications stage–which is early enough to do some good. Another thing I say about intervention is this: The earlier the easier. Whatever happens to your team leader is not your fault. Hopefully he is doing good enough work that your supervisor will try to get assistance for him if he needs it. If not, and he gets in serious trouble, you are not responsible. Rather than hurting his reputation, you may ultimately save him from great harm to himself or to others. Best wishes through this situation. You have done a brave deed and one that needed to be done. 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.