Drinking Boss, help?
April 25, 2008 1:29 PM   Subscribe

My employer showed up half cut yesterday morning and proceeded to botch up 2 phone calls with clients. This isn't the first time and he doesn't hide his drinking and has been sober and "tried" AA. His performance and attendance are compromised when he drinks, one client called back and asked if he had been drinking.

I like my job, him and our profesional relationship when there has been no drinking. I've seen this exact scenario before and it just gets weird from this point untill he "see the light" and things clear up for a bit. He obviously uses work as a place to hide his drinking from family and their for much of the disfunction get pushed into the work place and we at work are put in the place of enabling his drinking. The company is small and I'm pretty sure that if I walked that the company would close it's doors. I'm loosing respect for him and I'm actually a bit pissed of at being put in/letting myself be in this position.
Any helpful words out there?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Tell him you'll quit if he doesn't go back to AA and stick it out. If you're that important, and you don't even want to be there anymore, worth a shot.
posted by jesirose at 1:36 PM on April 25, 2008

You can't make him get or stay sober if he doesn't want to. He might need to lose his business before he finally realises the seriousness of his situation. Start looking for another job now because you might show up for work one day to find the doors locked or the bailiffs on the doorstep.

I am 9 years sober so I know of what I speak.
posted by essexjan at 1:47 PM on April 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

I've been put in the same position before in my past. In my situation, I ended up leaving because I felt there was no reason for me to put in so much work if he was just going to drive our business away.
I would recommend talking to him frankly about the problems and see what he says (assuming you have not already). If he's in the whole "I'm fine, it's not a problem" mode, that's a big indicator that nothing is bound to change any time soon. In that case walk. You deserve more than picking up a drunk mess everyday.

If he can sit and address your concerns, and more importantly, give you and the rest of his employees his word that he will work to change, then perhaps it's worth it to you to give him one more chance.

In the end, this is a decision that you will have to gauge on your own, just remember that this is YOUR career/life. Don't let someone else's problem stop you from getting what you work for.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2008

Ultimatums like the one suggested by jesirose don't generally work with addicts. If his drinking problem were simply a matter of a simple decision he could make to please a colleague, this guy probably wouldn't be struggling with alcoholism in the first place. I agree that talking to him frankly about his problem is a good step but trust me, you don't want to start in on the "If you don't __________, then I will ________" with someone with a substance abuse problem. You'll be negotiating and giving ultimatums and going back and forth for a lifetime.

If you feel invested enough in him/the work (it sounds like you do) to talk to him about it, do so. Perhaps you, as a caring person, can help him figure out what he needs to do to take the next steps to getting sober and support him in taking them on. But any decision you make about your job should not be contingent on whether or not he sobers up.
posted by sneakin at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

What has to happen is that two or three of his peers need to talk to him. I don't think it will work if you try to do it yourself, and it might backfire. All you can do is talk to a few of those peers confidentially and see if they'll give it a shot. Potential candidates are: partners, if any; investors in the company; banker with a major relationship with the company; company lawyers; principals at another company with which your company has a major partnership relationship.

There's some risk in talking with any of those folks, but they probably already know there may be a problem, and they are concerned about it. Information you or other employees provide may help to galvanize them into action -- these are people who stand to lose if the doors close. They need to say to him: "Your business is at risk, unless you deal with this problem, now."

If that doesn't get him to deal with it, nothing will, so be sure to work out your own exit strategy as well, as suggested.
posted by beagle at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2008

I think you need to decide what your limits are. I agree with sneakin and would like to reiterate that there isn't anything you can do to make this person stop their behavior. You definitely should ask yourself what you will do if the situation gets worse (as it most likely will). As it stands, he has yet to suffer the consequences of his actions, and until he does he will have very little motivation to stop.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:24 PM on April 25, 2008

Along the same lines as most everybody else-
(Although I'm not feeling that 'intervention' one... whatever the outcome of it, good or bad - you did say that you liked your job.. right?)

- Be prepared to leave the sinking ship.

- In a discreet conversation ('man to man') be straight up about how everything is fantastic but his turning up trashed has led to... blah blah blah.
If you want to be clever - if you can gauge what kind of nagging he hears at home - Don't come across anything like that!!

- Don't be baffled by bullshit.
- If the good feeling from your little chat wears off pretty quick... probably just get the fuck out of there. If not set a time limit or some non-negotiables just with yourself - once these are crossed.. well you know what to do.

If he's into jesus and all that, the fact that AA didn't go over too well is not a good sign. If he's not, that makes sense. So what else is he going to try? If he is clearly trying? If it's costing you little? Then maybe don't be so quick to give up. But if it's half-assed or just turns into a new pattern... Forget it!

It might go well, but plan for the absolute worst and you'll either be ready for it or pleasantly surprised.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:33 PM on April 25, 2008

I don't have any advice except to take care of yourself.

I often feel like I'm in a similar situation- do I cover for my flaky boss? I have a vested interest in the business succeeeding, the answer hasn't been as clear cut as I'd like. He's not an addict but he has a lot of the same craziness, imo (and I speak from experience).

The answer for me (8 years in, mind you) is to ease my way out the door. I don't know if easing is an option for you. I'm lucky that it is for me. I figured out that being around this kind of behavior makes ME crazy (like, for real) and life is too short.

It's a hard decision because when he's on top of his game, my boss is super competent- head and shoulders above his collegues (in my opinion). I've also come to love him as a friend after all these years, and he's been (and still is) hugely supportive of me. But... the drawbacks are outweighing the benefits finally.

I'm sad about it but after years of discussions and decisions (none of which stick) I realize there is no point in expecting him to behave in a certain way and then being disappointed when he doesn't. I'm asking something of him he's simply incapable of giving. As they say, don't get mad when your hardware store doesn't carry bread- it's your own fault for expecting them to.

As you can tell, this is something close to my heart and I don't have good answers for you. This is as far as I've gotten.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:55 PM on April 25, 2008

Be very, very careful following beagle's advice. The suggestion that you go outside the company makes the future lawyer in me cringe. Talking with the higher-ups in your own company is one thing, but going to business partners is something else entirely.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:09 PM on April 25, 2008


"He is okay when he's not drinking" is no kind of okay at all, and he obviously couldn't give a shit about your career, so why pour your time and energy into saving his? Maybe you can work with him after he's been sober a few years and apologized to you.
posted by anildash at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

toomuchpete: yes, the OP should obviously be very careful, no matter what he does. The ability to carry that out depends on the relationships the OP may have with those people. The point I'm making is that the drunk is more apt to listen to peers than subordinates.
posted by beagle at 6:42 PM on April 25, 2008

If I were you I'd be angling for his job.
posted by fshgrl at 7:12 PM on April 25, 2008

I briefly worked for a nasty drunk once. Took me about a month to figure it out.

I was miserable right up until the day I got my med school acceptance letter; I quit that day, didn't even give notice. Walked in and told his boss that I couldn't stand working for the guy another minute and that he would never see me again and he could keep my last paycheck if he wanted.

HR cornered me while I was cleaning out my desk and exit-interviewed me. I told them I was leaving because I didn't like working for a nasty drunk.

That fixed the problem this nasty drunk had caused in my life. Other strategies had failed. I suggest you look into my solution.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:13 PM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's time for you to look for a new job. This not your problem and you should not make it your problem.
posted by Class Goat at 7:24 PM on April 25, 2008

AND... when you are asked why you left this job, during interviews, tell them the truth: your current boss is a lush and won't stop drinking on the job.
posted by Class Goat at 7:26 PM on April 25, 2008

You can't reason with an alcoholic. I'm sorry, but you just can't.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:56 PM on April 25, 2008

Nthing the quitting, as well as letting him (or his superior) why.
posted by rokusan at 11:24 PM on April 25, 2008

What I meant was that when you're doing interviews for a new job, if they ask why you left your previous job tell them the truth.
posted by Class Goat at 1:40 AM on April 26, 2008

do what is the best thing for you.
posted by edtut at 7:50 PM on April 26, 2008

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