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How to Help a Coworker with a Drinking Problem

How to Help a Coworker with a Drinking Problem

How to help a boss whose drinking is harming his team

Christopher Bones | The Times

The head of my team is an alcoholic. His condition is worsening and his unreliability is affecting the reputation of the team and increasing our workload. With Christmas approaching, the situation can only get worse. What can we do as our previously successful team is falling apart?

This is one of the toughest issues one can face at work – what do you do when a boss or colleague is going off the rails? How much responsibility should you take for the situation? And what can you do when any action you take could result in someone losing their job?

Alcoholism, like other addictions, is difficult to spot, difficult to gauge and even more difficult to address. The general advice in these situations is to leave any resolution to a professional; the challenge is getting the person concerned in front of someone who can help them.

Get the situation clear

Whatever you do, get your facts straight. You say your boss is an alcoholic, but how do you know? There is a difference between someone who drinks heavily and someone who has an addiction to alcohol. While both are drink problems, they can be addressed very differently by management. Someone who drinks excessively at lunchtime, impairing their performance, and who binges in the evenings, damaging their morning effectiveness, is someone who can be dealt with through a disciplinary process. Someone who is concealing their drinking, who has withdrawal symptoms, such as shakes and bad sweating, and who appears to improve during the day is much more likely to be addicted. This is an illness and needs treatment.

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