As his manager, can I do anything to encourage him to get help?
Q: One of my employees has admitted to having a drinking problem. “Jerry” knows our business well and gets along with everyone, but he has a lot of absences. His excuses run the gamut, from coming down with the flu to having a sick pet. However, I suspect that he is either drinking or hung over.
While I would prefer not to replace Jerry, I will have to let him go if this pattern continues. Although he has acknowledged his difficulties with alcohol, he has apparently never sought any type of treatment. As Jerry’s manager, can I do anything to encourage him to get help?
A: Jerry may indeed be an alcoholic, but you can’t become his substance abuse counselor. Nor should you enable him by overlooking absences or accepting weak excuses. As his boss, however, you can definitely provide valuable assistance by highlighting his performance problems and pointing him in the direction of professional help.
If your company has an employee assistance program, talk with one of the counselors before meeting with Jerry. But if not, research treatment options until you identify a reputable and respected substance abuse program in your community.
During your discussion, explain how Jerry’s frequent absences are jeopardizing his continued employment. You can deliver this message through your company’s disciplinary policy, just as you would with any other poorly performing employee. Then, since he has voluntarily disclosed his drinking problem, you can suggest seeking help from a qualified professional.
For example: “Jerry, although you do good work when you’re here, your frequent absences create problems for the business. That’s why I’m giving you an official disciplinary warning. Because you have previously mentioned a drinking problem, I’m also giving you the number of a treatment program. However, making that contact is strictly up to you. Your continued employment will depend only on your job performance and attendance record. If nothing changes, I will have to take the next disciplinary step.”
Explain that you value Jerry as an employee and want him to succeed, but emphasize that he is going to lose his job if the attendance problem is not corrected. Fear of being fired is sometimes the only thing that will get an alcoholic’s attention.
Q: After I complained to “Megan” about some people in our department, she apparently went and told them exactly what I said. I have also learned that she lied to me about certain issues related to our work. I used to trust Megan and have even loaned her money, but now I feel betrayed. How should I confront her about this?
A: Instead of continuing this disruptive soap opera, you need to concentrate on avoiding similar problems in the future. Toward that end, here are a few simple guidelines.
Never talk badly about one coworker to another. Assume that anything you say is likely to be repeated. As a general rule, avoid lending money to people at work. Try to be pleasant and helpful to everyone, even those you don’t particularly like.
But if these rules strike you as overly restrictive, you may have an unfortunate addiction to workplace drama.