What's your problem?

I think one of my staff has a drinks problem...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 23 Aug 2011

I'm worried about one of my staff members, who I think may have a drink or drug problem. As far as I can tell, he is out more or less every night and he is frequently late, always looks deathly pale in the mornings and has the shakes until at least lunchtime. He deejays at local clubs and pubs in the evenings to make extra cash, which is fair enough, but his evening and weekend antics now seem to be affecting his work with us. The only time he seems to be firing on all cylinders is after a pint or two in the pub at lunchtime, which is an almost daily occurrence. How do I broach the topic?

A: You can't just do nothing. You must concentrate entirely on the declining standard of his work; don't even touch on the possibility of health problems. He is a member of your staff, so you have a clear responsibility to review his performance - but the moment you suggest that he might have drink or drug problems, it can easily get extremely messy.

Having made sure from your HR director or company lawyer that you're following the correct procedures, leave him in no doubt that you expect significant improvement - and agree a date for a further review.

Whatever his response, you'll find it helpful: and you'll be able to proceed accordingly. He may become defensive; he may try to bluff it out; or may even seem relieved that he's actually talking to someone. This last response, however hesitantly expressed, could be all the permission you need to venture, very, very gently, a little further. But do be super careful that you're not trespassing on ground that his family may already be doing their best to cover.

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