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How to Deal With an Alcoholic Boss

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When your boss has a drinking problem, he’s not the only one who’s affected. His drinking affects his ability to be an effective supervisor, which means that you suffer right along with him. Develop coping strategies to deal with your boss' behavior so you don’t get swept up in his destructive wake.

Timing is Everything

When your boss is under the influence of alcohol, then signing the stack of purchase orders on his desk or approving your next project might not seem very important. But if he doesn’t fulfill his supervisory duties, you can’t complete your tasks and meet your deadlines. Continue to meet your goals by closely observing him to determine which time of day he seems the most coherent. If he’s most functional first thing in the morning, make it a priority to visit him then and ask him to sign off on important paperwork and projects.

The Inner Circle

Chances are your boss doesn’t think he has a problem. In his eyes, there’s nothing wrong with having a drink -- or five. He might even encourage his employees to meet him at the bar for a few drinks after work. Although you might disapprove of his behavior, continually turning down invitations might mean that you miss important work-related discussions. It might be a good idea to occasionally appear at happy hour, in spite of your misgivings. You don’t have to stay long or even indulge in an alcoholic beverage, says clinical psychologist . Rick Kirschner in the Art of Change blog. As long as you make a token appearance, your boss may be more likely you to view you as one of the inner circle.

Get It in Writing

Alcohol can affect your supervisor’s memory. He may forget that he agreed to allow you to go that weeklong conference or believe that he asked you to do a project when you know that he never mentioned it. If you don’t have proof regarding what actually happened, your boss will probably decide that he’s right and you’re just making excuses to avoid trouble. When memory lapses are a problem, take notes of your meetings and send them to him. Email requests rather than verbally asking permission so you have his responses in writing. When necessary, refresh his memory regarding the actual sequence of events.

Take It Upstairs

When your boss' behavior is so out of control that he jeopardizes the work or safety of your department, you might have no other option than to meet with his boss. Before you take this step, make sure you’ve exhausted all other options. Although you might request the meeting for all the right reasons, it can end in disaster if your supervisor’s manager doesn’t take your complaints seriously -- and tells your boss. Provide documentation of troubling behavior and mention how it can affect the company. For example, if the boss meets clients drunk or drives the company car while he’s under the influence, his actions can result in lost business, a lawsuit, or even injury or death.


Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.

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