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How to Report Alcohol Abuse by My Supervisor

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Employees who abuse alcohol or who are alcoholics miss more work, suffer from more health problems, and are more likely to cause harm to themselves or others, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Alcohol abuse is particularly troubling when the supervisor is the one with the problem. Employees have the right to work in a drug and alcohol-free workplace, and they may have the responsibility to report the problem if they believe that their supervisor is abusing alcohol on the job.

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is an epidemic in American society. One in 13 Americans abuse alcohol or is an alcoholic. The symptoms of alcohol abuse in the workplace can often be subtle. One key indicator that your supervisor has a problem with alcohol is if he is drinking while on the job, because most workplaces prohibit consuming alcohol on the premises during working hours. Other signs may include excessive absenteeism, patterns of absenteeism, excessive time spent on breaks or on the phone, smelling of alcohol, hostility, emotional behavior, or acting inebriated or "tipsy."

What to Do

If you suspect that your supervisor has a problem with alcohol, it is best to begin documenting the problem before you discuss it with anyone else. Some symptoms that may seem like inebriation or may be indicators of a problem with alcohol could be attributed to something else, and it is best to be sure before you embarrass yourself or your supervisor with a false accusation. When you have enough documentation and you are certain that the problem is alcohol abuse, you may wish to meet with your boss to discuss the problem. When you meet, it may be best to avoid the topic of alcohol, and instead say that you have noticed that he is having problems with missing days, and ask if you can help.

Following the Chain of Command

In many instances, indirectly discussing the problem with your supervisor will not help, or you may not feel that you are in the position to discuss the matter with him without putting your job in jeopardy. In these instances, or when you have tried to discuss the matter with your supervisor with no result, it is best to follow your company or organization's established chain of command. The process for reporting a problem is often spelled out in your employee handbook or your company's code of conduct.

Potential Consequences of Reporting the Behavior

Although you may be compelled by workplace safety issues or concerns for productivity to report your supervisor, keep in mind that this action may have consequences for you and for your job. While most states have protections established for whistle blowers, it can be extremely difficult to prove that you were fired for reporting a problem and not for another matter. To further complicate the issue, some states that have adopted right-to-work policies allow employees to be fired for almost any reason or for no reason at all, making it very easy for your supervisor to terminate your employment in retaliation. As a result, it may be advisable to consult an attorney before you decide on a strategy for addressing the problem.


Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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