Not Really A Busybody

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I suspect my co-worker has a drinking problem. I’m not sure how
much anyone knows, but since I’m the next cubicle over I can
certainly tell, especially after lunch. Should I do or say anything?
Not Really A Busybody

Dear Not Really:
I’m assuming you’re not motivated by rivalry or other evil intent. If
you are, go back to go and examine your motives carefully. I think you
have a responsibility to do something, even without knowing the
answer to my first question: What kind of business are you in? There
are lots of regulations and preventive measure for many professions
that include persistent drug testing to prevent such problems, but our
society tolerates drinks more than drugs. If you are sitting in cubicles
planning moon landings or other life-threatening endeavors, my sense
of urgency would be far exacerbated than if you are selling copier
toner. But either way, doing nothing is not a good idea.

What not to do: ask coworkers and start a whispering campaign. If it is
that obvious, others may also have noticed. If not, privacy matters,
and you wouldn’t want similar rumors floating about you. Ditto re
reporting this person to a supervisor (moo landings excepted). What
you can do is to go into your colleague’s cubicle, sit down, and say, I’d
like to ask some uncomfortable questions. I’m sorry but I am worried
about you. Say what you’ve observed; cite the personnel manual and
your health benefits policy; and generally seem like a concerned
person. You can say you haven’t told supervisors, but the implication
is that if there aren’t changes you still might.


The talking to will likely change short-run behavior. But if it goes on for another            few weeks you’re going to have to say something to someone. Write me again
and we’ll draft the email to your boss. Start thinking about whether
you’d be willing to put your name on it. If you wouldn’t that raises
other questions.