Q. My office mate sometimes appears drunk at work, and I’ve smelled the distinctive odor of alcohol on him. Should I do anything?
A. You should, but it won’t be easy.
Drinking on the job is a serious offense. As his peer, you’re in a tough spot. I would recommend you follow St. Thomas Aquinas’ three-step prudence formula – Counsel, Judgment, Command (Ready, Aim, Fire)
COUNSEL. Gather the facts about what your best action should be. Prudence always reveres reality. Your first reality-check is company policy. Is there an explicit or assumed prohibition of drinking on the job? What is the consequence of violation? And what are the obligations of fellow employees to report ethical misconduct? If there is a company Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you can suggest that he contact them.
JUDGMENT. You’ve gathered information. Now seek counsel, human and divine. For human counsel, you may want to call your diocesan Bishop’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs and get some advice about how you should proceed in a way that is respectful of your coworker and yet addresses your very real concerns. You may also want to contact a local Al-Anon group. Pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom.
COMMAND. If, after you’ve done your homework, you realize you need to act, muster your courage to do so.
If you’ve decided to suggest Alcoholics Anonymous, your company EAP or other assistance, approach your coworker with a tone of genuine concern rather than accusation. Gather materials to provide him and let him know you are worried for him.
If that does not work, or if you’ve decided that his drinking is an imminent threat to himself or others and you need to report the situation immediately, you may want to use words like this with your supervisor, “I’ve been hesitant to raise a sensitive issue about a co-worker. But my concern for him and respect for company policy caused me to ask for your help or counsel.”
At this point, you’ve responsibly referred the issue to the appropriate authority. They now have their own responsible actions to take – referring the employee to the company’s EAP, taking steps to protect clients or other actions. Those things are out of your control, however.
You can’t control the outcomes but you’ve controlled yourself and done your best. Who could ask for more?
Jim Berlucchi is the executive director of the Spitzer Center, whose mission is to build cultures of evangelization (www.spitzercenter.org).