Off-Hours Boss

14 Mar

Letterbalm Man at ComputerDear LetterBalm: My boss has a drinking problem. He drinks too much at social functions, which we hold regularly because he’s the president of an arts organization, and we’re always raising funds. Thank goodness he hasn’t gotten rude and insulting with potential donors. No, he imposes his drunken state on his employees. He sends perfectly vile work-related e-mails and texts in the early hours when he’s really drunk. He writes horrible things he’d never write sober or say to our faces, accusing us of stealing and lying. He’s called staffers incompetent and stupid and idiots who make bad business decisions that hurt the organization. None of this is remotely true. We’re a small office, and we don’t know what to do about this or how to respond.

–Poison E-Pens

If your boss appears the next morning cheerful and chipper as though nothing’s happened, something big has happened. It’s quite possible he suffers from blackouts where he doesn’t remember much of what he does when drunk. Ms. L.B. hopes everyone has saved the e-mails and texts. There are several options here, each to be handled delicately. If your boss sends offensive e-correspondence to everyone, that’s one thing. But if he singles out one person and cc’s the rest of the office, that’s quite another, especially if the e-notes are racist, sexist or discriminatory in nature. (That’s grounds for going to HR and threatening to hire a lawyer.) Meanwhile, you might be able to shock him into awareness – but if he persists you must take it to HR or to the organization’s governing body. Because there is relative safety in numbers, you might enlist everyone in the office to send him back his latest rant with a neutral cover note that doesn’t allude to his inebriated state. Keep it professional, both to him and to the governing board. He certainly may get defensive. If things escalate, you must involve higher-ups, and eventually you may have to consider other employment. Some examples:

  • Louis, this e-mail came from you early this morning. I’m not clear on the concerns you express in it about my latest project. Would you like to discuss this?
  • Louis, I am disturbed about what you outline in this e-mail you sent earlier today. I was under the impression that my work was superior, based on my last performance review. If anything has changed, I’d like to talk with you soonest.
  • Louis, I need more information to clarify your allusions in this e-mail you sent early this morning. I don’t believe I omitted vital information from the report I prepared that you received favorably. Can we talk further today?
  • Louis, I don’t believe you intended to send this text, which arrived early this morning. I’m surprised at the vitriolic language and accusations I’ve never heard from you.
  • Louis, I was stunned by this text received early today. No way I’ve stolen supplies and electronics. Can we meet ASAP to straighten this out?
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