Impaired Colleague

26 Mar

Letterbalm BrainDear LetterBalm: I work in an open office with cubicles. Everybody is pretty respectful of boundaries except a co-worker. He’s older than most of us and we’ve noticed recently he’s been acting bizarrely. He’s slurring his words, going from cubicle to cubicle, talking to himself, repeating himself. He sits at the wrong desks, goes into the ladies’ room thinking it’s the men’s room, and forgets how to use the microwave. We found him blacked out in the coffee room. We don’t think he’s drunk or on drugs. But something has to be done. He has no family, he’s still driving to work, and we’re terrified he’ll have an accident and kill himself or someone else. What to say and do?

–Worried at Work

Run, do not walk to your boss, then to human resources. Your colleague is a walking time bomb – at the very least, he shouldn’t be driving. He may have had a stroke or another occurrence impeding his mental and physical health. He must be seen by a doctor immediately. Ms. L.B. advises that in this case niceties aren’t in order. Don’t worry about political correctness. Be blunt and keep sending warning signals until someone at the company listens and takes action. Several of you go to your boss and let the most respected among you say something like this:

Arnold, we need to talk with you about something urgent. You’ve been involved in the big project so you haven’t noticed that for the past two weeks Barry has been behaving bizarrely. We think he’s had a stroke or an episode that is seriously impairing his health. He’s slurring his words, tripping over things, going into the ladies’ restroom by mistake. Two days ago, we found him blacked out in the coffee room. He’s forgetting things, speaking out inappropriately and generally not in control. And, he’s still driving, which creates potential liability problems for the company. Barry needs to be taken for a medical evaluation immediately. He has no family, so we have to get him taken care of before the end of the day. Please take this to HR – one of us will be glad to accompany you to explain things to them so they can act.

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