Alcoholic boss

Question: Dear Hot Potato, Maybe you could help me. I work at a bookkeeping/accounting firm as a bookkeeper. In the recent months the behavior of my supervisor, who is also the owner of the company, has become very difficult to cope with. I like my job and I like my clients, and I would like to find a solution to this dilemma aside of resigning from my position.

Here is the problem:

My supervisor obviously is an alcoholic. I never knew that he drank at all until about six months ago when he returned from lunch one day and smelled strongly like alcohol. Since then things have become worse. His decision making is hindered, he forgets (or maybe intentionally neglects) his most basic tasks, he isn’t the pleasant man he used to be – to his clients or his employees. I could elaborate the details of this situation but I don’t think that that is now necessary. What is necessary for me is to find a reasonable solution, one that preferably doesn’t include my resignation. What do you think? Thanks! Bokkeeper


Hot Potatoe: Dear Bookkeeper. This is a really tough one. If only he wasn’t the owner or the company..
Well. Even if it’s a tricky question, I’ve promised to try to help, so here goes!

The problem with alcoholics is that of course they “don’t have a problem” and/or “they are on top of it” or “they can stop any time they like”. Sure.

Even in the best of cases, where the alcoholic would be a friend or a close colleague, taking up the issue with him/her would be a risk. Most alcoholics don’t want to talk about it, since there is no it, no problem. And if you try to take it up, they just get angry, evasive, lie and probably don’t want to have anything to do with you. Ever. (Or until they maybe sober up and start the recovery).

Each and every alcoholic has to find their own bottom, whenever that happens, and decide there if they’re gonna do something about it or not.
Since this is your boss and the owner of the company, the situation is twice, or thrice as difficult.

You have some choices, all of them bad.

You can try to talk to him about it. Which might end up in you getting fired for butting in where it’s not needed or wanted.
If there is anyone “above” him, a board, a wife (?!), you could try to talk to them. The issue would need to be of course the possible damage to the company that his drinking creates.
Or an unlikely devious sidetrack: if you have a good relationship with some client(s), talk to them and ask them to take the issue up with the owner. This is the most risky choice and hinges upon so many variables, so it’s probably not feasible.
Or do nothing. Just watch him crash and burn. Make sure you do your own job well, if not excellently and do not cover for him.

The thing is, whatever you do/do not do, the outcome seems to be that you’ll be out of a job eventually. Unless he straightens up and stops drinking. Either you resign, get fired or the company goes bankrupt..

Then again, stranger things have happened; people do quit drinking, sober up and get a hold of themselves.

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