How do I manage late lunches?

One of our senior managers is taking liberties with the length and the frequency of his lunch hours down the pub. He dresses many of these up in the guise of team bonding, reviews and client meetings, but to my eyes it looks like he is taking the opportunity to get drunk in company time at our expense. He has been an asset to the firm, but now he is often late and not 100% in the mornings. What’s the best way of approaching this problem without firing him?

A. Derek Kemp of Liquid HR writes:

Recognising the employee’s seniority, the fact that he has been an asset to the company in the past, and what might be personal problems related to alcohol consumption, you need to proceed with a degree of sensitivity. You want to avoid unsettling other members of the team. At the same time, things have got to the point where you must take action. No one minds the occasional slip, but a consistent or worsening pattern of behaviour, such as that described here, cannot be allowed to continue.

It’s recommended that you sit down with the employee and attempt to get him to recognise the behaviours that are giving cause for serious concern. It may be that the employee will want to be accompanied by someone, although it’s probably the case that a one-to-one would be most beneficial.

The approach most likely to win a constructive response from the employee would be on a personal level, giving him the benefit of the doubt from the outset by assuming he continues to have an interest in the business, and so will wish to find solutions that include turning around his behaviour.

If the employee agrees to rein in his lunch time sessions in the pub, no one else need be any the wiser. It could be that the employee does have a problem with alcohol, in which case he may be receptive to the offer of some form of confidential, professional counselling. Alternatively, he may be unable or refuse to see that there’s a problem. If this is the case you will need to spell out the bottom line – that his behaviour will not be allowed to continue and you will be forced to decide on the best way of terminating the employment relationship. A drawn-out application of the capability/disciplinary procedure would be in no one’s interests.


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