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Advice please re employee smelling of alcohol

(9 Posts)
hackingandhewing Thu 16-Dec-10 16:37:57

I have a tricky situation and, as a fairly new manager (a year in post), have never tackled this before.

I have an employee who is, shall we say, difficult. She does't do anything specifically that I can deal with but is generally slack. She arrives with 30 seconds to spare before her shift starts, she is a slow worker (although she does a good job), she talks alot when people are trying to work. I have addressed performance issues with her this year but she tends to completely deny any problems, bucks up for a while then starts to slide again.

All this leads to her being quite unpopular. When she is off sick nobody believes her, she has countless family issues (she is a grandmother and her daughter has PND) so I do have a lot of sympathy for her.

The issue now is that people keep telling me they can smell alcohol on her for most of the morning. She does have a history of excessive drinking but I didn't know her then. The problem is, I can never smell it. We work in a medical environment and I have spoken to one of the partners who she works closely with and he can't smell it either. The problem is that people are now giving me a bit of a hard time because they think I am not dealing with it. However, I am a great believer in the theory that if you are going to manage someone about an issue, you need evidence. Specific times/dates when said issues occurred. Obviously it would be best to speak to her when she alledgedly smells of drink but if i can't smell it myself, how do I deal with that, especailly if, as I suspect she will, she denies it.

I am trying really hard to look at the alcohol issue seperately from everything else. I can't say that drink is affecting her performance because her performance hasn't changed since they started smelling drink.

Also, becuase she is a bit unpopular, I don't want this to turn in to a witch hunt. Some of my staff can sometimes display a bit of mob mentality and I am desperate not to let that affect how I deal with it.

Sorry this is a long one and thanks for reading to the end. Any advice greatly appreciated.

Slambang Thu 16-Dec-10 16:48:37

Just to recap:
- she arrives on time (just)- but on time is on time
- she does a good job
- her performance is consistent
- but she talks too much and is unpopular

It doesn't sound as if you have grounds for anything much at all. Could she be being bullied by other staff?

Could the alcohol smell be mouthwash?

I think you are right not to act without evidence but could you express concern and say the alcohol smell 'has been reported' and is there anything she needs help with?

The watch carefully and act if any more concrete evidence appears.

hackingandhewing Thu 16-Dec-10 16:54:52

slambang thank you so much - you can't imagine how having someone else summarise it like that has clarified my mind!

You are right - I think people going on and on at me has clouded my appraisal of the situation. I think I need a tactic for telling them to butt out. I am almost certain there is no bullying. She works in a room with 6 other people and most of them are people I trust and I think they would tell me. The main complaints come from people in other departments. Also, I don't think she'd have any trouble standing up for herself as she can be quite feisty. I will bear it mind though and keep an eye out for any signs of bullying.

catinthehat2 Thu 16-Dec-10 16:55:34

I can see exactly what Slambang is pointing at and that you are hinting.
CAn you fire it up a level in your food chain? YOu might find someone who is more knowedgeable of the personalities involved apart from the woman.

hackingandhewing Thu 16-Dec-10 16:59:27

Sadly nobody higher up than me other than partners who are worse than useless at staff issues. They would fire everyone for every little thing if they could!

Will see how things pan out over the next week. may be easier to talk to her next week when lots of people off in the run up to xmas.

hairyfairylights Fri 17-Dec-10 15:46:26

You are at risk of bullying behaviour here!

"She does't do anything specifically that I can deal with but is generally slack. "

that doesn't sound like the kind of thing a good manager would say

She arrives on time
She does her job to the expected performance targets

You can speak to her about the distraction issue - fairly..

When she is off sick nobody believes her - what business is it of anybody else? This should only be dealt with, by management, if her sick record is excessive and she does not comply with the company policy.

I agree with slambang. Discuss the alcohol issue with her one to one. If you can't detect it , then tell the others fairly and squarely that you have not been able to evidence an issue, and there is therefore no action to be taken.

scurryfunge Fri 17-Dec-10 15:52:24

What is your company's policy on alcohol?

Some firms have random breath testing, if machinery or driving is involved.

If she is drinking, how is she getting to work?

WestVirginia Fri 17-Dec-10 15:56:19

When is she supposed to be drinking.

I would take disciplinary action against the gossips who have made false accusations against her. Give them all a written warning for malicious gossip.

WestVirginia Fri 17-Dec-10 15:57:13

There is NO alcohol issue. It is nasty gossip.

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