Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
June 22, 2016

Q: My manager drinks too much at work events and makes me uncomfortable. What can I do?

I work at a university, and our department will have events every few months with an open bar (wine and beer only). My supervisor likes to take advantage of these and will get drunk basically every time. This manifests mainly as getting a little overly familiar (draping an arm around people) and sometimes being loud/voluble. I am often staffing these events, while he is there in more of a networking capacity, but I’m worried it reflects poorly on our office. I know he’s also made other staff uncomfortable, though to my knowledge he hasn’t crossed any major lines.

As far as I know, he doesn’t have a drinking problem and I don’t think this indicates alcoholism, just that he needs to cut back at our events. He’s my direct supervisor so I’m not comfortable speaking up even though we have a solid relationship. Should I go to someone else who is on his level or go to his supervisor? Any advice on how to phrase that?

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A: Pick someone who you trust to handle it well (including seeing that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed) and keep your name out of it. If you have multiple people who fit that bill and one of them is his manager, pick the manager — but often there’s only one person who meets those first two requirements, and that’s the person you want.

I’d say this: “Fergus has been regularly drinking a lot at department events and ends up getting pretty loud and overly familiar with people, doing things like putting his arm around them. I don’t think he’s crossed any major lines, but it’s made some people uncomfortable, including me, and I hoped there might be a way for someone to have a word with him about it.” I’d also make it clear that you’re talking with them on background only, meaning that you don’t want your name attached to the information because you don’t want tension in your relationship with him. (I’m not always a fan of “I’m giving you this info but you can’t say where you heard it,” but in this case it’s something that they’ll be able to verify firsthand and address that way. And when you have people feeling uncomfortable because their boss gets touchy-feely with them when drunk, the bigger priority is making someone aware of it.)

I also want to note: I suspect some people will read this and think that a drunk colleague draping his arm over people in no big deal. And in some office cultures, it might not be. In your case, though, he’s making people who work for him uncomfortable, and so it’s worth raising.

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Q: My boss ignores my emails if they don’t require a response

I work for a small, family-owned business. There are a number of issues, but what bothers me the most is that my boss — the co-owner of the company — ignores my emails.

These emails don’t require a response (most of them notify her that I will be working from home, am out sick, etc.) but I feel that it’s unprofessional and downright rude. While a response is not necessary, an acknowledgment would be nice. I feel ignored and disrespected. Should I say something?

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A: No! Email that don’t require a response … don’t require a response, by definition. It’s true that it’s some people’s style to respond to everything anyway, even if just to say “okay!” or “thanks for letting me know,” but that’s not everyone’s style and it’s not rude not to reply.

It sounds like you have lots of other issues with this company, and I suspect that’s impacting how you see this. But this in and of itself isn’t something to feel disrespected over, and it’s definitely not something you have standing to complain to your boss about.

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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