I am concerned about someone I report to

No one is immune to alcohol or substance abuse problems, and that includes those who may manage or supervise other workers. Workplace dynamics and power structures make navigating this situation a real challenge.

As a worker you may notice that a supervisor has had attendance problems, difficulty performing work, appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even exhibits unsafe behaviors. You might find yourself “covering” for someone whose work is affected by their alcohol or substance use. How to handle this situation is unique in every case. 

Below are a few basic guidelines. Click on the heading to find out more:

If an unsafe workplace exists, you must speak to someone in charge or take action immediately. This is especially true in our industry where rigging, scenery, stage automation, and electrical systems can create special hazards.

If your supervisor’s drinking or drug use is impacting your ability to do your job, or you find they often do not remember things, be sure to get as much of your interaction with your supervisor in writing as possible. Take notes at meetings, email requests for time off and be sure to save the replies, get written permission to purchase equipment or supplies, request documentation of any unusual tasks you are asked to complete, etc.

If you find yourself in a compromised position of covering for someone you report to:

  • Documentation is key for multiple reasons: it will help you remember specifics rather than making general claims, and you will have a paper trail.
      • Document the actions that were required of you to cover for the other person.
      • Try to note the date, time, location, and the names of anyone else who witnessed the behavior.
      • Note the situation and describe what you observed and what you had to do to cover for the other person.
      • You could even email your notes to a trusted friend to be safely kept
  • Talk to someone else in the organization in a position of responsibility about the situation and present your documentation. Be sure to stick only to the facts you observed and the notes that you took. Don't accuse or be judgmental. Offer objective concerns and observations.

Create documentation of what you have observed and include dates, times, witnesses, and signs of misuse (bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, delayed reaction time, unsteady gait, erratic behavior, odor of alcohol or drugs, etc.)

  • Be sure to note if the behavior has impacted, or has the potential to impact, safety
  • Be sure to note if the behavior affects the organization/union such as inappropriate interactions with co-workers, artists, clients or vendors

Figure out who to speak to and how to approach the problem

  • Find out if there is an HR representative you can speak to or another supervisor/manager/executive you can speak with
  • If you are a part of a union call, consider speaking to the crew head or business agent
  • Try to get someone who was a witness to accompany you
  • Be sure to stick only to the facts you observed and the notes that you took. Don't accuse or be judgmental. Offer objective concerns and observations.
  • Document any conversations you have in which you express concerns about someone
  • Find out if your organization/union has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which will enable you to speak to a counselor confidentially and receive guidance to help determine the best approach

If you decide to approach the person directly click here for more information.

  • It is likely the organization/union has a policy in place that prevents retaliation – find out if that is the case and what documentation is needed to file a complaint
  • There may be state or local protections against retaliation – find out if that is the case and what documentation is needed to file a complaint
  • Documentation any instances of retaliation

Behind the Scenes Foundation makes no representations or warranty whatsoever, either expressed or implied, regarding any information or advice provided by this training. In no event shall Behind the Scenes Foundation be liable to you or anyone else for any decision or action taken in reliance on information provided by this training.