Among many employers nowadays, we
think of one member who has spent much of his life in the world of
big business. He has hired and fired hundreds of men. He knows the
alcoholic as the employer sees him. His present views ought to
prove exceptionally useful to business men everywhere. But let him
I was at one time assistant
manager of a corporation department employing sixty-six hundred
men. One day my secretary came in saying Mr. B -- insisted on
speaking with me. I told her to say that I was not interested. I
had warned him several times that he had but one more chance. Not
long afterward he had called me from Hartford on two successive
days, so drunk he could hardly speak. I told him he was through --
finally and forever.
My secretary returned to say that
it was Mr. B-- on the phone; it was Mr. B--'s brother, and he
wished to give me a message. I still expected a plea for clemency,
but these words came through the receiver: "I just wanted to
tell you Paul jumped from a hotel window in Hartford last
Saturday. He left us a note saying you were the best boss he ever
had, and that you were not to blame in any way."
Another time, as I opened a
letter which lay on my desk, a newspaper clipping fell out. It was
the obituary of one of the best salesmen I ever had. After two
weeks of drinking, he had placed his toe on the trigger of a
loaded shotgun -- the barrel was in his mouth. I had discharged
him for drinking six weeks before.
Still another experience: A
woman's voice came faintly over long distance from Virginia. She
wanted to know if her husband's company insurance was still in
force. Four days before he had hanged himself in his woodshed. I
had been obliged to discharge him for drinking, though he was
brilliant, alert, and one of the best organizers I have ever
Here were three exceptional men
lost to this world because I did not understand alcoholism as I do
now. What irony -- I became an alcoholic myself! And but for the
intervention of an understanding person, I might have followed in
their footsteps. My downfall cost the business community unknown
thousands of dollars, for it takes real money to train a man for
an executive position. This kind of waste goes on unabated. We
think the business fabric is shot through with a situation which
might be helped by better understanding all around.
Nearly every modern employer
feels a moral responsibility for the well-being of his help, and
he tries to meet these responsibilities. That he has not always
done so for the alcoholic is easily understood. To him the
alcoholic has often seemed a fool of the first magnitude. Because
of the employee's special ability, or of his own strong personal
attachment to him, the employer has sometimes kept such a man at
work long beyond a reasonable period. Some employers have tried
every known remedy. In only a few instances has there been a lack
of patience and tolerance. And we, who have imposed on the best of
employers, can scarcely blame them if they have been short with
Here, for instance, is a typical
example: An officer of one of the largest banking institutions in
America knows I no longer drink. One day he told me about an
executive of the same bank who, from his description, was
undoubtedly alcoholic. This seemed to me like an opportunity to be
helpful, so I spent two hours talking about alcoholism, the
malady, and described the symptoms and results as well as I could.
His comment was, "Very interesting. But I'm sure this man is
done drinking. He has just returned from a three months' leave of
absence, has taken a cure, looks fine, and to clinch the matter,
the board of directors told him this was his last chance."
The only answer I could make was
that if the man followed the usual pattern, he would go on a
bigger bust than ever. I felt this was inevitable and wondered if
the bank was doing the man an injustice. Why not bring him into
contact with some of our alcoholic crowd? He might have a chance.
I pointed out that I had had nothing to drink whatever for three
years, and this in the face of difficulties that would have made
nine out of ten men drink their heads off. Why not at least afford
him an opportunity to hear my story? "Oh no," said my
friend, "this chap is either through with liquor, or he is
minus a job. If he has your will power and guts, he will make the
I wanted to throw up my hands in
discouragement, for I saw that I had failed to help my banker
friend understand. He simply could not believe that his
brother-executive suffered from a serious illness. There was
nothing to do but wait.
Presently the man did slip and
was fired. Following his discharge, we contacted him. Without much
ado, he accepted the principles and procedure that had helped us.
To me, this incident illustrates lack of understanding as to what
really ails the alcoholic, and lack of knowledge as to what part
employers might profitably take in salvaging their sick employees.
If you desire to help it might be
well to disregard your own drinking, or lack of it. Whether you
are a hard drinker, a moderate drinker or a teetotaler, you may
have some pretty strong opinions, perhaps prejudices. Those who
drink moderately may be more annoyed with an alcoholic than a
total abstainer would be. Drinking occasionally, and understanding
your own reactions, it is possible for you to become quite sure of
many things which, so far as the alcoholic is concerned, are not
always so. As a moderate drinker, you can take your liquor or
leave it alone. Whenever you want to, you control your drinking.
Of an evening, you can go on a mild bender, get up in the morning,
shake your head and go to business. To you, liquor is no real
problem. You cannot see why it should be to anyone else, save the
spineless and stupid.
When dealing with an alcoholic,
there may be a natural annoyance that a man could be so weak,
stupid and irresponsible. Even when you understand the malady
better, you may feel this feeling rising.
A look at the alcoholic in your
organization is many times illuminating. Is he not usually
brilliant, fast-thinking, imaginative and likable? When sober,
does he not work hard and have a knack of getting things done? If
he had these qualities and did not drink would he be worth
retaining? Should he have the same consideration as other ailing
employees? Is he worth salvaging? If your decision is yes, whether
the reason be humanitarian or business or both, then the following
suggestions may be helpful.
Can you discard the feeling that
you are dealing only with habit, with stubbornness, or a weak
will? If this presents difficulty, re-reading chapters two and
three, where alcoholic sickness is discussed at length might be
worth while. You, as a business man, want to know the necessities
before considering the result. If you concede that your employee
is ill, can he be forgiven for what he has done in the past? Can
his past absurdities be forgotten? Can it be appreciated that he
has been a victim of crooked thinking, directly caused by the
action of alcohol on his brain?
I well remember the shock I
received when a prominent doctor in Chicago told me of cases where
pressure of the spinal fluid actually ruptured the brain. No
wonder an alcoholic is strangely irrational. Who wouldn't be, with
such a fevered brain? Normal drinkers are not so affected, nor can
they understand the aberrations of the alcoholic.
Your man has probably been trying
to conceal a number of scrapes, perhaps pretty messy ones. They
may be disgusting. You may be at a loss to understand how such a
seemingly above- board chap could be so involved. But these
scrapes can generally be charged, no matter how bad, to the
abnormal action of alcohol on his mind. When drinking, or getting
over a bout, an alcoholic, sometimes the model of honesty when
normal, will do incredible things. Afterward, his revulsion will
be terrible. Nearly always, these antics indicate nothing more
than temporary conditions.
This is not to say that all
alcoholics are honest and upright when not drinking. Of course
that isn't so, and such people may often impose on you. Seeing
your attempt to understand and help, some men will try to take
advantage of your kindness. If you are sure your man does not want
to stop, he may as well be discharged, the sooner the better. You
are not doing him a favor by keeping him on. Firing such an
individual may prove a blessing to him. It may be just the jolt he
needs. I know, in my own particular case, that nothing my company
could have done would have stopped me for, so long as I was able
to hold my position, I could not possible realize how serious my
situation was. Had they fired me first, and had they then taken
steps to see that I was presented with the solution contained in
this book, I might have returned to them six months later, a well
But there are many men who want
to stop, and with them you can go far. Your understanding
treatment of their cases will pay dividends.
Perhaps you have such a man in
mind. He wants to quit drinking and you want to help him, even if
it be only a matter of good business. You now know more about
alcoholism. You can see that he is mentally and physically sick.
You are willing to overlook his past performances. Suppose an
approach is made something like this:
State that you know about his
drinking, and that it must stop. You might say you appreciate his
abilities, would like to keep him, but cannot if he continues to
drink. A firm attitude at this point has helped many of us.
Next he can be assured that you
do not intend to lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if this was
done formerly, it was because of misunderstanding. If possible
express a lack of hard feeling toward him. At this point, it might
be well to explain alcoholism, the illness. Say that you believe
he is a gravely-ill person, with this qualification -- being
perhaps fatally ill, does he want to get well? You ask, because
many alcoholics, being warped and drugged, do not want to quit.
But does he? Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything
to get well, to stop drinking forever?
If he says yes, does he really
mean it, or down inside does he think he is fooling you, and that
after rest and treatment he will be able to get away with a few
drinks now and then? We believe a man should be thoroughly probed
on these points. Be satisfied he is not deceiving himself or you.
Whether you mention this book is
a matter for your discretion. If he temporizes and still thinks he
can ever drink again, even beer, he might as well be discharged
after the next bender which, if an alcoholic, he is almost certain
to have. He should understand that emphatically. Either you are
dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If
not, why waste time with him? This may seem severe, but it is
usually the best course.
After satisfying yourself that
your man wants to recover and that he will go to any extreme to do
so, you may suggest a definite course of action. For most
alcoholics who are drinking, or who are just getting over a spree,
a certain amount of physical treatment is desirable, even
imperative. The matter of physical treatment should, of course, be
referred to your own doctor. Whatever the method, its object is to
thoroughly clear mind and body of the effects of alcohol. In
competent hands, this seldom takes long nor is it very expensive.
Your man will fare better if placed in such physical condition
that he can think straight and no longer craves liquor. If you
propose such a procedure to him, it may be necessary to advance
the cost of the treatment, but we believe it should be made plain
that any expense will later be deducted from his pay. It is better
for him to feel fully responsible.
If your man accepts your offer,
it should be pointed out that physical treatment is but a small
part of the picture. Though you are providing him with the best
possible medical attention, he should understand that he must
undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a
transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place
recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost
both home and business.
Can you have every confidence in
his ability to recover? While on the subject of confidence, can
you adopt the attitude that so far as you are concerned this will
be a strictly personal matter, that his alcoholic derelictions,
the treatment about to be undertaken, will never be discussed
without his consent? It might be well to have a long chat with him
on his return.
To return to the subject matter
of this book: It contains full suggestions by which the employee
may solve his problem. To you, some of the ideas which it contains
are novel. Perhaps you are not quite in sympathy with the approach
we suggest. By no means do we offer it as the last word on this
subject, but so far as we are concerned, it has worked with us.
After all, are you not looking for results rather than methods?
Whether your employee likes it or not, he will learn the grim
truth about alcoholism. That won't hurt him a bit, even though he
does not go for this remedy.
We suggest you draw the book to
the attention of the doctor who is to attend your patient during
treatment. If the book is read the moment the patient is able,
while acutely depressed, realization of his condition may come to
We hope the doctor will tell the
patient the truth about his condition, whatever that happens to
be. When the man is presented with this volume it is best that no
one tell him he must abide by its suggestions. The man must decide
You are betting, or course, that
your changed attitude plus the contents of this book will turn the
trick. In some case it will, and in others it may not. But we
think that if you persevere, the percentage of successes will
gratify you. As our work spreads and our numbers increase, we hope
your employees may be put in personal contact with some of us.
Meanwhile, we are sure a great deal can be accomplished by the use
of the book alone.
On your employee's return, talk
with him. Ask him if he thinks he has the answer. If he feels free
to discuss his problems with you, if he knows you under- stand and
will not be upset by anything he wishes to say, he will probably
be off to a fast start.
In this connection, can you
remain undisturbed if the man proceeds to tell you shocking
things? He may, for example, reveal that he has padded his expense
account or that he has planned to take your best customers away
from you. In fact, he may say almost anything if he has accepted
our solution which, as you know, demands rigorous honesty. Can you
charge this off as you would a bad account and start fresh with
him? If he owes you money you may wish to make terms.
If he speaks of his home
situation, you can undoubtedly make helpful suggestions. Can he
talk frankly with you so long as he does not bear business tales
or criticize his associate? With this kind of employee such an
attitude will command undying loyalty.
The greatest enemies of us
alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.
Wherever men are gathered together in business there will be
rivalries and, arising out of these, a certain amount of office
politics. Sometimes we alcoholics have an idea that people are
trying to pull us down. Often this is not so at all. But sometimes
our drinking will be used politically.
One instance comes to mind in
which a malicious individual was always making friendly little
jokes about an alcoholic's drinking exploits. In this way he was
slyly carrying tales. In another case, an alcoholic was sent to a
hospital for treatment. Only a few knew of it at first but, within
a short time, it was billboarded throughout the entire company.
Naturally this sort of thing decreased the man's chance of
recovery. The employer can many times protect the victim from this
kind of talk. The employer cannot play favorites, but he can
always defend a man from needless provocation and unfair
As a class, alcoholics are
energetic people. They work hard and they play hard. Your man
should be on his mettle to make good. Being somewhat weakened, and
faced with physical and mental readjustment to a life which knows
no alcohol, he may overdo. You may have to curb his desire to work
sixteen hours a day. You may need to encourage him to play once in
a while. He may wish to do a lot for other alcoholics and
something of the sort may come up during business hours. A
reasonable amount of latitude will be helpful. This work is
necessary to maintain his sobriety.
After your man has gone along
without drinking for a few months, you may be able to make use of
his services with other employees who are giving you the alcoholic
run-around -- provided, of course, they are willing to have a
third party in the picture. An alcoholic who has recovered, but
holds a relatively unimportant job, can talk to a man with a
better position. Being on a radically different basis of life, he
will never take advantage of the situation.
Your man may be trusted. Long
experience with alcoholic excuses naturally arouses suspicion.
When his wife next calls saying he is sick, you may jump to the
conclusion he is drunk. If he is, and is still trying to recover,
he will tell you about it even if it means the loss of his job.
For he knows he must be honest if he would live at all. He will
appreciated knowing you are not bothering your head about him,
that you are not suspicious nor are you trying to run his life so
he will be shielded from temptation to drink. If he is
conscientiously following the program of recovery he can go
anywhere your business may call him.
In case he does stumble, even
once, you will have to decide whether to let him go. If you are
sure he doesn't mean business, there is not doubt you should
discharge him. If, on the contrary, you are sure he is doing his
utmost, you may wish to give him another chance. But you should
feel under no obligation to keep him on, for your obligation has
been well discharged already.
There is another thing you might
wish to do. If your organization is a large one, your junior
executives might be provided with this book. You might let them
know you have no quarrel with alcoholics of your organization.
These juniors are often in a difficult position. Men under them
are frequently their friends. So, for one reason or another, they
cover these men, hoping matters will take a turn for the better.
They often jeopardize their own positions by trying to help
serious drinkers who should have been fired long ago, or else
given an opportunity to get well.
After reading this book, a junior
executive can go to such a man and say approximately this,
"Look here, Ed. Do you want to stop drinking or not? You put
me on the spot every time you get drunk. It isn't fair to me or
the firm. I have been learning something about alcoholism. If you
are an alcoholic, you are a mighty sick man. You act like one. The
firm wants to help you get over it, and if you are interested,
there is a way out. If you take it, your past will be forgotten
and the fact that you went away for treatment will not be
mentioned. But if you cannot or will not stop drinking, I think
you ought to resign."
Your junior executive may not
agree with the contents of our book. He need not, and often should
not show it to his alcoholic prospect. But at least he will
understand the problem and will no longer be misled by ordinary
promises. He will be able to take a position with such a man which
is eminently fair and square. He will have no further reason for
covering up an alcoholic employee.
It boils right down to this: No
man should be fired just because he is alcoholic. If he wants to
stop, he should be afforded a real chance. If he cannot or does
not want to stop, he should be discharged. The exceptions are few.
We think this method of approach
will accomplish several things. It will permit the rehabilitation
of good men. At the same time you will feel no reluctance to rid
yourself of those who cannot or will not stop. Alcoholism may be
causing your organization considerable damage in its waste of
time, men and reputation. We hope our suggestions will help you
plug up this sometimes serious leak. We think we are sensible when
we urge that you stop this waste and give your worthwhile man a
The other day an approach was
made to the vice president of a large industrial concern. He
remarked: "I'm glad you fellows got over your drinking. But
the policy of this company is not to interfere with the habits of
our employees. If a man drinks so much that his job suffers, we
fire him. I don't see how you can be of any help to us for, as you
see, we don't have any alcoholic problem." This same company
spends millions for research every year. Their cost of production
is figured to a fine decimal point. They have recreational
facilities. There is company insurance. There is a real interest,
both humanitarian and business, in the well-being of employees.
But alcoholism -- well, they just don't believe they have it.
Perhaps this is a typical
attitude. We, who have collectively seen a great deal of business
life, at least from the alcoholic angle, had to smile at this
gentleman's sincere opinion. He might be shocked if he knew how
much alcoholism is costing his organization a year. That company
may harbor many actual or potential alcoholics. We believe that
managers of large enterprises often have little idea how prevalent
this problem is. Even if you feel your organization has no
alcoholic problem, it may pay to take another look down the line.
You may make some interesting discoveries.
Of course, this chapter refers to
alcoholics, sick people, deranged men. What our friend, the vice
president, had in mind was the habitual or whoopee drinker. As to
them, his policy is undoubtedly sound, but he did not distinguish
between such people and the alcoholic.
It is not to be expected that an
alcoholic employee will receive a disproportionate amount of time
and attention. He should not be made a favorite. The right kind of
man, the kind who recovers, will not want this sort of thing. He
will not impose. Far from it. He will work like the devil and
thank you to his dying day.
Today I own a little company.
There are two alcoholic employees, who produce as much as five
normal salesmen. But why not? They have a new attitude, and they
have been saved from a living death. I have enjoyed every moment
spent in getting them straightened out.
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