Ask For Advice

Send your questions and concerns to Dr. Marie McIntyre. Marie has more than 20 years experience in coaching, human resources, and management.  She writes the syndicated column “Your Office Coach”, which appears in more than 70 newspapers nationwide. Marie has authored two books and serves as a workplace expert for the National Institute of Business Management.  (Due to high volume, not all questions can be answered, but Marie will respond to as many as possible. Your question may be reprinted online or in the newspaper column unless you request otherwise.)

Coaching Q&A

How can I help a coworker with a substance abuse problem?

“Natalie”, one of my coworkers, always has bruises on her arms. She says that these are from insulin injections, but I have long suspected that she has a drug problem.

Recently, Natalie stopped driving her car to work. She told me she received a DUI, but the public record says she was arrested for possession of narcotics and drug paraphernalia.

I’m concerned about her, but don’t know what I should do to help.

Marie’s Answer

Watching your colleague self-destruct undoubtedly leaves you feeling sad and helpless. The wisest course of action depends on the nature of her job and the support offered by your employer.

If Natalie’s work affects the health and safety of others or gives her access to company funds, then you should share your concerns with someone in management. Otherwise, you can simply encourage her to seek help.

When dealing with substance abuse issues, employee assistance programs are an invaluable resource. If your organization has one, ask a counselor for advice on approaching Natalie. But if there is no EAP, offer her useful information without prying or becoming accusatory.

For example: “Natalie, you may feel it’s none of my business, but I care about you, and I think you’re having a difficult time right now. I’d like to suggest that you consider some professional help.” Give her the number of your local mental health center or Narcotics Anonymous chapter, but don’t force any further conversation.

Regardless of how Natalie reacts, at least you’ve tried to help. As a coworker, that’s about all you can do.

NOTE: Questions on this page have been edited for length, grammar, and confidentiality.  All material on this website is copyrighted to Marie G. McIntyre.  All rights reserved.

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NOTE: The advice and information provided through this site are intended to be generally useful in the situations presented. Because we do not have a detailed understanding of any individual situation, each person must assess the suggestions offered in light of their specific circumstances. In no event shall the experts or other participants on the site be held liable for consequences resulting from actions taken based on information provided through the site.

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Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

Marie McIntyre has more than twenty years’ experience in career coaching and organizational development. She has held management positions in both business and government, including Director of Human Resources in a Fortune 500 company.

Marie writes the weekly syndicated advice column, “Your Office Coach”, which appears in newspapers throughout the U.S. & Canada.  She also writes a monthly Career Commentary for CNBC.com and serves as a workplace expert for Business Management Daily.  Marie conducts webinars on a variety of topics related to leadership development and career success.

As a consultant, Marie has assisted a wide variety of organizations, including Cisco, The Home Depot, Tyson Foods, the Federal Reserve, AT&T, Walgreens, Macy’s, and Habitat for Humanity. She has experience in working with business, government, and non-profit groups.

Marie is the author of two books, “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics” &“The Management Team Handbook”.  She is frequently quoted in business publications, including Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.