Troubled employees beget troubled supervisors.

It is clear that each chemically dependent employee begets at least one troubled supervisor.

These employees have an uncanny knack for manipulating the feelings of supervisors. A favorite ploy is the "whipped child" syndrome characterized by the "hang dog" look and the "I can't do anything right" verbalizations. Almost invariably these behaviors will tug at parental heartstrings and suddenly supervisors find themselves comforting and supporting the employee rather than confronting them. At other times, outbursts of righteous indignation by employees frighten supervisors and cause them to back off.

Chemically dependent and troubled employees have a great deal of experience at playing these games. Without an understanding of what's going on, supervisors don't stand a chance.

The most important feelings which the supervisor will have (which closely parallel those of the substance abuser) are:


Triggered by broken promises, poor work performance and absenteeism.

There is also self-directed anger at his inability to change his/her employee


Supervisors feel guilty. The guilt is mirrored in thoughts like, "what have I done wrong?" "Why can't I handle the situation?" "It was wrong to lose my temper." "Why didn't I say something!"

The guilt leads to feelings of inadequacy. "I'm a poor supervisor, etc." When we feel inadequate to handle a situation, we will tned to avoid dealing with it.


Supervisors are often fearful of getting into discussions about employee problems which they tend to view as highly personal. Some may fear criticism in return for some real or imagined failing. Perhaps, in some cases, the supervisor fears criticism of his/her own drinking behavior.

Ego Involvement (Co-Dependency):

Another strong psychological factor in some cases is ego involvement between supervisors and employees. This is usually the case where they have been together for a long time. The supervisor often feels that he has molded his employee in his own image. His employee's success and failure become his success and failure.

Feel comfortable in your role as a supervisor who keys in on job performance. The troubled employee is one whose work record, once satisfactory, has begun to show signs of serious deterioration. This deterioration may show itself in increased absences, increasing use of sick leave, lateness, decreasing or inadequate productivity or growing difficulties with fellow employees.

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