Hi all,
I have a team member who's just come to me for a character reference after being nabbed for Drunk Driving. This is a very solid member of my team who's very embarrassed and remorseful. I've agreed to write something.

The thing is - I've asked that this particular individual advise the team at our next team meeting of what's happened and how it will impact the team.

My question to you all is - do you think this is the right approach, should I schedule it first up in the meeting or further down in the meeting, should I allow extra time and (being a High C) how should I prepare for any emotional fallout that might result from this meeting.


Mark's picture

Why is she addressing the team at all? Does DUI (hers or in general) carry some automatic penalty that creates a problem for the team? does it affect her work output, and therefore the team? Is this just a mea culpa (dear Lord don't do that).


ebn305's picture

Hey Mark,

Really want to hear your advice about the MEA CUPLA.

Our team works shifts and the "offender" will require time to attend a remedial course each week. Other team members will need to accommodate their workloads to compensate for one member down.


Mark's picture

Okay, but help me out here.

How many weeks, how long each time, how much impact on the team, how big is the team, what does the team do, how valuable is her contribution relative to others in terms of work and not potential, how likely is it that she is seen as a leader, how likely is the DUI to recur, is this an indicator of other issues for her, how long has she been with you, how long the average person. Does everyone already know, when did it happen, when will the course start?

After all that, it's NOT a [i]mea culpa[/i]. It's an announcement about work schedules, which provides her an opportunity to take responsibility. The latter half is important for her [i]mea culpa[/i], but it is NOT the purpose of her address.

And what emotional fallout do you predict?


ebn305's picture

Hey mark,
Here's the background.
The team meets fortnightly for an hour and uses the MT formula - I get 15 mins and each get 10. The team are media producers and production assistants - a mix of creative and technical skills. Her contribution is highly valued, she's committed and productive. Her role very much has a leadership dimension and she is required to occasionally direct other members of the team. She's been with us 4 years - a little under average for the team. No-one else knows. This is a first time offence and not likely to occur again. She's embarrassed and remorseful. The offence was last week, the course starts next week.

Emotional fallout - I'd be uncomfortable with too much drama or corridor whispering about it and would rather it was open and accepted, so that she felt supported.

Any advice gratefully received.


juliahhavener's picture

I don't think I would 'require' her to tell them. If she is willing and able to stand up under the pressure of her teammates' concern, she may be able to tell them simply that she has a personal problem that will affect her scheduling and ask their help.

From personal experience, I would probably recommend to her that she tell them quite factually what happened. My reasoning is simple: One of the biggest lessons I've learned in my life is that what you are open and honest with cannot be used against you in a manipulative way. She deserves the support of her teammates. While they would probably give it to her based on their existing relationship, they will feel better about it if they know what they are supporting her through (and do a better job of it). Not everyone is comfortable with this theory, however, and it can still leave a mar on her reputation.

(On my team, it couldn't remain an unspoken thing. My team members are incredibly concerned for each other and they share a great deal. 'I'm having a personal problem' would be followed by their teammates working to help them - which means knowing what the problem is. One of them had a heart attack at a very young age a month or two ago. He called out sick about a month later and I was hounded by the team about his whereabouts. Privacy can be difficult to maintain. I finally had to simply tell them it was NOT his heart - because that was their primary concern about him missing work.)

ebn305's picture

Hey Julia,
Thanks for your perspective. I'm reasonably confident that my folks will behave the same way.

Perhaps my post was misleading. By advised, I intended to give her the option of thinking about whether this was something she wanted to do to give clarity to the situation.

I think I'll stress that the mea culpa's optional.


Mark's picture

Here's what I recommend:

Give her 5 minutes on the agenda if you think the team will respond effectively. (Look, forget about avoiding some whispering. Gossip is so compelling they tried to make it illegal here many years ago).

Tell her the purpose of the briefing is to explain her absences, and to do that of course she'll explain why. Tell her the focus is on impact to the team and coming up with all or part of a solution, one that you will ultimately decide upon.

Encourage her, if she is so inclined, to mea culpa, but only at the end and as a way to encourage support and team spirit.

That's as far as I would go, and I wouldn't say this is the only way to do it.

But I like it nevertheless.


ebn305's picture

Thanks Mark. We will of course discuss it further in our next one on one. I'll pass your ideas her way.

thaGUma's picture

[quote]She deserves the support of her teammates.[/quote] I totally disagree with this. Fortunately she was only caught. Any fallout from DUI is 100% her problem.

She should be grateful for any support she receives after such an error in judgement , there is no entitlement.

Unreserved apology to the team - if there was no mea culpa I would have questions about that person's position within a team. If they are a close team, so much more reason to do so. Team members will support a collegue in distress, but a collegue who does not say 'sorry guys we are in this position because of me and you are having to pick up extra work becaue I have to deal with the consequences of my action.' is seriously adrift from a team member. They are being asked to suffer because of a stupid error.

I will now get off my hobby horse...


kklogic's picture

I couldn't disagree with you more, Chris.

People have to take time off due to divorce proceedings. One could equally say that was because of an error in judgment. Should a team member be equally required to explain that their spouse was cheating on them, they are going through a divorce and beg on the mercy of the team to help make up some work?

If your team truly IS a team (which is our job as managers to create), then they won't require an explanation. The team member should be required to say nothing more than "I have some things going on in my personal life that will require time away from work. I thank you all in advance for picking up some of the slack and promise to return it in spades when the shoe is on the other foot."

I never, ever want a create an environment where my folks would feel obligated to explain personal things like this to a team in a meeting - and worse yet - have to feel the need to grovel for their support.

thaGUma's picture

I respect your right to disagree, however anyone who risks my life and that of my children by being drunk in charge of a tonne of metal does not deserve my support.

Divorce proceedings are personal, affecting the immediate family. Drug taking is personal for similar reasons (grossly over-simplifying here). DUI is not personal and show disrespect for others. I put it in the same category as lying cheating and stealing. Do not tolerate.

At what point do you consider support is not automatic?


kklogic's picture

If this were a recurring issue - totally different. IMHO, you're talking about your personal moral code. Of course, I'm not advocating for drunk drivers here. The thing is, you do not know the circumstances we're talking about. My folks got threatened by an officer one time over a singular glass of wine with dinner. For all you know, that could be the case.

The manager in this situation said they were a well-performing, well-respected team member who was mortified at their actions.

As a manager, in my mind, you have three things to consider: how does this affect the team as far as work, how can you support this person in getting their life back on track and how can you make sure the team is okay with the extra work - period. It's not your place to judge what they did (unless, as I said, they were a driver or something for your company or drove clients, etc.). Just as with actual work, people screw up. You do. I do. Our employees do.

A person's character shows when you see how they handle that and it's our job to help them in that process.

thaGUma's picture

kk your point well made. Yes it is my morale code that influences my actions.