Be careful in bringing up drug problem

Question: “Natalie,” one of my co-workers, 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.

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 co-worker, that’s about all you can do.

QUESTION: For three years, I have worked for an attorney who makes me feel like an idiot. He is a former Marine who still has a drill sergeant mentality. His comments are so cutting that I constantly feel defeated and inadequate.

Unfortunately, he is completely set in his ways and is not going to change. All his law partners know that he’s difficult, but they won’t do anything because he’s a great lawyer.I’ve been a successful legal secretary for 25 years, but this man has me doubting my abilities. How can I keep my sanity?

ANSWER: Your boot-camp boss may be quick to criticize and slow to praise, but if you’ve lasted three years, he must be pleased with your work. Otherwise, you would have been gone long ago.

You’re correct to assume that change is unlikely, because demanding, autocratic managers lack insight and resist feedback. And since this guy is a highly successful partner in the firm, no one else has the leverage to demand better behavior.

If you choose to stay, remember that your boss’s caustic comments aren’t personal. That’s just the way he talks. Since you won’t be receiving any accolades from him, look for other ways to bolster your self-confidence.

But if working for this sharp-tongued lawyer continues to leave you stressed and depressed, begin searching for a boss who will make you feel valued and appreciated.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at