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Yesterday, I was enjoying dinner and drinks with my team members and company management of my work division. Both I and the rest of the team had been drinking (2-3 drinks) during the evening event. I am the team manager. Some background:

  • My team member no longer drinks due to previous AA history

  • Towards the end of the event and within earshot of all others at the event, he asked me if I can drive him home. We live within half hour from each other in the same town

  • Unfortunately this town where we live lacks public transportation so I could not have asked my team member to take public transport home.

  • No discussion took place on who will be the sober designated driver before this event.

  • He saw me park my car , so he knew I drove in today. For obvious reasons, I will not be driving home.

  • I gave him a lift to the event. I made an assumption that he believed I wouldn't be able to drive him home.

Questions

  • As I am my team member's manager, how could I either avoid answering such uncomfortable question or best answer him when other colleagues are present who also will not be driving home?

  • Did I do the right thing by suggesting my team member take a ride share service home? If so, do I have a duty to cover his incurred expenses of this ride?

  • Any suggestions on how a designated driver system should work?

Edit Normally, I would not have a second thought to a team mate asking me for a ride home , but I found the question strange in the circumstances we faced. I felt it strange when he was expecting yes, and yet knew I and other colleagues had all had drinks.

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    How did you get home? Did you take a ride share service? Why not simply be frank and say that you'd had enough to drink that you wouldn't be driving that evening? Commented Jan 24 at 2:44
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    I am confused. An individual who was sober, who was in AA, asked somebody who wasn’t sober for a ride home instead of calling a taxi or Uber? Why were they not offering the team a ride home if they were sober? Once the team wasn’t sober, they had a social obligation, to make sure the team had a safe and appropriate way home.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 24 at 10:54
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    "Sorry, I've had too many to drive". "He saw me park my car , so he knew I drove in today" He also saw you drink. It's only uncomfortable if you make it uncomfortable.
    – Player One
    Commented Jan 24 at 11:50
  • Depending on how well you trust this colleague: "You can drive me home, and then yourself, if you drive by my house again tomorrow morning."
    – Berend
    Commented Jan 24 at 14:47
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    You say the he saw you park the car, but you also said in a comment that you gave him a lift to the event. What is the story here? Commented Jan 25 at 2:21

6 Answers 6

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You've added several bits of information in comments that are highly relevant to answering your question.

As I am my team member's manager, how could I either avoid answering such uncomfortable question or best answer him when other colleagues are present who also will not be driving home?

As their manager you shouldn't avoid answering this question. You should answer it politely and directly. As you explained in the comments, you provided the person a ride to the event assuming they would figure out that you couldn't provide a ride home because you would be drinking. You dropped the ball here and should have made explicit that you were planning to be drinking enough that you would be taking a taxi home. Since you were agreeable to providing the ride to the event, they might well have assumed that you weren't planning to drink. Or, since they apparently have had a problematic relationship with alcohol they might have been someone who didn't give much thought to driving after a couple of drinks. Both of you apparently made assumptions, but since this was a work event it's on you as a manager to make things clear and check assumptions.

Did I do the right thing by suggesting my team member take a ride share service home? If so, do I have a duty to cover his incurred expenses of this ride?

That was the best possible solution in the moment. It just should have been spelled out for everyone before the event. Since this was a company event where folks were drinking you probably should have covered everyone's ride home.

Any suggestions on how a designated driver system should work?

This will be somewhat dependent on the location and local law. In the US companies can face legal liability if an employee gets in an accident after drinking at a company sponsored event. You might have set up designated drivers by calling for volunteers before the event. This still might not solve the liability issue if the designated driver gets in an accident, as they would arguably be acting as a company agent. I think the generally accepted best practice is to cover everyone's taxi or ride share costs.

Other countries are perhaps less litigious, but may have much stricter rules on driving after drinking.

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If you aren't yourself driving home, then I don't see what the complication is of just pointing that out as an obstacle to your colleague's idea.

You've strangely omitted to mention how you did in fact get home - or whether you went home at all.

You've also strangely omitted to mention how he got there in the first place, if it wasn't by his own car. You say he's a recovering alcoholic and was stone-cold sober, so naturally he would have driven home if he had a car.

If he doesn't have a car, then naturally he'd anticipate the problem.

And it's not inherently a "strange and uncomfortable" question to get from a colleague you've been socialising with: "Say, Bob, can I get a lift home with you in your car?".

The response is equally straightforward: "Sorry, Mick, I've had a few too many and I won't be driving my car home. We're all getting taxis home."

I'm not sure whether your uncomfortableness comes from the fact that you'd somehow encouraged your colleague to stay for the function, somehow disrupting his usual travel arrangements home, but have then left him twisting in the wind as none of you were able to help get him home (as he might have assumed you, or someone else, would be).

If your colleague's expenses in getting home were somehow severe and disproportionate to your own, then perhaps covering them in part this time, and thinking more carefully next time would be a solution.

As for covering expenses in general, usually that's at the company discretion, assuming that the attendance itself was optional in the first place.

But if inebriation is to be expected at a work function, then it might be worth the company explicitly making plans and allowances for travel or hotel stay as part of the plans for the function itself.

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  • I gave a ride to my sober team member to the event, and did not mention that I can't bring him home, as I thought the reason was self explanatory. I took a Lyft home
    – Anthony
    Commented Jan 24 at 12:58
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    @Anthony I mean, those times someone asked me for a lift to a party either it was agreed that I would not drink or I would say "sure, I can bring you there but I won't be able to bring you back because I plan on drinking and then calling a taxi/have other arrangements". To me it seems stranger you not communicating this beforehand with your coworker rather than him asking. In my view his expectation that you would've brought him back makes complete sense (unless the party was advertised as "you can leave your car here for the night if too intoxicated to drive", than it's on him for not asking)
    – John Doe
    Commented Jan 24 at 13:13
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    @Anthony this is absolutely crucial information to answer your question, you should edit this into the original question. With that, I'd even turn the tables and question why you did offer them a ride without making clear the way back is not accounted for? I feel them asking you about the way home was their way of communicating their discomfort with the fact that you were not thinking about that or worse, not caring about safety for their wellbeing for the ride home. You are their team manager, so they cannot be as straightforward in their communication as they would be with e.g. a friend.
    – kopaka
    Commented Jan 24 at 13:32
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    @Kopaka, Like I said in the first comment here, I did not explain as I felt it was self explanatory , why I can't drive him back because I was not sober to drive. The possibility that people will drink, I felt was clear enough in and of its own.
    – Anthony
    Commented Jan 24 at 13:37
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    @Anthony Could you not have offered to share the Lyft, given you live close to each other?
    – Darren
    Commented Jan 24 at 14:31
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This needs a country as that can have implications.

For example in NZ, officially there's no requirement to provide transportation for a company event (especially one where Alcohol is involved)...

But there is a health and safety responsibility - which means often the company will pay for a Taxi - even if the person is sober.

To clarify - there's no legislation that says 'You have to provide a Taxi home' - but if a staff member gets sloshed at a company event and does something stupid in an attempt to get home, the company can be on the hook for it from a Health and Safety perspective.

In which case, in NZ, This would probably meet the definition of a work function.

To answer the questions directly:

1: The best answer for this is the one I have - if I have consumed Alcohol, I don't drive. It's the easiest way to know I'm under the Limit - reiterate that or some version of that 'I'm sorry, I don't drive if I've had anything to drink'

2: Yes, suggesting an Uber/Lyft/Taxi is the right option. Do you have to cover it? Well see above. In addition - how did he get to the event? If he's Sober, he has the option to drive himself home, so I think there's more to this story here.

3: "You're all adults and you know the law, if you are going to Drink, don't drive"

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TL;DR summary:

The mistake was in not explicitly discussing the return trip. Expecting that a lift went both directions was no more reasonable or unreasonable than expecting that it didn't; neither should have been assumed to be obvious. Say oops to each other, learn from it, and next time remember to talk it all the way through.

For me, part of "oops" would have been offering to pay for the taxi/rideshare/bus/whatever simply as a courtesy and because as the boss you're assumed to be more experienced at planning these events. Might even have been able to expense that. But I don't see that as an obligation; this is a no-fault (or equal-fault) situation.

In fact, were I that employee I might have flipped this by offering to be designated driver for someone at the end, getting them home and then calling for pickup from there if necessary. That helps someone else stay safe.

... And in fact, asking you for a lift home may have been an overly circumspect way of asking you to sanity check whether you're really safe to drive. If you wouldn't risk them, you shouldn't risk yourself, after all. (I don't drink, but at age mumble I'm still learning not to drive when too tired or stressed.)

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At least in Germany, the general rule is:

Reaching and leaving the place of work is the employee's problem.

(as explained e.g. in Transport in a workplace )

This usually also applies to team events, at least as long as they are at your place of work. So, generally speaking, I do not see any responsibility on your part for how an employee gets home.

In concrete terms, this is how I have seen this handled in Germany:

  • For team events at the usual place of work / office, there are usually no special arrangements - everyone just gets home on their own.
  • If the event is somewhere else, maybe even somewhere remote, the employer will sometimes offer transportation (such as a hired coach). This will be announced in advance (and employees may need to reserve seats) - so if it is provided, it will be clear well in advance.

About the specific problem of drinking and driving: Again, that is generally the employees' problem - you either arrange to get home by public transport, find someone who you can ride with (in advance!), or you just do not drink alcohol.


To address your questions:

As I am my team member's manager, how could I either avoid answering such uncomfortable question or best answer him when other colleagues are present who also will not be driving home?

I am nor sure why you find the question uncomfortable. It seems a reasonable question to me, and it also seems reasonable to just say "Sorry, I cannot give you a ride." You are not even required to give a reason, but even if you want to, saying "I will not drive at all" seems perfectly ok.

Did I do the right thing by suggesting my team member take a ride share service home?

Yes, unless maybe if a ride share service is obviously impractical (area not covered, much too expensive...).

If so, do I have a duty to cover his incurred expenses of this ride?

Why do you think you have that duty? In my experience, there is usually no such duty, neither legally nor by convention. So unless your company does this regularly, probably no.

Any suggestions on how a designated driver system should work?

There are many solutions. I think the key point would be to plan ahead, and tell this to employees. Then many solutions are possible, such as:

  • arrange a coach back to a suitable place (next major city, next train stations...)
  • provide a place to sleep, if budget allows
  • pick a place and time so people can get home easily
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    Under different circumstances, the question would have been normal and I would not have given a second thought to it. Yet, he asked , knowing all other colleagues had had drinks , and somehow was expecting yes. The expectations of a yes was what caught me off guard.
    – Anthony
    Commented Jan 24 at 13:45
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how could I either avoid answering such uncomfortable question

what is making you uncomfortable exactly? the question isn't the problem; it's you're anxiety ridden over-analysis that results in this guy's absolutely normal question being painted as something more here by you.

I mean honestly, you manage a team? It's difficult for me to see you as any sort of leader with such an extreme social phobia. The idea of catching even a whiff of the shadow of what you describe as an 'awkward question' has you running for help? My God man. I'd feel safe assuming you are completely and utterly conflict avoidant.

The human response would be "sorry bud, I'm not driving home today".

and if God forbid you were driving home and simply didn't want to drive an hour out of your way, you should respond with something like

"sorry bud, I'm not driving you home today" or even "man that's an hour out of my way and I need to get home"

anyone who would take offense to either of those response is an entitled and horrible person who can just get bent. this level of unreasonableness is not behavior anyone should be pandering to. not parents nor managers.

So all that is to say

tldr: dude, grow up and be honest. that goes for yourself too because you cannot possibly be an effective manager with such crippling social anxiety. Peter principle pushover I'd bet my life on. Sorry no sorry, it's for the best.

as for your bit at the end

Both I and the rest of the team had been drinking (2-3 drinks)

he probably just assumed 2-3 drinks over a couple of hours is about what everyone who wants to be able to drive home aims for. maybe he's just normal.

you people on this site are social outcasts giving advice in a big circle to other social outcasts. good luck.

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  • An adult human is free to choose how they get home, whether it's drive, get an Uber, whatever. Not sure why you feel you can tell them how they should get home. Commented Jan 24 at 14:28
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    Downvoting for the advice to drive after multiple drinks. This can easily be unsafe and illegal. met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rs/road-safety/….
    – Cong Chen
    Commented Jan 24 at 14:29
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    "2-3 drinks over an hour or two? you're well under the legal and practical limit to drive. " That depends where you are. Legally, in Iceland just one normal drink would put a lot of people over the limit. In Germany the legal limit is zero for anybody under 21 or who passed their test less than two years ago. I'm sure there are plenty of other similar examples.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 24 at 14:39

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