Our general manager has memory problems. Customers have noticed too.


Our company’s owner and his wife are snowbirds and leave for Arizona every October. They hired a general manager in September after a long search for the right candidate. Our owner was so excited to find this candidate, given his industry experience and track record, that he paid the man and his family’s expenses to move to Alaska and negotiated a five-year agreement.

At first, we all liked GM. He told us a lot of stories about what he’d accomplished in prior jobs. But then we began having serious concerns. They started when one after another of us realized the GM didn’t remember from one day to the next what we told him about protocols. He asks us the same questions again and again. One day, a lower-level employee asked, “Did my explanation yesterday not make sense?” He blew up at her, leaving her team lead to pick up the pieces.

He doesn’t seem to remember decisions he makes. He has conversations with us, asks for our opinions, and agrees with us on actions we need to take. The next day he gets angry and accuses us of acting without authorization. It doesn’t help to remind him of our earlier discussions. He insists those conversations didn’t happen and he’d never have given us clearance to do what we did.

It’s not just people in our organization who’ve noticed this. Longstanding customers and vendors have called several of us and expressed concern. We have serious concerns that our GM has dementia, memory issues or other mental problems, and everyone’s talking about the problem. Our owner is in Arizona. He’s left our company in this man’s hands. We’re worried about our jobs. What can we do?


Call your owner and outline what’s happening. Your owner will need to ask an attorney for help given the employment contract and the potential protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Your GM may have memory issues or other reasons for forgetting information, including the stress involved in moving his family across the country and taking over a new organization. Hypothyroidism, depression or vitamin deficiency can also create memory issues and other cognitive impairments.

Mild cognitive changes related to aging can also begin in some employees in their 30s or 40s, leading to forgetfulness or difficulties in processing new information. Alzheimer’s affects the part of the brain connected with learning. As cognitive changes deepen, affected employees may have difficulty with planning, organizing and problem-solving. They often experience trouble in concentrating, reasoning or switching between tasks.


Alternatively, your GM may act like he forgets or say “I never said that” because he doesn’t want to admit his spur-of-the-minute decisions were wrong. Additionally, what you and other longstanding employees consider easily understood or remembered information may not be. As yet one more reason, when I assessed a situation such as you outlined, I learned the individual had tinnitus resulting from long-haul COVID and was reluctant to admit she wasn’t listening to everything others were saying because of the buzzing in her ears.

Temporary solutions

You can factually record the incidents to enable your owner to make decisions. By documenting the issues, you provide your owner with an objective reason for potentially arranging a mental or physical fitness-for-duty assessment with a medical professional. If your GM’s job includes safety protocols or the need for a rapid response, as happens with surgeons, pilots, air traffic controllers or first responders, a trained professional can conduct a safety assessment.

When you have meetings with GM, take notes and afterward email them with a subject line referencing the decision. The email’s first sentence can be a respectful, “I want to confirm what you authorized me to do to make sure I correctly understood.” Then detail the actions he’s asked you to take.

The perspective of the person with cognitive issues

An employee experiencing cognitive issues such as early-onset Alzheimer’s often generally recognizes the changes but may not want to admit what’s happening. They can feel defensive, embarrassed and offended when others point out changes, and their personality can change from amiable to angry. Given this, you as a manager need to protect your lower-level employees from your GM’s potential overreactions — without making statements that create rumors.

You can’t diagnose

Finally, unless one of you is a licensed medical professional, you can’t diagnose what’s going on and shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Please remember that rumors and gossip damage trust and age- or disability-related comments can create new legal problems.

Lynne Curry | Alaska Workplace

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Navigating Conflict,” “Managing for Accountability,” “Beating the Workplace Bully" and “Solutions,” and Submit questions at or follow her on, or @lynnecurry10 on X/Twitter.