Look around your office, chances are there is someone who is suffering from an addiction of some sort.
A Serious Workplace Issue
There’s not that many more sensitive issues an employer will have to tackle in the workplace than a substance abuse problem. The magnitude of this problem is sizable and avoiding the issue could have dire consequences on safety, productivity and business costs.
The important thing to recognise is that you are not alone in dealing with this problem, studies estimate there are two million people in the UK suffering from some form of substance abuse, which suggests quite a number of them are functioning, or not, in the workplace environment.
Telltale Signs of Substance Abuse
First things first, recognising the signs.
Late arrivals, regular Monday’s off and disappearances during the day could point to a substance abuse problem of sorts. As well as tiredness at work and frequent ‘sickies’. A general unhealthy appearance and weight loss can also indicate a person is losing themselves to an addiction.
Watching for these sorts of signs is important, drug and alcohol abuse can influence productivity leading to loss in business costs, not to mention the risks of serious workplace accidents and the impact a person suffering from substance abuse can have on other members’ of staff.
Facing the Problem
It’s important to take serious steps to tackle a substance abuse problem at work, however just as equally important is the way the situation is handled. Managers need to be diligent in confronting the issues and show compassion in offering support. Be open, alcohol and drug abuse can affect anyone, and invade all walks of life.
A business should have a clear drug and alcohol policy that all staff are familiar with. The policy should basically say that employees need to come to work, and be sober while there. Having a policy in place, ensures there is a standard to refer to when raising an issue of substance abuse with an employee.
Know Your Limits
Stick to the facts. A Manager’s role is to identify and address job performance, not diagnose an alcohol or drug problem. It’s important to keep this in mind. An employer’s role isn’t to provide treatment or counseling, it is to observe, document and help to improve performance. Once workplace problems are addressed with an employer, then the ball is in the employee’s court to improve their performance.
It’s important to note that the issue is ‘not’ whether an employee uses drugs or alcohol, the issue is if the employee is affected by alcohol or drugs while at work. Coming to work hungover, taking too many days off, frequent lateness, being ineffective and inattentive on the job and stealing are a few of the issues that would require an employer to step in. If an employee who is known to be using drugs and alcohol outside of work is performing well on the job, then the general consensus is to just leave it alone and monitor the situation on a regular basis.
Having the Discussion
Be prepared. Planning the agenda in advance is a good idea. Focus on performance and the employees responsibilities. Show compassion and offer advice and assistance on how they can improve their performance. It’s important to stay focused on the employee’s ‘job performance’ and stay calm. Whatever you do, don’t react.
If the conversation gets out of hand and the employee reacts in an emotionally or aggressive way, stop the meeting and rescheduled it. If you can’t tell the employee face to face due to their reactive behaviour, send an email to explain the points you were trying to get across in the meeting and reiterate your objective, to help the employee work within company policies. If you feel threatened, seek additional help. Contact the police, get another manager involved or consult Human Resources.
What Not to Do
If you do smell alcohol on an employee or suspect they have drugs at work, do not accuse them of alcohol abuse.
Just ask them to address the odor and then observe signs that could indicate problems with their ability to work effectively and efficiently. If an employee is clearly impaired, ensure their safety and others by moving them to a more private place.
Sixteen people could have drugs in their system, 11 could be using cocaine, 10 could be addicted to prescription drugs and 3 could be moderately or severely dependent on alcohol, according to recent findings by Clinical Partners. They are worrying statistics to get serious about.
Remember, addiction is a disease and should be treated as an illness. Encourage the employee to seek outside help from a doctor or community-based program and follow up. It’s important to continue to address job performance, to protect both the business and the employee.