Addressing Employee Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Category: Management/Leadership
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 01-10-2019 09:04 PM
Views: 2388
Synopsis: Drug and alcohol use in the workplace is a serious problem.  It can cause a loss of productivity, depression, illness and even accidents which result in injuries and death.  Learn how managers can address this difficult challenge in their workplace.

Whether you are a manager at a small or large organization, it is impossible to take stock of your employee’s thoughts and feelings throughout the day. You are busy enough with your own duties and responsibilities. If you don’t notice any visible conflict in the office, chances are that you assume your business is humming along as usual.


Yes, nearly all employees put on a brave face at work. That said, they may be dealing with their own challenges—both inside and outside the office. It’s impossible to get into the mind of those employees. But that said, you may notice that their performance has recently dipped or that they are consistently arriving late to work.

Man tired at work after using drugs.

These may be warning signs of potential drug or alcohol abuse.


This is a tricky situation. It involves a blurring of the line between an employee’s personal and professional life. But even though the circumstances are difficult, you must have a plan in place should you encounter an employee that is struggling with an addiction.


While the suggestions below are not exclusive, here are some human resources strategies that you can use to address employee drug and alcohol abuse in your organization.


Addressing an Employee’s Drug or Alcohol Abuse


First, one of the best ways to address an employee’s drug or alcohol abuse is to have an organizational substance abuse policy. If you are developing a policy from scratch, you can visit the website of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for further guidance. Within your policy, you will want to state that alcohol or drug abuse in the office is not tolerated and that you, as the employer, can take action if the employee’s after-hours drug or alcohol abuse affects their performance at the office. Having a policy is important because it establishes a baseline on how your organization can respond if employees are dealing with these serious issues. Instead of a haphazard approach, you and your team can be confident that you will follow a series of well-thought, tested procedures in every circumstance.

Workers drinking too much alcohol at a work event.

Once you have established this baseline, you will want to train your employees to identify signs of drug or alcohol abuse. As stated, managers like you are often extremely strapped for time. You cannot be everywhere at once. Because of this, you need to train your employees to be your eyes and ears. Make sure every employee learns about the signs of drug or alcohol abuse and how they can proceed if they suspect a colleague is struggling with their addiction. By doing this, you increase the odds that you can quickly identify struggling employees and get them the help they need.


Next, you will want to consult several organizations and individuals, including your health insurance company and your attorney. As for your health insurer, you will want to identify if your insurance coverage includes treatment or other resources that can aid addicted employees. If so, you will be able to provide some tangible steps so that the employee can receive some help. When speaking with your attorney, you should ensure that your substance abuse policy—and any action to deal with the employee—comply with local and federal law. These are two important calls that you should not ignore.

Finally, you will want to privately speak with the employee. Make sure it is not a contentious or accusatory conversation. Place your concerns on the table and have a truthful dialogue with the employee. You may also want to describe potential resources to the employee, whether that is treatment offered by your insurance plan or free resources that can lead the employee to further treatment. Whatever you choose, sensitivity is key here. You want to tactfully approach the situation and do your best to ensure that the employee does not rashly react to your conversation.


Helping Your Team


According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 70 percent of the 14.8 million drug-using Americans are employed. Drug abuse costs employers $81 billion per year.


This is a serious problem and requires that your organization implement some procedures to address addiction in your workplace. However, by following some of the suggestions above, you will be much better situated to create a culture that helps addicted employees find the help they need.



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