5 Tips for Dealing with an Employee with a Suspected Drug or Alcohol Problem
There’s plenty that business owners have to worry about on a daily basis whether it’s cash-flow or the well-being of their employees.
That said, substance abuse probably isn’t something that’s on your mind right now, right?
Despite popular belief, the vast majority of those who abuse drugs recreationally indeed hold steady jobs and are otherwise able to function in society. This isn’t to say you should assume the worst of your employees, but rather understand that the fact that you could find someone in your office abusing drugs is very much a reality.
Given that such issues are totally foreign to many managers begs the question: how do you deal with an employee that’s potentially abusing drugs or alcohol? We’ve highlighted five key tips for doing so by the book and with a sense of empathy.
Look for Warning Signs
Becoming aware of substance abuse at work doesn’t have to be a guessing game, nor does it require an admission from your employees. The Northeast Addiction Treatments Center highlights some key warning signs of struggling with addiction such as…
- Sudden changes in appearance (think: weight loss, bloodshot eyes, haggardness)
- A drop in performance or inability to effectively communicate with others
- Failure to show up to work on time or justify their truancy
These issues only scratch the surface of a potential problem, but are worth looking out for regardless.
Immediately Notify HR
Every company is different in terms of their HR policies and drug use.
For example, zero tolerance drug policies at work are actually becoming more contested as society at large takes a more empathetic view toward substance abusers. Either way, you need to ensure that you’re staying in line with company policy and likewise informing someone in private to protect yourself as well as the employee in question.
Don’t Make Any Gut Decisions
Your initial reaction to finding out an employee is on drugs might be to immediately drop them. However, bear in mind that doing so could be harsh from both a personal and legal perspective. The office could very well be that person’s last bit of structure or means of a support system: suddenly taking that away might not be the best move for their sake.
Consider Their Particular Situation
On a related note, take a look at your suspected employee’s personal and financial situation. If your worker has a family or is a single parent whose child is dependent on their income, you obviously need to handle the situation delicately. On the flip side, if we’re talking about a new employee who’s acting reckless, you obviously have less room to be lenient.
Be Willing to Let Them Go
Finding out that an employee is abusing drugs is a tough situation for employers and workers alike. At the end of the day, the worker in question may need time away for rehab or to otherwise sort their lives out.
And while there are of course legal considerations for firing an employee, consider that it might be the best thing for both parties to simply part ways.
Again, there’s a lot of consideration beyond both assuming the worst and immediately firing someone because of their substance abuse problems. Keep these tips in the back of your mind and be willing to work closely with HR to ensure the best possible situation for both your company and the employee in question.