How To Address Substance Abuse In The Workplace

March 12, 2015
substance abuse workplace

Substance Abuse Is Rarely An “At-Home” Problem

According to the NCADD, “millions of people struggle with substance use disorder, which is rarely an issue that occurs only at-home.” Substance abuse affects the workplace an can lead to the following issues:

  • Lost productivity
  • Absenteeism
  • Injuries
  • Fatalities
  • Theft
  • Low employee morale
  • Increased health care costs
  • Human resources issues
  • Legal liabilities
  • Workers’ compensation costs.

As a manager or employer, when you suspect substance abuse, you must be careful not to act too hastily and violate privacy rights or make false accusations. On the other hand, if an employee is abusing a substance, there are a number of negative effects it could have on your business – including financial. So, what do you do?

  • Observe: Does the employee exhibit mood swings, depression, unexplained energy, argumentativeness? Is the employee unkempt, showing poor hygiene or exhibiting slurred speech? Are you noticing significant changes in performance and loss of concentration? Is the employee taking frequent sick or personal days? Compare employee performance with job description.
  • Keep records: Maintain specific, objective, written records of employee performance. It’s critical to document observations related to job performance but refrain from documenting suspicions about possible alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Approach the employee: Talk with the employee about the specific job performance concerns and the documented observations. As a supervisor it’s your role to recognize the performance problems not diagnose the cause of the problem. Explain the performance parameters that need to change and a time frame for improvement.
  • Consult with your EAP: At any point in the process, consult with your EAP provider. The EAP can coach you before the conversation with the employee and walk you through the process. The EAP management consultant will help you define the problem, clarify patterns of job performance concerns and define a path for resolution.
  • Follow-up: Continue to monitor job performance and document. Continue to give employee feedback about performance on a regular basis.

Substance abuse problems in the workplace can be complicated, costly and difficult. The EAP supports managers and organizations through the process of observation, documentation, EAP referral and resolution.

While this is a challenging situation for an employer, the EAP is your “go to” resource. Contact us today to learn more about the services an EAP can provide.