You notice that your employee is often late for work and uses sick days more than he should. He starts to show erratic behaviour and isn’t as productive as he used to be. Should you suspect that your employee is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction?
Unfortunately, that could be the reality. Employees that struggle with a substance addiction are 25-30% less productive, and skip work three times more often than their other colleagues who don’t have a substance addiction. What should you do in such a case? Here are four recommended steps to take if you suspect that an employee is dealing with an addiction.
1) Start with a one-on-one conversation
Expressing concern and genuine empathy is the best way to initiate a private conversation. Instead of being intrusive, ask a few questions about the sudden absenteeism and change of behaviour, such as a simple question like: “Is everything ok? I’ve noticed that you’ve missed a lot of shifts lately. You can talk to me.”
Make sure to respect the employee’s right to privacy by avoiding questions about his medical history. Keep in mind that it’s possible that you mistake these signs for something else, so try to avoid jumping straight to the conclusion. The employee may possibly be facing other non-substance related problems, like family issues.
2) Document the employee’s behaviour
Make sure to keep a history of the employee’s behaviour, both the negative and positive. Keep track of which areas are affected by the employee’s problem behaviour, such as attendance, job performance and interactions with other colleagues. These are important things to take into consideration, since it’s easier to act on lack of performance rather than addressing a drug or alcohol issue.
3) Review your substance abuse policy
Refer to your employee handbook and make sure your organization has a written policy on the prohibition of illegal drug possession and consumption, as well as being under the influence or illegal drugs at work. Should you need to take legal action, the substance abuse policy will help enforce your decision.
4) Choose your next course of action
If you’re positive that the employee has a substance addiction, your next option may be to conduct a drug or alcohol test, as long as it is within legal guidelines. You should also consider getting professional advice from a drug counselor or a doctor. Make sure to explore the pros and cons of each possible course of action.
Keep in mind, however, that no matter which course of action you decide to pursue, you should always consider the employee’s health and safety. As an employer, you have a legal duty to accommodate the employee to the best of your ability. Try to have on hand many resources to give to your employee, such as drug counselors or physicians specializing in treating addiction.