Approaching someone about an alcohol or drug problem is daunting for any manager or colleague. However the sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner help can be found.
The following steps will make the process easier on both manager and employee:
- Early recognition- know the signs and symptoms of addiction;
- Explain that addiction is a disease, not a moral weakness or a personality disorder;
- Early intervention- help at an early stage can save an employee’s health, family and career. By the time alcoholism and drug addiction is visible in the office, it is already causing problems at home;
- Persuasion- a flexible, caring approach. Begin by expressing concern and expect denial and defensiveness;
- Present the facts- don’t say “I think you drink too much”, instead say “I smelled alcohol on your breath before the client meeting’;
- Employees should be made aware of the effects their drug taking is having in the office, on their colleagues and on the company;
- Use leverage where possible- It may be necessary to say that continuing employment depends on the ability to resolve their problems. But that you will support them if they accept help;
- Offer information and professional help- give them details of the Company Doctor, counsellor or a nearby GP; gather contact details of different professional organisations or rehab clinics that can provide treatment;
- Do not assume responsibility for the behaviour or tackling the problem – at the end of the day they are the ones who have to face their addiction.
All employees should bear in mind that by ignoring the problem, it will only get worse.
Any alcohol or drugs policy should be used to ensure problems are dealt with effectively, and consistently and early on in the process. They should protect workers and encourage sufferers to seek help. As an employer, you have a responsibility towards the well-being of your employees, but not only this – it is also in your best economical interest to implement a substance abuse policy with a sound support network. The cost of firing an employee with alcohol problems; and recruiting, hiring and training a replacement are far greater than seeking help for your affected employee.
When you become aware of the issue, you should:
- keep accurate, confidential records of instances of poor performance or other problems
- interview the worker in private as early as possible in the process
- concentrate on the instances of poor performance that have been identified
- ask for the worker’s reasons for poor performance and question whether it could be due to a health problem, without specifically mentioning alcohol or drugs
- if appropriate, discuss your alcohol and drugs policy and the help available inside or outside of your organisation
- agree future action
- arrange regular meetings to monitor progress and discuss any further problems if they arise.
Avoid an argument
Good practices around work-related violence:
- speak to staff regularly to hear if there are any ‘new’ problems
- keep detailed records of related incidents and encourage staff to report ‘near misses’
- think about training and supplying information to all staff on personal safety and how to diffuse difficult situations.
- look at the work environment and physical security of staff at the planning stage of any new work.
Find a treatment centre
Supporting your employees through rehab leads to:
- Economic savings for the company,
- Improved work climate,
- A healthier work force,
- A better reputation among your stakeholders, and Improved workforce commitment.
Follow up care
Supporting your colleague/employee through their alcohol or drug problem doesn’t end when they enter a rehab clinic. One of the most important phases is the transition back into the working environment and the support offered to them from their managers.