There was a time when drug and alcohol abuse was closely associated with unemployment, that those who regularly abuse alcohol and illegal drugs typically have no stable jobs to speak of. These days, however, that is no longer the case. Many of today’s substance abusers are gainfully employed. Their substance abuse problems, however, can cause problems in the workplace.
While many employers already have programs in place to deal with alcohol and drugs in the workplace, many colleagues are often at a loss on what to do or even say when faced with signs and symptoms of substance abuse among employees. If you’re one of those workers, here are some things you can do about alcohol and drugs in the workplace.
A colleague’s duty in workplace drug safety
More often than not, employees avoid getting involved in substance abuse cases in the workplace, particularly when the employee concerned and their actions do not directly affect their own work or health. However, they cannot deny that substance abuse problems in the workplace are bound to affect someone else, and that someone else also happens to be their friend or colleague. That friend or colleague might find themselves at the receiving end of aggression or violent behaviour from the drug-addicted co-worker, or that colleague could be a victim of an accident caused by impairment on the part of the substance abuser. Doing something about substance abuse in the workplace is not just right thing to do. It’s also a colleague’s duty.
Talk to the employee concerned
So what can a colleague do to deal with suspected substance abuse in an employee?
The most logical thing to do is to broach the subject with the concerned individual. However, talk to the person only when they appear sober and clearheaded. There is no sense talking about such a serious matter with a person who is under the influence of a certain substance.
If and when you get the chance to talk, talk as sincerely as possible. If finding words to say is proving hard, we recommend writing down every single thing you want to say. Better yet, make a list of possible responses from your colleague and practice how you’d answer them.
Make sure you use “I” every so often, as in “I’m worried” or “I have a concern”. The individual concerned won’t be able to argue with your feelings when you say that. In addition, never criticise their behaviour. Just talk to the person about the effects of substance abuse not only on himself, but also on the people they care about the most. Always emphasise that they should get help for the sake of their loved ones.
It would be great if your colleague admits their drug problems during your talk, but you can expect most of them to deny everything or resist any kind of help. Denial is pretty common among drug and alcohol dependents after all. When this happens, you may consider expressing your concerns to management, especially the HR department. Let them conduct their own investigation into the matter, and use all the company resources at their disposal to get to the bottom of things and get help for the affected individual.
We understand that dealing with substance abuse in the workplace is not a walk in the park, particularly for colleagues of an employee under the influence of substance abuse. However, it’s important that you try to help them not only for their sake, but also for everyone’s. As a co-worker, how else can you deal with an employee’s drug problems in the workplace?