With the opioid crisis in the forefront of the recent news, employers are asking questions. They want to know how to recognize when an employee is suffering from addictions and how to help.
Detecting an employee with an addiction issue may not be as apparent as one might think. The reality is an addiction can manifest differently in different people. In fact, some individuals are “functional addicts” which means they have a high ability to manage their addictions. These people regulate how much and when they use and can sustain a semblance of normalcy for extended periods.
Addiction, however, is a disease which slowly overtakes a person’s ability to control his or her actions until consequences kick in.
Here are 8 signs an employee may be abusing drugs or alcohol:
- Change in work habits including disappearing for periods of time, absences attributed to odd or unbelievable excuses, or consistent tardiness.
- Erratic mood shifts, irritability, confusion, or lack of focus, which may indicate withdrawal or mood-altering
- Deterioration of personal grooming such as unwashed hair, disheveled clothing or wearing the same clothing
- Persistent fatigue can be a sign since some addictive substances affect sleep habits or cause depression which can also lead to fatigue.
- Changes in social behavior.
- Work performance can be like a roller-coaster – reaching peak performance and then suddenly dropping to inferior work.
- Putting the blame for errors on others rather than taking responsibility.
- Complaints from co-workers.
Of course, any of these behaviors, by itself or in conjunction with a couple of others, can indicate many different things, but if an employee has multiple symptoms, it’s time to dig deeper.
What to do when you suspect an employee has an addiction?
- Before any occurrence, make sure management is trained in how to recognize an addiction problem and what protocols to follow.
- Document the employee’s behavior. Report specific details including times the employee acts differently.
- Speak with your Human Resources department, especially if your firm offers an Employee Assistance program. Then allow the staff to connect the employee with the specific therapy required for the addiction.
- Consult a lawyer to place the information on record and to sort out what can or cannot be said.
Of course, these points touch the surface of a complex physical, emotional and relational issue. It is just as important to approach the person with respect and empathy as it is to keep in mind your professional position.
Patrick Whelan Associates, Inc. provides professional recruiting services in the Albany, NY area. Our honest and transparent approach to assisting clients and candidates have led to building long-term relationships with rock-solid values.
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