Given the negative impact in the workplace on safety, productivity, and financial costs, HR professionals can and should address the issue by implementing a substance abuse policy. Learning to identify the warning signs of substance abuse, HR teams can guide employees who exhibit signs to safe and effective treatment centers.
Many substance abusers don’t seek help because they are unwilling to accept that their use has become problematic. Because denial is a powerful coping mechanism, employees may reject the idea that substance use problems exist or that the addictions have become apparent to others. Some substance abusers may distrust assurances of confidentiality by treatment centers, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and HR departments. Many addicts, especially those with professional, white-collar jobs, are sensitive to the stigma associated with the label, an addict or an alcoholic.
Supervisors and managers often fail to act because they have not received training to identify possible warning signs of addiction. Frequently, they only recognize the symptoms until after failed an accident, failed or missed drug tests, or an embarrassing incident. HR leaders must play an important role when managing employees with substance abuse problems.
Implementing Substance Abuse Policies
The U.S. Department of Labor recommends all employers have a written workplace policy that is shared with all employees during the onboarding process that clearly states expectations and rules regarding alcohol and drug use.
Most employers have several options for dealing with employees with alcohol or drug problems. However, some collective bargaining agreements or the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules for employees in safety-sensitive positions may mandate specific requirements. There may be particular requirements, such as the terms of collective bargaining agreements or the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules for employees in safety-sensitive positions. More information and guidance on those topics can found here: What are the requirements for drug testing commercial vehicle operators and employees who drive as part of the job?
Employers who do $100,000 worth of business with the federal government or receive federal grants of any amount are required to comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act. At a bare minimum, said employers are required to have a drug awareness program.
Recognizing Warning Signs of Substance Abuse in the Workplace
The list below outlines behavioral characteristics that may be present with substance use. They are not always indicative of a substance use problem are general warning signs to watch out for. They do not always indicate a substance abuse problem, but they may warrant further observation.