Dealing with Drug Abuse in the Workplace

                   Drug Abuse in the Workplace

It’s important to respect the privacy of your employees but so it is to see if any of their behaviors is affecting the performance or relationships at work. Drug abuse in the workplace is a serious issue and employers and HR managers are often incompetent to handle it well. Also, until drug abuse poses evident impacts on the work of employees, management often chooses to ignore it. However, it’s important to realize that even a single employee with drug related problem can be a serious threat to the work performance and efficiency of the entire team. Identifying the signs and dealing with the problem of drug abuse in the workplace could be a challenging task. The management must take immediate action as soon as it detects signs of drug abuse but the task isn’t as easy as it sounds and involves a number of complicated steps.

Impact of Drug Abuse on Employees

Drug abuse can have a number of adverse impacts on employees. It impairs the cognition and decision making abilities of employees. Studies have revealed that about 10-20% of workplace related deaths in the U.S. are linked to drugs or alcohol. An OSHA study also stated that high rate of drug use has also been found among employees in dangerous occupations like construction and mining. Drug abusers increase the risks of deadly accidents in the workplace and also hurt their employers financially.

Symptoms of Drug Abuse

It’s important to identify the symptoms of drug abuse so that timely action can be taken to arrest the problem. Drug abuse is a sensitive issue and on confrontation, the employees are scared of giving honest answers about themselves or their co-workers. People involved in drug abuse are often expert in camouflaging their issues and others avoid accusing their co-workers. Here are a few common symptoms you can look for:

  • Decline in productivity
  • Regularly arriving late at office or taking frequent breaks in between work
  • Poor or reduced performance
  • Changing workplaces frequently
  • Change in personal appearance
  • Altered attitude, unusual behavior or mood swings
  • Avoiding responsibility or contact with co-workers

Defining Organization’s Drug Abuse Policy

Drug abuse in the workplace can affect an organization at many different levels. Employers and management must encourage a healthy workplace culture and define the organization’s policy against drug abuse. It’s important to be open and upfront about your policies even before you detect any issue. Policies and procedures often vary depending on the size of the company and the industry. However, whatever be the scenario, management should always clearly explain their rules and regulations regarding drug abuse. Also, to protect your company from legal issues, a well documented polity is must. A standard policy must contain the following points:

  • Definition of drug abuse
  • Intent and purpose of the policy
  • Circumstances for conducting tests
  • How to maintain confidentiality while dealing with the problem
  • Resources for educating employees about drug abuse
  • Assistance program and disciplinary actions for drug abusers

Organizations need to be alert and proactive about spreading awareness among employees on drug abuse. It requires both professionalism and compassion to recognize such problems and deal with them in an effective manner. Good policies and employee assistance programs can go a long way in keeping such problems at bay and maintaining the productivity and growth of your organization.

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