Chemical dependency is a fairly common workplace problem, as approximately one out of six workers abuse alcohol or drugs. It is important that managers learn as much as they can about this problem and how it affects work performance. Managers must learn to recognize the warning signs and conduct effective coaching and counseling discussions with employees about job performance, but should leave the diagnosis and treatment to substance abuse experts.
Chemical dependency is a disease characterized by loss of control. When drug abuse creates negative consequences in major life areas, and the person continues to use the substance, it can be considered an addiction. As an employee suffers from a craving for the drug of choice, a variety of drug-seeking behaviors including dealing drugs on the job, taking drugs in his car during the workday, and symptoms of withdrawal can occur. Abuse and addiction usually create negative impact in all life areas such as health, family finances, and legal matters. In the workplace, there is a deterioration in work performance quality, quantity, or both.
Review the warning signs below to determine a possible root cause of a performance problem due to chemical dependency.
Warning Signs af Chemical Dependency
- A decline in work quality or quantity
- Emotional peaks and valleys-increase in mood swings
- Conflicts, resentment, or hostile interactions with co-workers
- Missed deadlines
- Complaints from customers or colleagues about sloppy work or angry outbursts
- Accidents that could cause injury to self or others
- Unexplained absences from the workplace - long lunches, excessive breaks
- Defensiveness or irrational excuses when confronted with not meeting job expectations
- An increase in health problems causing attendance problems
What to Do Next: Ten Tips
- Do not rescue the employee by preventing him from experiencing the consequences of his behavior. Do not make excuses for his behavior or accept poor performance.
- Clearly identify the signs of declining performance early and take constructive action by conducting counseling sessions.
- Know and implement your company policy toward substance abuse problems.
- Make sure performance expectations are clear.
- Document discussions about performance and action plans that are agreed upon including goals, dates, and any agreements made.
- Monitor performance after an action plan has been established, and recognize performance improvements.
- Follow the guidelines in this book on coaching and counseling to avoid making the employee hostile or defensive during your discussions.
- Know the professional resources available to help you develop a plan and for the employee to obtain professional treatment.
- Be prepared with the list of appropriate referrals if the employee admits there is a problem or you suggest there may be a problem with her job performance.
- Let employees know you consider them valuable and that you will support them in resolving these problems so they can become productive.
For a more comprehensive view on the subject. read Job Performance and Chemical Dependency, by Robert Maddux and Lynda Voorhees, Crisp Publications.