The High Cost of Denial – Working Under the Influence

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Think about this – one of your steady employees recently leaves you feeling concerned. Her work product is full of errors, she shows up late from time to time. Once, you even thought you smelled alcohol – but no. It couldn’t be. Could it? One of the toughest parts of a leader’s job is managing those situations where substance abuse collides with the workplace. We don’t want to think our steady employee could be experiencing a problem with drugs or alcohol. Denial is a powerful coping mechanism and can hinder the most insightful among us.

Substance abuse inflicts staggering costs on American Business with an even greater toll for small business. Nearly 80% of binge and heavy drinkers are employed. Substance abuse costs organizations in very concrete ways:
Worker’s compensation claims (38 to 50 percent are related to substance abuse)
Medical costs (nearly 300% higher than non-abusers)
Absenteeism (2.5 times more likely to be absent 8 or more days a year)
Lost productivity (1/3 less productive)

According to various studies, it is estimated that substance abuse drains from $60 to $200 billion from American business.
Where to start? Make sure your organization has a solid substance abuse policy that outlines how you will address substance abuse issues when they come up. For those with a small team, tap into professional support to mitigate your risk. Your employee assistance program is a great resource for help on where to start.

Once you have a solid policy, train your entire leadership team. The training should cover:
Your policy
How to implement it
Awareness of signs and symptoms of substance abuse
What to do when you have reasonable suspicion an employee is under the influence. (Your organization’s unique policy will guide the specific steps.)

As leaders, we have a moral imperative to provide a safe workplace for all employees. And, we can’t afford to ignore the crippling impact of substance abuse left unchecked. If you’re a small business leader, you don’t need to walk this road alone. Be sure to lean on your human resources, employee assistance, and legal professionals to give you the best roadmap for success.

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