Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria

Engage, Don’t Enable: Confronting alcoholism in your employees

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AlcoholismAs Rob Ford weathers the storm of his alleged substance abuse problem, there needs to be something we can learn from his experience other than to choose the people you surround yourself with wisely. The Toronto mayor is certainly not the only person whose drinking habits have been called to attention in the workplace. As alcohol abuse becomes one of the greatest health threats to Canadians in recent years, employers must prepare themselves to engage in dialogue about this disease and become familiar with signs that an employee might be suffering.

Technically, drinking habits may be the personal business of your employees, but once a substance dependence problem emerges, it will inevitably affect business. Absenteeism, on-the-job injury and accidents, missed deadlines and poor workplace conduct are only a few of the detrimental outcomes of alcoholism, and the employer has a responsibility to address it as an issue once productivity is compromised.

Maintaining the welfare of your company and your employee’s health as main priorities is good business, and there are strategies you can implement in your company  to help you, the employer, mitigate the costs  of substance abuse. 1.

  1. Ensure that you have clearly communicated your expectations for conduct and performance in the workplace. Only with these expectations in place can you effectively measure when employees are failing to meet company standards.
  2. Schedule regular feedback and review meetings to promote a culture of improvement and transparency with individual employees. Having frequent dialogue will make it easier to broach any changes or declines in performance you may observe.
  3. Learn to recognize changes in performance, attendance and work relationships. Alcohol dependence can affect an employee’s ability to carry out commitments, meet deadlines and maintain healthy relationships at work. Knowing your employees well will help you more easily identify changes in their performance that could be brought on by substance abuse.
  4. Keep thorough records of observations. Ensure that you make note of incidents as they occur so that you are able to better record trends and patterns that support your concerns.
  5. Contact a representative of your EAP for support. A consultation with the EAP  will help you initiate difficult conversations and make available various resources.
  6. Be prepared to address  the issue with your employee.  Compare what you are currently observing with the employee’s performance against what the job expectations are.
  7. Set a measurable action plan with the employee that articulates the corrective action required to improve the work performance and include a time frame for the desired outcomes to be achieved.  Encourage the employee to access the EAP for support in executing the plan.   Be clear that failure to change the performance or conduct and seek help could result in disciplinary measures or dismissal.  Have the employee sign off on the document.
  8. Continue follow-up with additional conversations as necessary, including meeting with the employee on the formal review date (as set out in #7 above).

 

Although it might be uncomfortable to address such a sensitive issue with an employee, having a list of resources available (EAP) beforehand will assist you with offering support.

Your involvement could make a significant difference in the quality of someone’s work and personal life, thereby increasing your productivity as an organization

Have you ever seen the benefits of someone seeking help and returning to the workplace?  I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments below.

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