Addiction in the Workplace: Recovery is Possible

This is an excellent blog once again from Castle Craig that was published last month.addiction-at-work-poster

  • Do you have employees or colleagues who are habitually late for work, are increasingly absent or functioning at two-thirds of their capacity, and/or with impaired decision making?
  • Do you notice poor team morale and staff relations, as well as damaged customer relations, centered around a particular person?
  • Has your company had a sudden increase in accidents?
  • Has a colleague’s productivity been affected by cancer, liver disease, heart disease or stroke – or even by risky sexual behaviours with adverse outcomes?

If your answer is “yes” to any of the above questions, your solution could be identifying and addressing substance abuse in the workplace. Addressing health issues today is not merely a ‘virtuous circle’ but a hard economic factor with high stakes, as the following UK statistics highlight:

  • £7.3billion a year is lost in productivity due to alcohol (2009/10 costs)
  • Using US figures as a comparator, lost productivity from illicit drugs is a very close second
  • 14-20million working days are lost each year from alcoholism
  • 60% of workplace deaths are linked to alcohol
  • 40% of accidents are linked to alcohol
  • £30,614 is the average cost to recruit a single staff member, according to Oxford Economics.

There is also lost productivity from those around the person with the substance-abuse problem: for example, 14% of employees in one survey said they had to re-do work due to a co-worker’s drinking.

Moreover, upwards of half of working family members of alcoholics report that their own ability to function at work was negatively impacted by their family member’s drinking. There is even a book on this subject by New York Times bestseller Janet Geringer Woititz called Self-Sabotage Syndrome: Adult Children [of alcoholics] in the Workplace.

When organisations need to retain key employees, the returns on investment are inarguable. So why do too many people let these damaging behaviours go on too long?  Reasons include: fear, company culture, no procedures, perceived human rights, lack of knowledge and thus confidence to do anything, discomfort in change, and the misperception that it is easier to do nothing.

Despite denial, 76% of people with drug or alcohol problems are employed – firing them won’t make the problem go away, but addressing the core issues can yield improvements.

“A former star performer who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth will do everything possible to cover up the problem,” says Jeff Jay, co-author of Love First: A New Approach To Intervention for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction. “So first make sure you have all the facts. Review your company’s policy for alcohol or drug abuse. If you’ve decided that the person needs help, talk to other managers, consider calling in a professional then meet with the employee.”

During an intervention like this, you can expect the substance abuser to explain away his or her declining productivity with excuses and rationalisations that come down to one thing: ‘I’m not responsible’. Your job is to help them get back on track.

This is not the first post about alcohol and workplace issues I’ve written and you can see the rest of them here 🙂

7 thoughts on “Addiction in the Workplace: Recovery is Possible

  1. Great graphic. This was me, calling in sick on Mondays and making mistakes. My employer has become more health-focused in recent years, but it seems to me it’s more focused on physical health than emotional. I can understand why people would be reluctant to ask for help from HR. I still haven’t shared my struggles with any of my co-workers. xx

    1. I’m the same Lori – although only today I did say to one nursing colleague that I was in recovery and that is a very recent confidence thing. I feel more solid in my recovery 🙂 Have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow! xx

  2. You know… “Mike” is not physically dependent on drinking, based on the information in the image. And the choice of ‘treatment or disaster’ is not true for the majority of people who abuse alcohol. I would love to see a graphic that shows the path that people *actually* take in Mike’s situation:

    “Mike realizes that his lifestyle is having a negative impact on everyone and everything around him. He decides to pull his self-absorbed head out of his ass and take charge of his life before something really bad happens. He quits drinking, starts lifting weights, cultivates friendships, improves his work performance, and plants a small garden. For the first time in years, Mike feels like he has a life worth living, and he decides to keep it that way.”

    1. Happy Thanksgiving to you too Wendy! Happy to hear you had a lovely day with no wine 🙂 xx

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