Dealing with substance abuse at the workplace

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That substance abuse is a serious issue and menace at the US workplace needs no iteration, if one takes a look at these disturbing statistics compiled by the National Drug Free Workplace Alliance (NDWA) for five years from 2008 suggest:

  • Close to nine percent of the workforce in the age group of 18-64 used alcohol heavily in one month prior to the survey


  • More than eight percent used illicit drugs in the same preceding period


  • Between nine and ten percent of the employees were dependent on either alcohol or illicit drugs for a year prior to the survey


  • Substance abuse correlates to the industry in which people work. Mining and construction workers are prone to be the highest consumers of alcohol, while those in the accommodation and food services industry topped in the use of illicit drugs.

These statistics apart, there are many aspects of substance abuse that are of serious concern to the workplace. When employees resort to substance abuse –defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the illicit and unauthorized use of harmful substances such as alcohol and/or drugs among others –they become a liability for organizations in more senses than one.

Effects of substance abuse at the workplace

Employees who resort to substance abuse at the workplace suffer from issues that affect their own productivity and that of others:

The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information estimates that the loss, from substance abuse is around $ 13,000 annually per employee. The direct or indirect loss from substance abuse amounts to over $100 billion for the US economy overall. This figure is pretty conservative, since it does not factor in how much more this money could have generated if it were to be put on the right resources.

It also does not take into account the psychological aspects of substance abuse, such as the disturbance it places on the family, and the loss that this habit causes by stunting the emotional development and productive potential of the children affected by the habits of the bread earning member of the family.

These are just some of the ways by which substance abuse affects employees on a day-to-day basis:

  • Employees who are prone to substance abuse are less productive at work
  • They are less lively and are more likely to be lethargic during working hours
  • Their decision-making ability is hampered
  • They have a tendency for getting into verbal and physical fights with their peers
  • Drug or alcohol-dependent employees are more prone to illnesses and injuries, resulting in higher cost of medical attention

Management and HR need to act

Given the enormity of the problem of substance abuse at the workplace, it is imperative for managements and HR to become proactive in dealing with the problem. The onus certainly is on them to prevent and contain the problem of substance abuse at the workplace.

The ways of doing this will be the important learning from a webinar that is being organized by TrainHR, a leading provider of professional trainings for the human resources industry. At this webinar, Dr. Steve Albrecht, one of the country’s leading experts on work and school violence prevention and on dealing with high-risk employees, customers, and taxpayers, and who wrote co-wrote Ticking Bombs, one of the first business books on workplace violence back in 1994, will be the speaker.

To hear from an expert of this stature about how to deal with issue of substance abuse at the workplace; please enroll for this session by visiting TrainHR .

A look at recent ambiguous laws

Dr. Albrecht will focus on the recent changes into state marijuana and medical marijuana use, which have made it quite difficult for employers to understand what is legal and what is not when it is used by employees, when consumed both during and off the job. He will cover the most common drugs of use and abuse, including stimulants, like meth and cocaine, hallucinogens, opiates marijuana, alcohol depressants, and dissociative anesthetics. He will explain the protocols for drug testing, results discussions, and return to work.

Above all, he will equip them with the understanding needed to determine if the employee’s altered behavior at work or low performance are a result of substance use. HR and other managerial cadre normally tend to overlook certain behavioral tendencies in problem employees or rationalize them to rule out the influence of drugs.

He will impart the following learning objectives from this session:

  • Recognize how drugs and alcohol are abused
  • Know how to identify the signs, symptoms, and behaviors of employee drug or alcohol use
  • Know how to have “crucial conversation” with employees suspected of drug or alcohol use
  • Understand the drug testing process, discipline, and return to work, and termination

Dr. Albrecht will cover the following area at this webinar:

  • Drugs and alcohol abuse
  • Types of drugs employees abuse and why
  • The testing process
  • Treatment programs
  • Discipline and Termination
  • Return to work.

Diligence and scrutiny are important for writing investigative reports


Diligence and a high degree of scrutiny are crucial for a person who is writing investigative reports in an organization. In the first place, an investigation has to be objective and not be vindictive. It should avoid targeting an employee personally; it should be thorough and proper from a legal perspective. When all the legal procedures are followed in an investigation, the case of the employer becomes strong and defensible in a court of law.

An investigative report, which captures and details the investigation, should reflect this entire nature of an investigation. All that is mentioned above about investigations should find resonance in the report. It should not only be a complete description of the investigative case; it should be thoroughly and properly researched and what is more, should be presented in a very well-articulated manner. Such an investigative report is a powerful tool in purging the organization of a bad employee.

Badly written investigative reports can be very harmful

If, at the other extreme, an investigative report that is half baked in the sense of being devoid of due diligence, or reeks of prejudice or bias towards the employee, it is a powerful tool in derailing the career prospects of a good employee, which affects the organization in many ways. Another important drawback of a shoddily written investigative report is that it can afford the employee the chance to take the employer to court. This has serious implications for the business and its reputation.

The court of law is not witness to the investigation, but only gets to know about it from the investigational report. So, the report has to be effective, fair and polished. The organization’s approach to the investigation is reflected in the report, which is why the person writing the investigative report has to get every component of it right. Since the investigative report is the final piece of written evidence that the organization is producing in the court to justify its actions; it has to be fair, well-argued and neatly presented. As this is the document on which action is taken, it is all the more important to follow the due process while writing investigative reports.

The right way of writing investigative reports

Since it is extremely important for organizations to get the ways of preparing investigative reports right; it is necessary to get trained on this critical aspect. This is what a webinar that TrainHR, a leading provider of professional trainings for the HR industry is organizing; will offer.

Teri Morning, who is President, Teri Morning Enterprises and has over 15 years human resource and training experience in a variety of professional fields, including retail, distribution, architectural, engineering, consulting, manufacturing (union), public sector and both profit and non-profit company structures, will be the speaker.

Teri will offer the right and effective ways of drafting a foolproof investigative report. You can enroll for this webinar by visiting TrainHR     This webinar has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi and SPHRi recertification through HR Certification Institute (HRCI).

This webinar will be of immense use for those who are involved in conducting workplace investigations or are part of them in one or another way. These include Plant Managers and Upper Management, HR Generalists and Associates, Safety Managers and Associates, Small Business Owners, Regulatory Compliance Managers and Associates, and anyone who writes workplace investigative reports.

Teri will cover the following areas at this webinar:

  • Format of a report
  • What should be included in a report and as importantly – what should not
  • Style for report writing
  • Writing of allegation(s)
  • What to do with evidence
  • What goes in a witness summary in the report and what does not
  • Writing of your final determinations
  • What to do with partially substantiated allegation(s)
  • Why the report summary is written last
  • Tips for proofing and analyze your own final report
  • Report writing mistakes
  • Characteristics of a good report.

5 attributes for employee assistance program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a program that an organization implements to ease some of the personal problems faced by its employees. An employee assistance program is largely voluntary, in that it is not mandatory either for organizations to implement it, or for very employee to avail it.

employee assistance program - TrainHR

According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, here’s what to look for:

  1. 24/7 phone response. Seek out providers that have trained counselors on duty answering a toll-free phone line at all times. Avoid EAPs that require users to navigate an elaborate phone tree before reaching a counselor.
  2. Confidential services. Licensed, professional counselors should deliver assessments and face-to-face counseling sessions in safe, private and confidential offices. Make sure there are enough counselors in your area to deliver timely services in both urgent and nonurgent cases.
  3. Referral support and follow-up. The EAP should assist employees by providing referrals for long-term or specialized care based on assessed needs, recommended treatment and employees’ financial resources. The EAP should provide follow-up and ongoing support for employees.
  4. Crisis intervention. Will EAP counselors come to your facility if there’s an emergency, such as an incident of workplace violence? Good EAPs can provide counseling for traumatized employees. They can also help management coordinate emergency-response plans.
  5. Substance abuse expertise. Given their disproportionately great impact on the workplace, drug and alcohol abuse problems often represent the bulk of EAP cases.

Workplace negativity has to be negated

In any workplace, it is natural for negativity of one or another kind to creep in. This could be because of the work environment, the nature of work, the way colleagues interact, or due to the way an employee is treated in the organization. Whatever the reason for it, HR has to ensure that it works towards minimizing workplace negativity, because if this goes unchecked, its results will be negative, too: poor productivity, employees that suffer low morale, poor teamwork and coordination and the like.

Ways of minimizing workplace negativity

If an organization has to work towards minimizing workplace negativity; it has to ensure a positive working environment. An environment where there are tiffs over trivial issues, politics at the workplace, favoritism, gossip, backstabbing and such other negativities is the ideal breeding ground for negativity. One of the most important tasks for HR is to take care of these elements if it has to work at minimizing workplace negativity.

Team should be helpful

A colleague who is beset by personal problems can also be a negative influence in the organization. Although it is true that employees need to behave like mature adults and not bring their personal grievances into the workplace; it is human nature after all, to have the need for being comforted. An understanding team that is responsive to the problems of a team member will be a factor in minimizing workplace negativity.

The boss has an important role

There are some important factors that can contribute towards minimizing workplace negativity. The manager and the team have to be transparent in their dealings with each other. The superior should lead by example and should be a role model, instead of being someone who keeps his team members apart from each other by politicking. It is often remarked that one of the prime reasons for which employees leave organizations is their boss. It is the boss who is primarily responsible for negativity in the team. One who sets the example is a great factor at minimizing workplace negativity.

HR should stop nitpicking

When HR is entrusted with the task of minimizing workplace negativity; it should start by avoiding nitpicking. A work environment in which people enjoy freedom is a positive one. On the other hand, if HR fastidiously keeps raising silly issues; it will be seen as meddling and irksome and contributing to negativity.



Contact Details
Fax: 302-288-6884
43337 Livermore Common | Fremont| CA | USA | 94539

Mental disorders and the workplace

Mental disorders are varied and complex. Symptoms of several kinds of mental disorder don’t usually show up easily. Many others are more overt. A person with a mental disorder may have the care and affection of the family; but when it comes to the workplace, it is a difficult luxury to get, because the workplace is not the family! It has invested on that person to get tangible and definite results from him. To discover that the person they found was perfect at the time of the interview and the selection process has a mental disorder can be galling for everyone.

Finger usually points to HR

The HR of the organization would feel doubly embarrassed, because it is the one that is the prime mover of the selection process. It is one thing for a person to develop a mental condition after taking up a job and being in it for many years. This means that at least at the time of the selection, he was fine. Now that the mental disorder would have developed due to some situations at work or at home; it is some kind of consolation for HR. But what kind of consolation is this! Irrespective of the time at which the mental disorder set in; the person needs attending to, and this is one of the prime responsibilities an organization’s HR needs to discharge.

They need support, not sympathy

While this is true largely, we don’t have to worry too much about fixing the blame. A mental disorder can be something that the person hides at the time of the selection process. This being the case; it is difficult to say whether it is HR or other managers that need to be blamed for selecting such a person. First of all, we need to understand that people having mental disorders are not scary. Most of them are people like you and me, it is just that there are a few who get disturbed and behave irrationally or erratically during times. People with this condition need support, and everyone in the organization has a role in making a person come to grips with his condition.

What is the result of having people with mental disorders?

First, let us get an understanding of what can happen at the workplace that has people with mental disorder.

There are many kinds of mental disorders that people suffer from. Many have conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the like. It is highly unlikely that a person could have more than one of these at the same time.

One of the most common behaviors of these people is that they find it difficult to concentrate at work for long hours; they are restless, nervous or irritable; they can sometimes be short tempered or eccentric. Some people have sleeping difficulties, because of which they find it difficult to concentrate at work. These result in loss of productivity.

Behaviors are different at different times

People with such conditions and disorders behave differently at home and at the workplace. They are usually subdued at the workplace, but are more vocal and sometimes aggressive at home and other places other than the workplace. Many people with mental disorders would be under treatment at the time of taking up their jobs. When they come out openly about their illness at the time of selection; it becomes easier for HR to deal with the problem. But most people hold this information back; for fear that it could come in the way of their selection, or the fear that they could lose their jobs once they are diagnosed with it after taking up their jobs.

How are people with mental disorders identified?

Every person has symptoms that are strongly rooted and displayed in people with mental disorders. How many of us do not exhibit traits like restlessness, shouting out loudly at colleagues, feeling listless and down, and restless and hyperactive? The difference though, is that people with mental disorders do this very often during their working time, and many times are obsessed with this kind of behavior.

Ways of dealing with them

HR has a very important role to play in dealing with people with mental disorders. It is true that everyone, especially teammates, have to help in identifying the problem, but it is HR that plays the role of facilitator in resolving the issue.

The simplest and most effective of remedies HR can bring about is to seek medical attention for the employee with a mental disorder. If the employee has been showing signs for the first time; he needs to be counseled to seek medical advice.

Take colleagues into confidence

Once the problem has been diagnosed, HR has to take such an employee’s colleagues into confidence and apprise them of the situation. It should ideally speak to the doctor and get tips on how to educate colleagues who work with that employee about ways of dealing with such a person. It should first of all make sure that colleagues cooperate with such an employee and not deride or stigmatize him.

Mental disorders are neither wished for, nor do they appear in people who will it. A mental disorder is a complex phenomenon that happens due to factors that science is yet to fully understand. HR has to approach it in a sensible and sane manner, without hurting the diagnosed employee further. It should make sure it handles these cases with utmost dedication, just as if it were a caregiver. If it could help put the person back on track; it is some kind of justified triumph for those in HR.


Contact Details
Fax: 302-288-6884
43337 Livermore Common | Fremont| CA | USA | 94539

Understand the Gen X employee to manage her

Managing Gen X could be the next big challenge for organizations. It is estimated that by around 2019; Gen X will be in charge of the workplace. What does managing Gen X entail? What is the generation like? Will managements be stretched to their limits in managing Gen X? Will they earn the same loyalty and respect they got from this generation that they got from the previous one/s?

What is Gen X?

After the baby boom generation, which relates roughly to those born in the post war period; the stage is set for the advent of the generation after that, or what is called Gen X, meaning those born from about the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s. Employment analysts surmise that these people will start to attain their highest productivity in around 2019, when they take up their professions or will be some years into it.

Why is managing Gen X considered challenging?

Managing Gen X is challenging for a simple reason: this is the first generation born after the Net took over our lives, so to speak. This generation is the first to be in this position, and sets the trend for being the generation that relies almost entirely on IT for almost anything it does.

In is out, out is in

Since gadgets are here to stay; we can expect that managing Gen X will be akin to managing these gadgets: here today, gone tomorrow. What implications does this trend have for the future of organizations? Employers will now have to come round to the fact that employees are no longer here to stay in the long run. This is the first principle governing the rules of managing Gen X.

Give up micromanaging

It is highly unlikely that Gen X will tolerate any bossing around or micromanaging from its employers. This is a generation that has grown up more independently than perhaps any previous one; so, for people of this generation, the most irritating trait is likely to be micromanaging from employers. They like to be left to themselves, because there are those many more opportunities for them to experiment with anything, be it gadgetry, work, or life itself. The best method in managing Gen X is to give them as much creativity and scope for improvement and experimentation as possible.

Forget loyalty

Another very important element of managing Gen X will be their tendency for job-hopping. It is next to impossible to expect this sprightly generation to stick around for years in the same organization or even in the same profession. For it, it is growth and job satisfaction that comes above everything else, including loyalty. Given that they form the typical global employee gang and the fact of being of very high ethnic diffusion; it is next to impossible to expect them to stay around.



Contact Details
Fax: 302-288-6884
43337 Livermore Common | Fremont| CA | USA | 94539

Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), as the term suggests, are programs or initiatives undertaken by the employer to assist an employee in bettering her work. This is why Employee Assistance Programs are important for an organization to put in place. Employee Assistance Programs are helpful for both the employee and the organization.

How are Employee Assistance Programs helpful?

Let us examine how Employee Assistance Programs are a very useful tool towards improving productivity. Say, the employer allows an employee flexible working hours. This will mean less stress for the employee who now longer has to battle her way through the traffic leaving home at a time when her kid needs her attention. Isn’t this a great benefit to the employee? When employees are offered benefits like this, they are certain to be star performers. This is simple again, because the ball is now in their court.

When the employer has provided them the benefit or convenience they were seeking, they have no reason not to perform. In fact, it is a double edged sword for the employer, because it can now get the best out of the employee. It can even dangle the stick of blackmail! Employees will treasure their relationship with the organization and will have very remote thoughts of leaving for another employment. This way, Employee Assistance Programs are very powerful tools in facilitating a high degree of loyalty and productivity.

The dynamics of Employee Assistance Programs

A few things need to be understood when an organization decides to implement Employee Assistance Programs.

  1. Employee Assistance Programs are not for everyone: Firstly, these are not suited for everyone and for every kind of work. They are good for some kinds of work in the New Economy. Let us say a retail salesman wants to telecommute. How is this ever possible?
  2. A high degree of trust is required: Many a time, many organizations entrust confidential work to some of their employees. When employees who are given such work want to work remotely, organizations will need to put some checks and surveillances in place, which could defeat the purpose of the concept of Employee Assistance Programs.
  3. No program lasts forever: Another important element of Employee Assistance Programs is that these keep changing over time. A program that is good for implementation at one point of time may not be so a few years down the line. HR has to be discrete in deciding on this from time to time. Overall, Employee Assistance Programs need to be exercised with tact and have to be reviewed from time to time.



Contact Details

Fax: 302-288-6884
43337 Livermore Common | Fremont| CA | USA | 94539