Why Employers Should Approach Addicts with Concern, Not Threats

Having suffered from drug and alcohol addiction myself once, and being a successful business owner and entrepreneur, I have a lot of experience with work and with addiction, and with the prospect of hiring somebody who is addicted to drugs and alcohol or finding out that somebody who I hired is addicted to drugs and alcohol.

I feel very strongly about how you should proceed when you do find out that someone you have working for you is abusing drugs and alcohol.  The statistics about addiction are grim today, so it’s very likely that any business with more than ten or twenty employees has an addict within it.  It’s really important that you do not use threats though, or anger, antagonism, rage, or any kind of verbal abuse. Those types of tactics do not work on drug and alcohol addicted individuals, no matter what the old treatment methodologies say. Rather, I would have you use a more proactive approach.

How to Respond When You Find Out an Employee has an Addiction

I am a proponent of any tactic that will improve employee motivation.  When you find out an employee of yours is an addict, here is a step-by-step, quick insight as to how to handle an employee who is addicted to drugs and alcohol:

  • Basically, the first step is to actually do nothing. For a day or two, you need to verify your source. How did you find out that the individual is a drug addict, and how reliable is the source? Verify beyond any reasonable doubt that your employee is actually a substance abuser before you do anything else.
  • Do some research. You don’t want to go in guns blazing with an employee who is addicted to drugs and alcohol if you don’t know anything about addiction yourself. If this is the case, then it would be up to you to do your research and learn a little bit about substance abuse.
  • Compose yourself. It might be a good idea to talk to somebody who you know who is in recovery, and get some help from some other individuals on how you are going to confront your employee.
  • Make a plan for what you are going to do with your employee. Don’t just wing it.
  • Make the decision that you are going to let your employee stay on, as long as they enter into an inpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment center first. You do not need to terminate somebody, simply because they are abusing drugs and alcohol. That won’t change anything for them, and then you will have to replace them too.
  • Confront the employee, and be as kind, compassionate, and caring as possible. Tell them what you expect of them, make it clear that you want them to go to a rehabilitation center, and promise them that they will have a job waiting for them afterward if they do. Nine times out of 10, most employees will comply.

This is a win-win situation for everybody. When you go about it this way, people have a lot of success, and most employees actually do end up going to treatment as a result. If you fire them or get angry with them, it will just make things worse. Follow the step-by-step procedure should this happen to you, and I wish you the best of luck.

I am very involved in the addiction rehabilitation field. My hope is to see, within my lifetime, a nation where we do not have to worry about drug and alcohol addiction within our businesses. I really hope this happens. By following the precepts of this article, you’ll actually be contributing to a drug-free nation. It is without a doubt a worthy goal to strive for.

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