People with alcohol or drug problems will always try to hide them from those around them, and this includes colleagues and employers. People with addictions are usually ‘in denial’ of their problem and so may not even realise the seriousness of the situation themselves. Some people with drink and drug problems are very successful at hiding it from their co-workers. These people are known as “functioning addicts” and can keep their addiction hidden for years.
What are the signs to look out for if you suspect an employee is hiding an addiction problem?
- A drop in the level of performance;
- Absenteeism: The employee is often absent from work due to sickness;
- Late to work in the morning or late to meetings;
- Smell of alcohol on the breath, and attempts to disguise this such as using breath mints, applying a lot of aftershave/perfume or avoiding close proximity to others;
- Absent from their desk for long periods, particularly after lunch. Unsuccessful attempts to contact the employee;
- Frequent trips to the bathroom;
- Symptoms of cocaine use include: restlessness, irritablity and risk taking.
Colleagues are often guilty of covering up for each other. They will excuse the smell of alcohol from a co-worker as the result of ‘a big night out’, without realising that perhaps that person was drinking just before they arrived at the office. They may be aware from socialising with each other that some people are taking drugs.
Make your employees aware of their responsibilities
Employees should be aware of the company’s drug and alcohol policy and understand that although they might not want to betray a co-worker, they are putting the company and perhaps the public at risk if no action is taken. They should understand that they above signs could be a signal of huge problems for their colleague and that they should confront their colleague and persuade them to take action. They should be aware that they have the support of managers should they decide to report a colleague for drug and alcohol use at work.