How to Approach Someone Who is Under the Influence at Work

Drug and alcohol use in the workplace puts everyone in danger. While having someone who is under the influence of substances at work is especially serious when you deal with heavy equipment or complicated procedures, you should also be concerned if this happens in a general office environment. Someone who is under the influence could still easily get hurt if they lose their balance and fall. You can also safely assume that they aren’t able to accomplish their work tasks properly, which can lead to a wide range of issues in every workplace. Addressing someone’s substance use at work requires you to enter some tricky territory. In most other situations, it is best to stay out of people’s personal business, but this situation requires prompt action. Figuring out how to approach someone who is under the influence at work isn’t always easy, but you can use these strategies to start making a plan that restores safety in your workplace and could possibly save the other person’s life.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that the person is actually under the influence of a substance and not experiencing some other type of issue. Someone who is misusing drugs or alcohol at work will likely exhibit some or all of the following qualities.
•Have a detectable smell of drugs or alcohol on their breath or clothing
•Experience more conflicts at work
•Display erratic or combative behavior
•Make frequent errors or have accidents that are easily preventable
•Appear unfocused or hyper-focused on a work task
•Have difficulty completing essential duties
•Take frequent trips to their bathroom or other private spaces

Take the Compassionate Approach by Offering Help

Once you are fairly certain that someone is under the influence at work, you’ve got several options for handling the situation. If you are a manager, then you may already have policies in place that are outlined for how you must handle the issue while complying with the law. Coworkers who notice someone using drugs or alcohol at work may also be required to report the issue by using the proper chain of command. This should always be done as soon as possible once you’ve identified an issue is occurring since mishaps can happen at any point that a person is using drugs or alcohol on the job.

No matter which position you are in, safety in the workplace must always come first. If the person is operating heavy machinery or performing other dangerous duties, then you’ll need to make the effort to get them to stop. If necessary, you can contact law enforcement officers or security guards to convince them to stop engaging in dangerous activities. After you’ve established a safe work environment, you can then move forward with talking to the person about your suspicions.

In most workplaces, an employee that is suspected of being under the influence will be asked to submit to drug testing. If you are the person making this request, then try to avoid making accusations. Instead, let them know that they are being asked to take a drug and alcohol test to check for causes for documented incidents. Keep in mind that some people may initially deny that they are using drugs or alcohol. If the person gets upset, then try to maintain a calm demeanor that encourages them to do the same.

There is a strong chance that the person will either admit to using drugs or alcohol at work, or they may have positive results come back from their drug screening. When this happens, it is important to remember that drug addiction is a protected mental health condition under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Not only could you be legally bound to make accommodations for someone who needs treatment, but you could also have a moral obligation to help the person find support for getting sober.

Some of the best employees in any workplace are people that have overcome addiction. Depending upon your employer’s benefits package and policies, you might already have a few options that you can offer the person for seeking help such as using their health insurance to cover the cost for addiction treatment. You may also be able to hold their position while they go to treatment or offer their job back once they get sober. Letting the person know that you care about their health and wellbeing makes it easier for them to make the decision to get help.

Are you wondering what else you can do to help someone at work who is dealing with an addiction? We’ve got strategies to share. Give us a call at 833-846-5669 today.