Drug Awareness Suggestions for Managers and Supervisors

The Managers and Supervisors role in maintaining a drug free workplace is key. It is more common for employees with drug or alcohol problems to accept help from the workplace than they are to accept such help from the family. When a boss says that a job is at stake unless they get help, they are more likely to listen than to a harping spouse or distraught family members. Here are a number of suggestions to offer managers and supervisors facing a suspected substance abuse problem.

  • DO keep good records, with objective notations such as “Joe reported for work with bloodshot eyes, trembling hands, and the smell of beer on his breath…”
  • DO learn the symptoms of drug-related problems. But DON’T make a diagnosis; leave that to the experts—you are neither a doctor nor a counselor.
  • DO measure job performance regularly and act on poor performance. Watch for erratic performance—ups and downs in performance, productivity, and quality.
  • DO document work performance and stick to the facts.
  • DON’T put suspicions in writing. The supervisor’s record should not refer to any suspected employee drug problem unless the employee has told the supervisor that he or she has the problem.
  • DON’T discuss suspicions with other persons. Speak only to your immediate supervisor or other authorized officials in the company.
  • DON’T ever act alone when drugs are discovered. Take the information directly to superiors.
  • DO know where to get help for the employee in trouble.
  • DON’T ever allow an obviously impaired employee to operate delicate or dangerous machinery. In this situation, the supervisor has several options:
  • Tell the employee “You obviously don’t feel well; go lie down in the nurse’s office:” then consult with human resources or other staff charged with responsibility in this area on what to do next.
  • Tell the employee that he or she is not fit for duty, and it is best to go home. Record the exact behavior that led to the supervisor’s decision and get a written report from any witnesses who agree that the employee is not fit for duty (preferably another supervisor or manager).
  • Arrange for the worker’s transportation home—do not let an obviously impaired person drive.

The most important principle for supervisors or other managers to remember is to not ignore the problem or try to cover it up, whether dealing with substance abuse or other threats to on-the-job safety.

The Employers Association

About the Author:

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TTracey Chantry graduated from Radford University with Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and has spent 15 years in Human Resources, 10 of which have been in a leadership role. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR). She has extensive hands-on experience leading HR initiatives including policy design, training and development, compensation, performance management, recruiting, compliance reporting, and benefits administration. For fun, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and stays active by walking, running and swimming. She and her husband Pete have 3 kids that range in age from 12 to 24 years old.

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