How to Handle an Employee’s Suspected Drug Use

drug-test-image on employee screening blogWe heard recently from an employer who had a problem he’d never faced before: “I think one of my employees is using drugs. She takes more breaks than ever, and is in the restroom for way too long throughout the day. Sometimes she goes out to her car for several minutes. She looks terrible, and her work performance has dropped.  I’ve never had to face this problem before. What do I do?”

The first question we had was, “Do you have a written drug policy?” Every company needs one that firmly states that yours is a drug-free workplace, and that workers suspected of being under the influence on the job are subject to testing. It should further state that, if they refuse to be tested, they can be fired. Often, a policy that is communicated well and enforced will be enough deterrent.

But sometimes, employees have real problems and need help. Such was the case with our employer friend. He valued this person immensely—she had been a good and loyal employee, never a moment’s trouble. She was a great team player and everyone enjoyed working with her. He cared about her as a person—just as he did with all his staff. He wanted to approach the issue with sensitivity.

“Should I do a drug test?” First, you want to confirm your suspicion. The symptoms he described could explain everything from a stomach flu to migraine headaches. She could be depressed, or dealing with stressful family issues. Accusations of drug use are serious, and should be dealt with carefully.

It’s always wise to talk to a professional. Freelance HR consultants can be worth their weight in gold at a time like this. Or, consult a physician or drug counselor and run the employee’s list of symptoms by them. They’ve seen them all—typically, drug users’ behavior tends to run along classic lines. If your suspicions are confirmed, then make a plan for action. It should include treatment options, if the company’s insurance plan covers them.

Then, approach the employee as a person concerned with her work performance and well-being—not as the boss who’s going to fire her. Simply and clearly communicate your observations regarding her work performance, without judgment or accusation—and ask if there is anything that you can do to help. Notify her that you have consulted with professionals, and be ready to present her options.

If the employee values her job and is ready to address her problems, she will likely say so. If not, record notes about the conversation, and keep monitoring her work performance and on-the-job behavior. If it continues to decline, you have cause to take further action.

Don’t forget to check out our Pre-Employment Screening services. Increase your peace of mind and save training costs by hiring smart!

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