Addiction in the workplace

At least one in ten employees will succumb to an addictive disease at some time in their life. So you will probably have a number of these people in your workplace. No matter how thorough your recruitment process, there will be a person or persons in positions of responsibility whose sense of reality is negatively affected. This is a significant consequence of addiction to drugs or alcohol.

In the US in the1990s a crisis at one of the country's top finance houses led to the firm's collapse. Drugs and alcohol played a big part. New regulations mean stringent guidelines were put in place regarding director responsibility. The issue of detecting typically "hidden" drug and alcohol use and addictions to gambling and the internet became much more important.

The real problems for employers are the resulting potential regulatory problems, legal issues and company liability. The issue of gender discrimination/sexual harassment has been linked closely to alcohol and other drug consumption.

One senior UK banking executive is quoted as stating that with gambling problems the industry is sitting on another "Nick Leeson" waiting to happen. (Note: gambling and addiction to drugs and alcohol are closely linked.)

We at RECOVERY RESOURCES recognise these potential costs of employee addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling and the internet. We strongly suggest that there is a positive response that employers can make. RECOVERY RESOURCES offers services aimed specifically at the corporate sector. These services will help to raise revenue and avoid potential lawsuits.

These services include helping organisations develop and implement effective drug and alcohol workplace policies.

Contact us on (09) 377 1947 for an initial meeting.

"A gambling problem is a Nick Leeson waiting to happen," is how one senior UK City banking executive put it to RECOVERY RESOURCES. Stress, commitment to an affluent lifestyle and obvious windows of opportunity for employees make the threat of losses through gambling real for finance houses. A gambling addiction is usually related to drug use or drinking. Gambling is soul destroying – a family can be left with no money, even though everything appears fine on the outside, the wife may have nowhere to turn but it's a big scam.

In the finance sector the following points need to be watched:

  • 1. The linkage between compulsive gambling and "over trading"
  • 2. The effects of daily exposure to the trading process on personnel
  • 3. The considerable financial risk that the client, firm, its stakeholders, and the public may be exposed to by the addict
  • 4. The regulatory and compliance issues that may arise for the firm, and the importance of including compliance personnel in the informational loop
  • 5. The obvious liability to the individual finance house all the above implies.

Information and training for Human Resources departments

RECOVERY RESOURCES offers informational training seminars for managers at all levels. We help you learn how to detect a current or potential drug, alcohol, gambling or internet addiction problem in an employee or colleague; how to carry out a Structured Intervention and what options are available. We utilise didactic information, DVDs on the disease concept etc, and role-plays for practical experience. This can take place on the organisation's premises over a morning or an afternoon. Do not delay; remember the disease of addiction is progressive.

Corporate policies on drug and alcohol addiction

If an employee or colleague has an addiction problem he or she has an illness that seriously jeopardises their fitness for duty and their ability to accomplish the objectives of the organisation and the tasks for which they are employed. The organisation must have, as its primary concern, the well-being of its enterprise and all of its employees.

RECOVERY RESOURCES helps corporations and companies to develop formal and specific drug, alcohol, internet and gambling policies. We help with the drawing up of a document, introducing the policy to staff, and continue to monitor its effectiveness.

Employee Structured Intervention Plan

The defence mechanism of denial is one of the single biggest symptoms of addiction. To address an employee's denial about their drug or alcohol problem, RECOVERY RESOURCES would first have a meeting with the concerned manager or colleague to assess the problem and to see if it is appropriate to tackle the problem by way of a structured intervention. It is important at this stage to select the right intervention team, comprising:

  • 1. Immediate manager
  • 2. Human resources
  • 3. Colleagues
  • 4. (and possibly) family member

We educate the intervention team in a group setting about addiction and help them identify how their colleague's behaviour has affected each of them at work. Each team member gathers specific data so that the pattern of dependency is confirmed and collectively they will see the impact the addiction is having on the individual, colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

Our experience shows that Structured Intervention works as a positive alternative to letting the addiction progress get out of hand. In the case of some sectors of industry (for example the finance industry), individual employees have total trading autonomy. Thus they have the potential to cripple organisations if rampant addiction goes on undetected.

Remember a person’s sense of reality goes out of the window with addiction.

Executive Structured Intervention Plan

A specific programme to support CEOs and other senior personnel

CEOs and other senior managers are often even more reluctant to admit that they may have a problem and to use employee assistance programmes than are middle management or less-senior staff. We therefore offer a tailored, sensitive and highly confidential programme of support for CEOs and senior managers who might otherwise not seek the help they need.

What is the most difficult aspect of intervening with a senior executive or a top professional?

CEOs and executives can avoid many "disagreeable" consequences of their alcoholic or drug abuse dependent behaviour. Money, status, influence and ability to manipulate others can often resolve many developing issues before they become problems. On top of this, executives often have the feeling (even if subconscious) they can get away with anything. Because alcoholism is a progressive disease, inevitably their physiological system will deteriorate.

So how to tackle an alcoholic senior executive?

First, we educate family members and appropriate business associates about the situation. They need to be realistic about the effect of the other person’s drinking on them and what their options are for responding before they can effectively encourage an alcoholic to stop drinking.

Second, we present the situation to the alcoholic objectively. An alcoholic drinks with purpose, however destructive. Interventionists working with executives must identify and articulate not just the cons, but also the pros of continued use. Executives are trained to weigh up the pros and the cons, to make and abide by rational decisions.

Does it work?

Yes. When appropriately encouraged and informed, alcoholic executives are able to draw the correct conclusion and redirect their lives. The goal must be effective help for the addict/alcoholic. Time-tested approaches may be abandoned, rules bent, and many of an interventionist's pet theories need to give way. Flexibility is critical. The process must facilitate movement by the alcoholic from a stage of contemplation or even denial, to action. Even if the executive does not seek help immediately he or she will not be able to drink or use comfortably again whether or not the board retains them.

Assumptions on Executive Structured Intervention

Successful Structured Intervention with executives requires detailed knowledge of the corporate world. The following are key assumptions regarding executives:

  • 1. Performance can be used to intervene successfully far earlier than any other indicator
  • 2. The executive is motivated to progress
  • 3. Career is a major element in an executive's life
  • 4. The combination of these can be used to create a favourable platform for Structured Intervention.

Once an executive is in recovery from alcoholism or other drug addiction performance improvement can be spectacular, and in a very short time.

Discretion and Confidentiality

This section would be incomplete without noting our absolute recognition of the need for total discretion and confidentiality in all areas of knowledge we become privy to either in individuals or organisations during the course of this work. We recommend signing legal binding confidentiality statements before any negotiations begin.

How do you address the problem without doing more harm than good? We suggest:

  • Try to do it correctly. This is no time for questionable techniques or half measures.
  • Try to do as little harm as possible. Act only within the confines of legality and professional ethics, and only with the deepest respect.
  • Try to do it as soon as possible. The risk of delay is great for both the executive and the organisation
  • Call for assistance. Engage an experienced professional interventionist. The situation is too critical and delicate to do otherwise.

Can my colleagues do a Structured Intervention without professional guidance?

We strongly recommend that you do not try to carry out a Structured Intervention without professional guidance. (You may have tried this many times without success!) Structured Interventions need to be carefully thought through, well prepared for, and delicately handled, and it is unrealistic to expect those without training - however well intentioned - to be able to see the whole process through without external support and direction from a trained professional.