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Your Best Defense: Prevention

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

When drugs don’t seem to present a problem in a workplace, it’s easy to develop a cavalier attitude about them. That’s not very smart.

Drug abuse often begins with a single offender and then spreads out ­malignantly, sometimes with frightening speed. You have heard that productivity takes a nosedive and the organization’s overall health may be threatened. What you may not realize are the horrible effects drugs may be having on some of your most valued employees, some of whom you may even consider your friends.

Experts say your best defense is to detect drug abuse when it first appears and to root it out immediately. That’s easier said than done. But always remember that people are your business. Without them, you aren’t in business at all. By staying in touch, you’ll know what’s normal behavior for them and be able to notice when something is off-center. Signs to look for include:

  • Accident proneness. Some drugs interfere with eye-hand coordination, causing employees to stumble or fumble with equipment.
  • Inattention or forgetfulness. Sometimes a supervisor’s request or instructions may fail to register with an employee who’s a little high.
  • Absenteeism. Be suspicious of increased use of sick days. Drug users miss work about twice as often as other employees. Also look for patterns: Calling in sick on days before or after long weekends may signal a substance abuse problem.
  • Personality change. Irritability or depression often follows a cocaine high. The high itself may be signaled by euphoria.
  • Sudden increase in productivity. In the early stages of cocaine use, some individuals perform better because the drug accelerates their heart rate, ­increases blood pressure and stimulates their nervous system.
  • Falling productivity. Marijuana makes some people inattentive to deadlines or unable to gauge quality. Over time, cocaine interferes with the heart and nervous system, causing mental and physical dysfunction.
  • Chronic runny nose. Snorted cocaine irritates the mucous membranes.
  • Clandestine discussions. Drug users often become dealers for fellow employees.

If you have noticed signs of possible drug abuse, take these steps:

  1. React to performance problems. If an ­employee suddenly becomes clumsy around a dangerous machine, reassign him. If output has slipped, counsel the individual to­ improve. Focus on performance, not on your suspicions about the cause.
  2. Ask the employee to tell you what he or she thinks is wrong. But make no accusation about drug use. Doing so may violate the ADA.

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