Substance or alcohol abuse is often noticed in changes in an employees behaviour. There may be an increase in absenteeism, a decrease in productivity and strained relationships with other staff members. Substance abuse is a serious issue and employers often have to intervene. Addiction in the workplace in South Africa is a serious topic and there are a number of professional organisations like ICAS that can help.
This is a delicate task at best and suited to a professional intervention councillor. When faced with the choice of losing one’s financial security or going to rehab an addict may still be in denial. Overcoming denial in addiction means that a person is more likely to get the most out of a rehabilitation programme.
Many employee wellness programmes make provision for people struggling with substance abuse. This could take the form of an intensive in-patient programme or if they have work responsibilities they could opt to take part in an out-patient programme.
Addressing addiction issues at work is often a result of burn-out and work-life stressors. During the workplace intervention these factors can be addressed with the HR department.
If you are faced with confronting an employee about their substance abuse, here are a few pointers that will help engage in a meaningful discussion where rehab options can be explored.
- Prepare yourself: Interventions are emotional events that require time, effort, courage and commitment from you. If you feel daunted, get a trusted friend or senior company representative to join you.
- Do research: Your background knowledge and other sources can help, but the best option is to get advice from the HR department, management, an external employee wellness consultant and an addiction counsellor. Some cases need extra preparation and legal assistance.
- Vet the helpers: Authoritative figures in the workplace are acceptable, but limit them to two – do not scare the abuser into clamming up by mobilising an army of strangers against them.
- Draw in employers: Fear of losing a job is one of the big reasons for denial. If a sympathetic employer’s support can be enlisted, it will be much easier to break down denial.
- Choose the time: Estimate a time when the abuser will have the time and be sober enough for meaningful talk. Set the event for that time. Avoid a rushed talk or heavily drugged responder.
- Choose the place: In most cases, the abuser’s home is chosen as the venue for the intervention, but it can be any private and quiet place, depending on circumstances. A therapeutic environment, like a rehab centre, is ideal, if it can be arranged. It’s clinical and authoritative setting inspires respect, calmness and trust.
- Prepare the helpers: Arrange a meeting with the group members before the planned intervention. Inform everybody of all the details and what their roles will be.
- Be ready: If the intervention succeeds, you should take the abuser to the rehab centre immediately. Make prior arrangements with the centre and pack a small suitcase for the abuser in advance.