The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that American business loses $81 billion a year because of alcohol and drug addiction from absenteeism, accidents and damage, increased health care costs, and workers' compensation and disability expenses. In addition, addiction impacts higher worker turnover and replacement costs, increases liability, and can lead to theft and fraud to support an addict's habit.
In dealing with these issues in the workplace, diverted supervisory, managerial and co-worker time also can affect communication among co-workers, often leading to lead anger, fights and friction, which, in turn, can result in accidents and slowdowns, as well as decreased productivity and output.
Most importantly, the damage to a company's reputation may be permanent and irretrievable.
Whether at a large corporation, a nonprofit organization or a small business, the Labor Department says:
According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey, people with alcohol problems:
Causing further problems in the workplace are spouses and other co-dependents who sometimes reinforce and enable the addict with phone calls to the boss: "He can't make it into work today" or, "She's not feeling well" or, "I think he has a bad cold."
If not dealt with, addiction can be a greased pole to self-destruction and bankruptcy. For people in powerful positions, such as CEOs, doctors, executives and company founders, attempting to conduct business without the use of their full faculties is a very dangerous proposition. For other workplace staff, undealt-with abuses can lead to everything from violent outbursts at work to lost recollection of actions taken.
How can companies assist their employees? Here's some suggestions along with guidelines from the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988:
Offer drug education training and drug rehabilitation, which can save a company on workers' compensation insurance and ensure the well-being of all employees.
Alcoholism is an EOD -- an equal opportunity destroyer. It afflicts men, women, rich, poor, white- or blue-collar workers, young and old.
And regardless of who it affects, an alcoholic's or addict's excuses are the same:
So don't be blinded by excuses or projection of the problem on others. If one of your workers has an alcohol or drug problem, get him or her into a rehab program, a detox clinic and a 12-step program.
Dr. Linnda Durré is a psychotherapist, writer and business consultant in Winter Park who has worked with Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits and small businesses.
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