Can you recognize the signs that an employee is drinking or taking illegal drugs at work?

A recent study suggests that if you can – and employees know it – they’ll be less likely to indulge in such productivity-sapping behavior.

The University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions interviewed more than 2,400 employees across the country. Their conclusion: Employees tend to lay off booze and drugs when they believe their supervisor can detect substance abuse and is willing to take corrective action.

(This only worked for substance abuse at work, by the way. The study showed that supervisor awareness had no impact on employee behavior vis-a-vis drugs and alcohol outside of work.)

What you can do
So what does this mean, in practice, for supervisors? Should you go around bragging that you can spot a drunk?

Of course not. It does mean, however, that you should look for signs like these:

  • unwarranted aggressive behavior
  • unusual absenteeism, and
  • declines in performance quality, or ability to meet deadlines.

Also, remind your people of your organization’s policy on substance abuse – to let them know you’re being vigilant.

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