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My Colleague

Support for employees with an addiction

Helping an alcoholic or addicted co-worker requires diplomacy and delicacy. A task made all the more difficult if, as is often the case, they are in denial about their problem. Challenging their drinking or drug habits could very well result in a defensive reaction on their behalf. But think of the impact on their health and wellbeing, not to mention productivity and morale, if those issues are ignored and allowed to fester.

Be the difference, seek out help for your colleague. A structured and professional intervention can be extremely effective, especially if you are unsure how to confront the behaviour proactively and sensitively.

If confronting a colleague about their behaviour, the following tools may help.

The words ‘addiction’ and ‘alcoholism’ carry a heavy stigma. It is advisable to use phrases like ‘problem’ or ‘struggle’ instead when approaching someone. Fostering a caring, non-accusatory and non-judgmental dialogue could help your colleague to open up to you without becoming angry or defensive. It is important, however, to highlight the effects of their alcohol or drug use and give an honest assessment of how it is affecting their ability to do their job.

Leverage can help

A stark ultimatum can often act as a powerful bargaining tool in these kinds of situations. Though it may seem harsh, sometimes telling an employee that their job may be at risk – unless they resolve their drinking and drug problems – can provide the jolt they need.

Assure them that you will fully support them if they accept help and take this opportunity to point them in the direction of professional help.

Signs that point to the likelihood of alcoholism
Physical warning signs of drug abuse
Behavioural signs of drug abuse
Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

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