Monday, December 30, 2013

When Your Alcoholic Employee Enters Treatment

If your employee has recently entered treatment, you're only in the beginning steps of getting this employee back to work sober and performing the way he or she is supposed to. Let's discuss the easy, simple, and straight forward way you can properly manage an employee who has entered addiction treatment for an alcoholism problem.

First, realize that treatment is two things: detox and education. That's about it. It's complex, but that is what happens in a nutshell. The patient gets the booze out of their body safely and with little or no withdrawal symptoms, and then learns about the disease and how to treat it with the goal in treatment of self-diagnosis--believing they have the disease and must do what's necessary to properly treat it.

You can review a number of selected tip sheets and checklists for supervisors that offer solid ideas for how to manage an employee by visiting - search alcohol, supervisor, or alcoholism.

(For the EAP or Hired Counselor working with management on contract)
Touch points for communicating with the patient, treatment professionals, and company supervisor:
  1. Generally these touch points require updates and motivational assessments from the addiction treatment counselor: Get status reports after admission, after detox, middle of intermediate care, discharge, starting day of aftercare, completion of aftercare, and any point within the next year where the follow-up program (there should be one, or you should ensure one exists) discovers that the patient has moved below the four-day-per week participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.
  2. You should be notified 24/7 (a release of course is requested and signed by the patient) with regard to the patient's  ruminations related to leaving AMA (Against Medical Advice)-- both AMA Ideation and actual AMA. When a patient begins talking about leaving against medical advice, a series of intervention steps occurs. Unfortunately most addition treatment program do not understand dynamics of motivation and leverage and therefore each employee from nurse, counselor, volunteer, doctor, or even the janitor  may take a crack at re-motivating the patient to stay. Unfortunately, each of these attempts reinforces the decision to leave. The first person to make an attempt at re-motivating the EAP client (or employee from the company) should be you-the EAP or other consultant working for the company as a liaison. You can communicate leverage from the employer--generally assurance that the employee will be fired if he or she leaves treatment (we are assuming a formal referral to the EAP with a last chance agreement was involved in this sort of admission). If you are called last instead of first, the patient will have already practiced their "pitch" to leave and your job of convincing them to stay will be made more difficult. Use this EAP Handout Tip Sheet for following clients post discharge from your EAP office.
Supervisors and company management must communicate their intention to support the patient, but also motivate employees to accept treatment if they need it by using job security as an appropriate leverage, otherwise employees coming out of treatment will not follow through with what they are supposed to be doing. The follow up guidelines above and the follow up tool will capture early disintegration of motivation prior to relapse in 90% of discharged patients treated for addictive disease.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Don't Be Manipulated By Substance Abusing Employees

Supervisor training usually falls short on giving managers and supervisors the right information about addiction minus the myths and misconceptions, which are enormous. For example, never assume an alcohol or drug problem is properly treated simply because the employee reports having quit. There is a difference between self-imposed abstinence and understanding how to manage addictive disease properly using an applied daily program of recovery recommended by addiction specialists. Supervisors can easily be swayed by employees with substance abuse problems for one very good reason. They know more about there drinking or drug problem than you do. And they also, in almost all cases, know what they should be doing to treat it. As a supervisor, don't wander off the supervisor role beaten path. You end up in the briars and burrs. If you stick to attendance, quality of work, availability, attitude, conduct, and communication, then you've got the "six part" formula for documenting performance.

Trust Is Like A Lubricant for Supervisor Productivity

They say trust is like a lubricant in a relationship. When it exists, communication increases, ideas flow better, and productivity improves. Supervisor training should include the education and dynamics associated with building trust and how supervisors consciously invest in this art and skill. Trust building begins with you, so start connecting with individual employees one at a time. Share small but not overly intimate details about yourself, and you'll appear more real and approachable. Employees will naturally begin communicating with others in kind, thereby increasing trust between each other. The more you spend time with your employees, the more you'll see this rub off. Offer a positive and optimistic attitude toward your employees' ability to succeed. Find ways to make success happen. Admit mistakes, and employees will appreciate you. It's hard, but it's powerful. Not admitting mistakes throws your relationship into reverse. The payoff for admitting mistakes is appreciation, not less respect. Give credit and praise when you see the opportunity, and make it authentic. Employees want to count for something. Play to that need, and you'll build trust that lasts.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Building a Postive Work Culture that Encourages Innovation

So, let us discuss what can a supervisor or manager do to facilitate the establishment of a positive work culture that promotes collaboration, innovation, and risk taking by employees to maximize their productivity? Did you hear about Terry Jones, the founder of, keynote address last month at an annual meeting of corporate executives? His presentation focused on how to create a work culture that generates enthusiasm for innovation. Summarized below are key points he imparted to his audience. See which ones you can institute as a line manager in your work unit: 1) Don’t be afraid to fail. “If you don’t fail, you’re not having enough at bats.” 2) “Kill the project, not the person” if an idea doesn’t work. 3) Study your failures like football teams review tapes of unsuccessful plays. 4) Don’t dismiss out of hand ideas of line staff and lower-level employees. This is where many great ideas originate. 5) Surround yourself with diverse talents that can synergize. Source: University of Texas, Press Release plays.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Performance Discussion (Get Your Employees to Initiate It!)

Periodically discuss with employees being more reciprocal when it comes to performance evaluations. Sure, you hate doing performance reviews, but it unlikely you will ignore an employee who requesting one. You won't to get caught not doing your job, right? But there is also much to be gained.

Being happy on the job and engaged, productive, and feeling “at one” with your supervisor is about as good as it gets. One more thing will make it perfect
no surprises at your annual review. Plan upstream to prevent this problem by having a conversation about your performance. The “performance conversation” is about getting feedback on how well you’re doing your job, but you don’t have to wait for your supervisor to initiate it. It can start with you. If you’re beginning to feel unsure about your performance and a little detached and can’t say for certain what your supervisor thinks about how you’re doing, you’re overdue for a performance conversation appointment. Don’t forget to discuss when the next one will be.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

No Performance Evaluation Program?

Don't believe the absolute tripe these days about how we should scrap performance evaluations programs and procedures. I laughed looking at LinkedIn the other day where someone decided to post a comment that performance evaluations don't work because they replicated the Master/Slave model. Is this guy serious? If you do not have a performance evaluation program, you have only one thing going for you to manage quality of work, attendance, quantity of work, attitude, conduct, behavioral issues, and availability. Guess what than one thing is? .... your personality and whatever relationship you hold on to with your employee. I've seen this before in many companies where where there were good performance evaluation systems, but management didn't enforce accountability for supervisors doing them. Hence, by default, the relationship with supervisor took over. The result--problems. Anger, conflicts, manipulation, low productivity, theft, "getting back", time theft, and violence in the workplace. Do you realize that a lack of performance evaluation process can lead to death. Don't think so? Absolutely it can in the right circumstances, a dysfunctional relationship with the supervisor can lead to conflicts, unfair treatment, personality clashes, and homicide. I will be talking with you about a marvelous performance evaluation system soon, the one I designed for Arlington County Public School System Trades Department. It's easy, collaborative (key concept), fun, workable, scalable, and no surprises ever pop up on the employees review day. Training supervisors in performance evaluation is easy, and I will show you how to do it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Supervisors "Quick Anti-Bullying Pitch"

When it comes to training managers and training supervisors, these folks need a “pitch” they can use when addressing the issue of bullying in the workplace (get a handout). Here’s one to consider: "Hey folks, if you work in an environment where people belittle each other, it’s easy to fall in with the crowd and sink to their level. The “go along syndrome” can happen to any employee--this is the “by-stander” effect. But it’s better to stand out by demonstrating civility. Bullying thrives in workplaces where a few strong, negative personalities dominate. Otherwise reasonable people may keep quiet, adopting a “don’t make waves” mentality. Tolerating—and even quietly encouraging—such behavior may seem like the most painless way to get through your workday. But eventually you’ll be on the receiving end of such ridicule and then it won’t seem quite as harmless. Fight bullying by speaking in positive, non-threatening terms. Avoid profanity at all times. And stick up for co-workers under attack. If all this proves hard, think of the Golden Rule. Treat people the way you’d like to be treated and you will blaze path for others to follow.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Training Supervisors: Risk and Supervisors Ignoring Performance Evaluations

Supervisor skills include understanding performance reviews and performance evaluations. If you have been ignoring performance evaluations year to year and your organization does not have a procedure for conducting performance evaluations of employees and making sure they happen, you risk a host of major problems beyond a irritated employee who may complain quietly to friends that they haven had a performance evaluation in years. Here's the point: If you do not conduct performance evaluations, you have only one thing to control the productivity of the worker -- your relationship. This model is fraught with issues and problems, and it can lead to conduct that can even culminate in workplace violence or homicide at work. Don't snicker. It's time to get supervisors evaluating performance again. Stay tuned for a complete course for $695 that you can upload to your internal website or show in a powerpoint presentation, and you'll train supervisors in 20 minutes. Back in a few days.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Supervisory Skills If Your Company Has Been Sucker Punched by Your Managed Care Company

Important supervisory skills training include knowing how to use your company's employee assistance program to tackle job performance problems of employees you supervise. You may at one time in the past had a traditional and much more effective employee assistance program, but your company may have been suckered into giving it up in favor of an 800# associated with the managed care company. These programs are word is "terrible" for helping troubled employees. Managed care companies do a lousy job of educating supervisors about these employee assistance programs and how they can, should be, and always were supposed to be used as management tools to help you correct the job performance, attendance, and conduct issues troubled employees you supervise. There in a nutshell lies the risk. You can still save a life if you know about that little phone number found on the back of your insurance card that tells you to call "this number" for mental health and substance abuse treatment benefits. This is where you EAP may lie. When you have a troubled employee whose performance is not turning around, sit down, have a corrective interview and if you have reached your wits end ready to fire and terminate--hold off and do this as a last resort: "Tell the employee, what job action you are initiating and there is only one way to prevent it, and that is if the employee thinks he or she has a personal problem contributing to the job performance issues and is willing to phone the EAP (phone number on back of insurance card will lead you to it) and follow through with its recommendations and sign a release so you can verify attendance. Say you are willing to accommodate the employees in this regard, otherwise you will initiate the job action now." Nearly all employees will accept the offer of help, and if a release is signed (part of the bargain) and that communication flows to you about the participation (no personal information), then your employee stands a good chance of getting well. Supervisor training and supervisor skills like these can save lives. This is called "Performance-based Intervention". Follow up is key. We teach these skills in Supervisor Tips and Skills Newsletter. Get a free copy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Skill: Actively Listening and the New Supervisor

Goal: Ask open-ended questions of your co-workers. By asking questions, you're saying that you are interested in their answers, not just making a polite but generic comment. Supervisor Exercise: In this exercise, you will practice asking open-ended questions. Casual greetings in the hallway are typical in the workplace. This Friday, when people are leaving work, instead of saying "Have a great weekend", say "Do you have any special plans this weekend?" Try this exercise with two different employees on Friday. Evaluation: When you asked an open question, how did the employees respond? Did they give a one word answer, like “no”, or did they share with you some of their plans for the weekend? Did the employee rush to leave, or did they seem to enjoy talking with you. Did you share your weekend plans with the employee?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gossip in the Workplace: Tip Sheet

Download the new reproducible tip sheet on Gossip in the Workplace. You can find it at

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Try this Exercise to Relate to Employees

Some supervisors have used a hard-nosed take-no-prisoners supervision style. Sure, they thought it would earn them respect because they would garner a health dose of fear, but alas it backfired. So, how can supervisors win back the trust that I lost with my style? First, when counseling these folks, understand a simple principle, employees prefer harmony and avoiding the stress this form of management style. This desire for a harmonious workplace provides the hope, however, that the supervisor can turn things around and regain trust. Time is on his or her side. Important personal issues may need to be addressed to ensure the fundamental changes desired, but that's where the EAP comes in. Hey, a good book can help. Everything is not necessarily a "personality disorder". Guide the supervisor in understanding that he or she will need to fix one relationship at a time. Forget the speeches. There's no need for a Jimmy Swaggert speech. Suggest the supervisor meet in private with each employee, as applicable and practical, to acknowledge his or her supervision style and the changes planned in order to improve morale. Although the supervisor will feel vulnerable with this approach, it is the one that will accelerate regaining the trust so desired. He or she will soon discover that most employees respect authority and respond favorably to a more supportive supervision style. Try offering these exercises over a period of weeks while you counsel the supervisor. Goal: Attempt to relate to your employees on a personal basis, not merely a professional basis, on a general topic you could have in common. You may not know very much about the personal life of your employees, but there are appropriate casual conversations you can have with any employee without intruding in their personal lives. Supervisor Exercise: In this exercise you will initiate a casual conversation with an employee you don’t know very well. Not everyone watches the big game or the latest movie. But if you’re a big film fan, ask employees if they saw the newest movie blockbuster. If they say no, simply say, “I’m a big movie fan.” If they also watched the film, you’ll have something to talk casually about. If they didn’t, you shared a little bit about yourself, which they’ll appreciate knowing. Evaluation: Were you comfortable initiating a personal conversation with an employee? Did they seem comfortable talking to you, or did they hurry to get away? Was there an actual conversation, or simply a “yes” or “no” reply? Learn more about helping supervisors. Tips for Supervisors Newsletter

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Getting Your Employees to Trust You

Don't beat yourself up for being a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners supervisor. Sure, you thought it would earn you respect because your employees would fear you, but alas, it backfired. Young people--especially--do not fear authority. I won't elaborate, but get this one down pat, and your life as a leader will be dramatically improved. This is of course, why the term "leadership staff" is being pushed hard and the word "supervisor" being thrown out (with the bath water). Didn't you know? The word supervisor is the title of that guy who oversaw the folks pulling an oar on the Armistad slave ship. That's not you. The new PC term is leader or "the leadership staff'. So, how do you win back the trust that I lost with my style? First, understand a simple principle, employees prefer harmony and avoiding the stress that your management style produces. This desire for a harmonious workplace provides the hope that you can turn things around. You may have important personal issues to address to ensure the fundamental changes you desire. If that's the case, get a good book to assist you with these small behavioral change goals so you do not return to your former supervision style after practicing more functional leadership skills. You will need to fix one relationship at a time. This is also key. Forget the speeches. If practical, meet in private with each employee to acknowledge your supervision style and the changes you have committed to make in order to improve morale. Although you will feel vulnerable with this approach, it is the one that will accelerate regaining the trust you desire. You will soon discover that most employees respect authority and respond favorably to a more supportive supervision style. You might want to consider an ongoing dose of input to keep you on track from Supervisor Tips & Skills Newsletter

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Supervisor Training: Manage Your Stress Folks

You’ve surely heard about the need to empower employees to do their best work. But what you may not know is that effective supervisors also empower themselves. By overcoming obstacles and taking a proactive approach to problem solving, the best supervisors sweep away distress and stay focused on goal attainment. That’s especially important because supervisors often feel immobilized by stress. Neither their bosses not their employees may understand the pressures that they face. Supervisors often operate in isolation, and they may not know what to do when problems—ranging from real to potential to imagined ones—mount by the hour. The anxieties can prove overwhelming. You need resources. Contact your employee assistance professional if you have any questions about stress management after completing the course. The employee assistance program can help you manage stress so that it doesn’t endanger your health and improves your overall well-being. And it is not a bad to get a regular hard-hitting, no fluff, hard tips, do this-do that professional newsletter that is one page every month to help you!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Supervisors Can Pump Up Employees and Motivate Their Engagement

During supervisor training, I frequently discuss the following topic. Top management will create a statue in your likeness if discover how to get employees engaged, excited, and producing at maximum capacity while remaining happy, healthy, and contributing to a positive work culture. Tall order, huh? So is there a secret formula for employee engagement to this magnitude. No. However, after writing a monthly supervisor newsletter for 20 years every month, non-stop, and getting emails from possibly hundreds of HR managers and employees, I think I can get close to the answer in 150 words. Here goes possibly one the best supervisor tips for your leadership:

Managers should start with a premise, and assume that each of his or her employees is capable of magnificent achievements. This will positively affect the attitude and interactions with them. A positive engaging style is half the battle, and the other half is good communication. Let everyone know what’s going on within the organization and the importance of their role in the big picture. Cite successes, trends, and opportunities. Be realistic, but let employees know what awaits them personally and as a team for achieving goals. Check your behavior. Mistrust, inability to adapt to change, disrespect toward employees, or perception that you are not performing at your peak can be magnified by employees and fodder for chatter. This will undermine your goal keeping employees engaged. Process your stress with other supervisors and the professionals (not a 800 hotline) of the intact and in-house employee assistance program. Develop ideas for nurturing your staff. This will reduce isolation and keep the supervisor energized and forward looking, pumped, an excited which become contagious. -- Daniel Feerst, ++++++++++++++++++++++ More Engagement Ideas

Monday, February 11, 2013

Free HR Resources and HR Resources Free ....

I discovered a great page for signing up for human resources materials that include a lot of workplace wellness, respect, conflict, dealing with difficult people, resiliency issues, holiday stress. This handouts and tip sheets are indispensable for supervisors and leadership staffers. Sign up at this link and don't say I didn't find you a gold mine. Free HR Resources and HR Resources Free  ....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I'm OK, You're OK Supervision Will KO Your Authority

Something is trending and it is downhill. It appears that the overvaluation of "compromise, negotiation, fairness" in our politically correct society--an utterly destructive social force in many ways--has contributed to a belief among some supervisors that any protest or refusal by an employee to do his or her job, must somehow be understood and examined for its merits. It seems as though for many managers, a knee-jerk response is an "I-thou", "You're Ok-I'm Ok" attempt to negotiate with the employee in order to get the work done. May I ask a question? Whatever happened to telling employee to do things a certain way or else?

Sometimes--no always--if you're the boss, you're the boss. You should examine the nature of conflict with your employee before engaging in any kind of negotiation process. Get advice from a peer supervisor colleague if needed, but absolutely shy away from mediation services of any kind. That's off the table. I have seen supervisors do it, but it is a one-way ticket to relationship dysfunction. Never enter into mediating a conflict with an employee you supervise because it will elevate the employee bad behavior and make accepting change and direction from you completely optional.

Some supervisors feel hesitant about asserting themselves with employees because it feels awkward and antagonistic to their long-term and familiar relationship. They would like to avoid feeling as though they are “pulling rank.” They are unaware that their employee’s behavior has placed them in this position, so they struggle with a way to get the job done without upsetting their employee. You have a right to expect work duties to be performed in ways you judge effective. Although mediation is useful in workplace relationships, the natural imbalance of power between the supervisor and the employee can be harmed by mediation. This could send a message that makes changes optional for the supervised employee.  Supervisor Tips and Skills Newsletter may help you tremendously.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Intervention with Your Alcoholic Employee Using Performance-based Intervention

How to Conduct an Intervention with Your Alcoholic Employee

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Author Daniel Feerst,
This is a common-sense approach that uses the gift of leverage and economics to motivate and salvage your employee with alcoholism problem. The goal is a work who bounces back, in sobriety, and becomes productive once more--but more so. I call it performance-based Intervention an requires no diagnostic or armchair diagnosis. It strictly focuses on performance, behavior, and attendance issues. It is has a success rate of over 95 percent if the reader is the employer/business owner and he or she sick and tired of having the behavior or an alcoholic interfering with the productivity and processes of the company.


  1. Before confronting the employee, meet with other involved managers or supervisors and agree on what will be accomplished as a result of the intervention. Interveners should be in agreement about the seriousness of job performance problems, attendance problems, attitude problems, or other unacceptable behavior. Interveners must be specific. Previously documented job problems are useful. The most recent evidence of continuing problems, or other performance problems, can serve as a catalyst to the intervention. Ideally, the intervention follows an event requiring a corrective management response. Before scheduling your intervention meeting with the employee, set up an appointment for the clinician to evaluate the employee. Your employee will go to this appointment immediately after the intervention meeting. Your employee will receive appropriate discipline for documented job performance problems, or such an action will be held in abeyance because the employee has agreed to attend the appointment at the end of your intervention meeting.As mentioned before, two representatives of management will meet with the employee. Ideally, this is the supervisor and the next-level supervisor. The senior supervisor should have authority to administer disciplinary action. The HR manager (that makes three members) may also participate. Ask your HR representative’s opinion on participating. This adds protection for the company and the employee. The HR representative also can clarify other company policies and procedures. Remember, a union steward or other representative may be needed at the meeting. Federal employees are guaranteed this right, even if the workforce is not unionized. By all means, safeguard the employee’s confidentiality throughout the entire intervention, treatment, and back-to-work process. Repeat your promise of confidentiality.The next-level supervisor or the manager with authority to levy disciplinary action leads the intervention — not the immediate supervisor! The immediate supervisor supports the confrontation with evidence of job performance problems. This also is a critical point. Managers must be in agreement that the disciplinary action chosen is appropriate to the problem behavior. The threat of job loss, if appropriate, will have the most impact on motivating the employee to seek help for an addiction problem. Research has shown that the opportunity to avoid a disciplinary action can strongly motivate alcoholic or drug addicted employees to consider treatment. In fact, this type of crisis produces the strongest sense of urgency to take a step toward treatment.Intervention should never appear to be an informal or casual event. The time for managers to impart their personal concern for the employee and the possibility of future disciplinary action if things don’t turn around has passed. You have already had that conversation by now. At best, “soft” confrontations may motivate an employee to temporarily place controls on drinking and drug use. More likely, such confrontations will drive the drinking further underground increasing risk of more severe workplace problems. At worst, such diagnostic confrontations subject management to the possibility of lawsuits for harassment or other employment litigation. If a job problem exists, it requires correction or disciplinary action. In any case, pushing an employee to admit his/her addiction is extremely problematic because it demands a discussion about whether such a problem really exists. If you are like most employers who have tried this approach, the employee will thank you for your concern and move on, or will become belligerent. Either way, you lose. You will then erroneously conclude that interventions don’t work and will lose valuable workers. Remember as well that employees rarely seek addiction treatment on suggestion. And if by chance they do, it usually is a short-lived, half-measured attempt. Professional follow-up after treatment is critical to success and you can’t play this role. Moreover, although you might have personal concerns about your employee’s use of alcohol or drugs, a “friendly chat” or other “unofficial” attempt on your part to discuss the drug or alcohol problem in the absence of job performance or behavior problems is useless. You’re fooling yourself if you think this will work — no matter how good you feel about your employee’s cooperation during such a conversation. Don’t forget, as mentioned earlier, that such a discussion can subject management to employment practices liability.The best time to confront the employee follows a work incident where a "perceived crisis" provides a sense of urgency, seriousness, and resolve. Employees with addiction problems are less defensive at these times and are more amenable to treatment. This is called an “incidental crisis.” At the very least, most addicts will consider modifying their alcohol and drug use at such times. In effect, a window of opportunity opens, but the addict closes it quickly with well-practiced defense mechanisms that distort and minimize the seriousness of the event. Decreased anxiety and awareness of the real problem, making intervention a bit more difficult follow this period. Confrontation soon after an incident also makes fear of disciplinary action more meaningful, and elicits motivation when the offer of treatment is made to the employee.Start by explaining to the employee what is wrong with his/her job performance and how responsibilities have not been met. Explain the impact of the problems. Describe in detail the incident prompting this meeting. Let the employee know that the situation is serious and that you have made a decision about his or her job situation. Explain to the employee all problem behaviors that have been documented. Take your time and be calm. Now, tell the employee that on the basis of these problems, the company has decided to terminate, suspend, provide a letter of reprimand, or whatever, etc.Accept the employee's reaction. Receiving a disciplinary action, especially termination, is a numbing experience, even if the employee appears unaffected. It will make the employee amenable to whatever might reverse it. Now apply the one-minute intervention: Say, “The company is willing to hold this disciplinary action in abeyance under one condition.”Then say to the employee: "If you believe that these job problems, etc., are possibly related to an alcohol (or drug use) problem, directly or even indirectly (don't use the term "alcoholic,” “alcoholism,” or “drug addict”), then the company would be willing to consider the following: (1) We will allow you to get an assessment to determine whether you need some sort of assistance or help, and we will view these job problems as symptoms of the alcohol problem — a health issue that needs to be accommodated; (2) We also will guarantee that your job security, promotional opportunities, and job status will not be jeopardized simply because you went for help; (3) We also will keep your decision to seek help strictly confidential; and (4) We will give you time off work to get recommended treatment, if any, consistent with our leave policy. We cannot discuss with you or speculate whether or not you have such a problem because we are not professionals. And we cannot diagnose you or suggest you need help. The choice is strictly yours. Would you like to consider this option now — or accept the disciplinary action we have proposed? If you do not want to accept this offer, it is your decision, and we will proceed with disciplinary action.Your employee is now breathing a great sigh of relief, but still may attempt to ask why you think he or she has a drinking problem. Remember that you will not discuss it. Tell the employee it is not within your ability to diagnose this problem, nor is the discussion appropriate. Your focus is solely on whether to dispense a disciplinary action or hold such an action in abeyance in order to accommodate what the employee believes could be the existence of an alcohol or drug related problem. The employee needs to decide.WHAT JUST HAPPENED: In effect, you have just said that the only way the employee can avoid the disciplinary action is to request accommodation for his or her alcohol or drug problem. You’re willing to roll out the “red carpet” for your employee if that’s the case.
  2. If your employee agrees!Say, "We would like for you to speak with someone with whom we have consulted, who advised us about how to proceed with helping you. If this professional recommends treatment or some form of assistance — and, we don't know if he/she will — we would like you to follow through with those recommendations as part of the agreement."We also would like you to give permission for the clinician to speak with us so that we can know you went for the appointment. We don’t need any details. We also need to know if there is a recommendation, and if you have agreed to follow it. We also need to know from the consultant if any time off from work will be necessary to accommodate the recommendations. We do not need other information."Ask the employee if he or she would like to be escorted to the appointment. Do not send the employee alone if you believe he/she has been drinking. Remind the employee of the following:A. The employee is not being "required to go." (Although the employee feels pressure, it is his or her choice. Remember that you have legitimate reasons at this moment to dispense a disciplinary action.)B. You are not diagnosing the employee. This is not your job. (Everyone probably knows there’s an alcohol-related problem, but you’re staying out of this realm because it’s not your place to discuss it. And, it’s highly risky.)C. The employee is going to the evaluation because he or she — NOT YOU — believes there is a problem that needs to be evaluated and/or treated. This is a critical point. Don’t get into a power struggle over your employee’s decision. It’s time to let go.D. You can only accept at this point what the professional recommends; not what the employee thinks should be done, if an alcohol or drug problem exists. (It's too late for bargaining now. That time has passed. If you are still willing to accept the employee’s plan for “doing-it-on-my-own,” you’ll lose this intervention outcome. This is called “buying the employee’s next drink.” Your employee should have already considered other options prior to this intervention meeting. So, “new ideas” the employee might suggest should be unacceptable.”E. You will consider dispensing the disciplinary action on the basis of documented performance problems unless the employee establishes that:a) An alcohol or drug problem exists that needs treatment.b) An evaluation appointment is verified.c) A release is signed to confirm the interview outcome.d) There is an agreement to follow professional recommendations.e) There is follow through, once begun, with professional recommendations.
  3. LAST STEP IF EMPLOYEE IS UNWILLING:If the employee decides against the assessment/evaluation and instead accepts the disciplinary action, do the following:Double check to see if this is indeed what the employee really wants to do. Discuss the impact of the employee's decision on his or her life. Simply clarify the consequences of the decision. If no reversal of the decision is forthcoming, tell the employee that you must implement the disciplinary action. BUT, tell your employee that if he or she changes his/her mind, to let you know by tomorrow morning, say by 10:00 AM, because after that it will be too late. Under these circumstances many employees will accept help the next day. They simply have trouble admitting to you at the moment that they need help. Instead, they harm themselves rather than admit to "moral, willpower, or a character failing,” which is how most people view addiction, although this is complete myth. [If you view alcoholism this way, your intervention will probably fail because the employee will sense your contempt. Denial is all about avoiding shame, pity, self-punishment, and the contempt of others for having a psychological problem or being weak. If you have a drinking problem yourself, it is likely that you have this misunderstanding of addictive illness. You can still be successful with an intervention, however, because this is about the employee’s problem, not yours. With luck, you will read more about alcoholism, experiment with abstinence, self-diagnose, go to Alcoholics Anonymous, seek treatment, and recover.]
  4. TIPS:1) Don't conduct this intervention on a day before vacation or annual leave, or on a Friday. 2. Conduct the intervention in the morning.3. Don't get involved in a discussion about whether there is indeed an alcohol or drug problem. You cannot win this argument. Your consultation with the clinician has confirmed this problem probably exists, which is the basis for the intervention. The issue for your company is to discipline or not discipline the employee for documented job performance or conduct problems. Any discussion about alcoholism or drug addiction will lead you to postpone action because you will be tempted to accept reasonable employee-initiated alternatives or explanations to satisfy your unrealistic need to feel good about the outcome of the intervention and please the employee at the same time. Unfortunately, you will be enabling and losing credibility with your employee. The employee with an alcohol or drug problem is well practiced at arguing his or her "case,” particularly with family members, with whom they have acquired this skill. This experience makes you an easy match.4. Do not allow the employee to simply tell you that he or she already has quit drinking or will quit on his or her own. This is unacceptable and inappropriate discussion in a correctional interview. If the employee says he or she might have a drinking problem, it requires treatment, not an investment in willpower or cutting back to address its symptoms, namely drinking. Treatment is necessary for the employee to arrest the illness and learn how to “stay stopped” from ethyl alcohol or other psychoactive drug consumption. You are the employer, not a family member. Family members routinely accept, out of ignorance, these assurances by the addict. You should not make the same mistake.5. The employee may attempt to manipulate you to some degree if you have been previously manipulated in the past. This is normal. Simply stick to your decision. Focus on performance and consequences, or holding consequences in abeyance depending on what the employee decides to do.
  5. Q. What if there is no problem with alcoholism or drug addiction and no recommendation for treatment is made by the clinician?A. Although this is very unlikely, particularly in light of a professional consultation prior to the intervention, your company can choose to impose the disciplinary action for clearly documented job performance problems that are obviously not related to addiction or other medical condition. Do not discharge your employee without good cause and good documentation as to the reasons why. With performance-based intervention, you are accommodating a health care problem. If no health care problem exists, and the employee is not in need of an accommodation for a health care problem (addictive disease, in this case), then responding to the ongoing job-related problems with a measured and fitting disciplinary response is an option. Most employers I have worked with have been at the absolute “end of their ropes” with the behavior of their employee. If you are not, be sure you construct an iron clad and clearly worded performance improvement plan. Think carefully about whether this is prudent for your circumstances. Never, ever imply that you might consider this if the employee’s evaluation is negative. This would sabotage the intervention and the employee’s motivation with the clinician. Q. What if the counselor determines that another problem exists — not alcoholism or drug addiction?A. If by chance the clinician discovers another serious personal problem, other than alcoholism or drug addiction that needs treatment, your company could choose to consider accepting and accommodating this recommendation. A health care clinician who indicates that alcoholism or a drug addiction problem is a symptom of depression probably does not know what he or she is doing. A bunch of these folks are out there. A look at their resume will point to a lack of experience with addictive disease. You must get a clear understanding of the clinician’s beliefs about addiction before you go forward. Professionals associated with accredited addiction treatment programs are likely to have the experience you need. Those who work strictly for a psychiatric program are generally less knowledgeable. Of course, depression can make an alcohol or drug addiction worse, or it can exist concurrently with it. But, depression doesn’t cause alcoholism. Alcoholics may drink to sooth depression (also called “self-medicating”) which may or may not be caused by the alcoholism. Alcohol works well for this purpose only if you have the requisite body chemistry. A “social drinker” wouldn’t consider doing this anymore than eating broccoli for such a purpose. Social drinkers can’t medicate depression with alcohol because they have no past experience with alcohol that would influence them to consider it.Q. What if the employee goes to treatment, but later relapses and is using drugs, or is in trouble with alcohol again?A. It is possible that your employee may relapse at some point in the future. If this occurs, it does not mean failure. Acting quickly to motivate the employee to revisit the CEAP or treatment professional is essential, however, in order to stop the relapse. Promise the consequence for failure to do so. Relapse is like an aftershock following a major earthquake; it doesn’t mean the BIG ONE is back. Relapse is usually associated with experimental drinking to see if one has indeed really lost control. It usually occurs because the employee has failed to properly manage their disease. An incidental crisis or event then prompts the impulse to drink. Relapse is considered normal in the progression of recovery. In the first year or two, however, this is more often because of poor follow-up and poor communication with those who have influence and leverage in the addict’s decision to enter treatment and remain in an effective recovery program. That’s you. The bottom line is that relapse occurs far less when expert follow-up by the treatment provider is part of the care plan. So, insist on it. In the end, most addicts who finally are successful at life-long abstinence experience relapse. Never assume failure if this happens. Watch behavior. Does it tell you the employee wants his job or does it not? What does the professional have to say? Take your cue from this person so you know how to respond.Q. What if the employee continues to relapse and we simply cannot tolerate the unpredictability of the problems he or she experiences?A. Your employee’s addictive disease is a chronic health care problem, although 80% or better of employees referred to treatment from the workplace stay sober. I believe that with good follow-up (the key to success) this figure approaches 90% or better. In the event your employee is unable to sustain employment, you may wish to consider other alternatives. Disability retirement is a possibility. Don’t overreact to this suggestion. If this is arranged, a stringent, regular, and periodic evaluation by an addictionologist (a medical doctor certified by the American Society on Addiction Medicine, or ASAM, should take place to verify the employee’s aggressive involvement in a satisfactory treatment and recovery program in order to remain qualified for disability insurance. Most employees who know this type of evaluation will be required will feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to make their recovery program work to stay sober. Some employees with compounded physical or mental health problems may not be successful no matter what their motivation to remain abstinent. For instance, severe organic brain damage or end-stage liver cirrhosis might make it impossible to engage in treatment. For these employees intervention for them came too late.

Sources and Citations

  • Performance-based Intervention Manual; Feerst, Daniel A. DFA Publishing and Consutling, PO BOX 2006, Mount Pleasant, SC 29465-2006;
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