Does your workplace culture foster a “head in the sand” approach to substance abuse?

Almost all workplaces have some type of substance free workplace policy, but there is frequently a huge gap between the policy on paper and the policy in practice. In the absence of a deliberate workplace culture centered around effectively addressing substance abuse, the default culture supports a “head in the sand” approach. Here are some workplace Culture Red Flags to watch for:

Lack of Big Picture Thinking
Employees must be trained and encouraged to see the big picture, especially as it pertains to substance abuse. Nobody hesitates to take action if they see somebody about to back a forklift into a large stack of finished product, because the big picture is immediately apparent: injury to the driver, injury to nearby employees, loss of thousands of dollars worth of product, loss of hundreds of man hours. Do all employees know that lack of action regarding substance abuse has the same big picture consequences and requires the same urgent action?

Perception of Gray Areas
In order for policies and procedures to be utilized effectively, there cannot be any “gray areas.” These opportunities for subjectivity may be written directly into the policy (with phrases such as “up to and including” or “on a case by case basis”) or be generated by selective application. Regardless of their origin, any perceived gray areas will push employees towards inaction. After all, nobody wants to make the effort to report a problem and see nothing happen as a result. Likewise, a supervisor doesn’t want to address an issue if he fears he may lose a valuable employee. It is very difficult to take action if the consequences of that action are an unknown. Think of it this way, would you ever try to motivate employees with the following pitch: “If our quota is met by 1pm on Friday, you may or may not be allowed to leave early and you may or may not still be paid for your scheduled hours.”
Time is spent playing The Blame Game
Workplaces tend to focus either on rewarding individuals for taking initiative or placing blame when things go wrong. Playing The
Blame Game prevents an employee from addressing any observed substance abuse issues. He is motivated to inaction by worry that he won’t address them effectively, the intervention will be difficult, and he will ultimately be blamed for any negative consequences. It is much safer and easier for him to stick his head in the sand and wait for the substance abuser to make an error and take the blame. Unfortunately, this approach is neither safer nor easier for the company at large. Does your workplace value, encourage and reward those who take initiative?

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Use this tool to identify Supervisor Initiative that supports a substance free workplace.

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