It can be challenging enough to deal with a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction; you may wonder if you’re betraying that person by relaying your suspicions to other friends, or may feel hesitant approaching them about your concerns. However, when you suspect a coworker of addiction, it involves an additional level of responsibility. Now, if you fail to report suspicious behavior you may be negatively affecting your place of employment as well as a friendship.

What signs are often present in someone with substance addiction? If you suspect a coworker is an addict, how do you proceed? Below we’ll discuss some possible signs of addiction as well as potential actions you could take if you believe a coworker is suffering from a substance addiction.

Signs And Symptoms Of An Impaired Professional

The following behaviors are often signs a person suffers from addiction. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, nor does it mean a coworker engaging in these behaviors is definitely addicted.

  • Absences –

    Frequent absences from work, particularly prolonged absences, may be a sign your coworker is addicted. It is especially concerning if he or she does not have an explanation for the absence, or has a flimsy excuse for a large number of absences.

  • Bathroom Trips-

    Frequent, excessive, or inexplicably long trips to the bathroom may be an indicator your coworker is utilizing working hours to engage in using his or her substance of choice.

  • Missed Or Late Deadlines And Appointments –

    If your coworker is frequently late to work, misses appointments, deadlines, or meetings without an adequate explanation for this behavior, the behavior may be a result of an addiction.

  • Inconsistent Work Performance –

    A coworker’s work performance can be an indicator of mental and physical health. Sudden high and low swings in performance quality or a drastic increase in mistakes and errors due to decreased attention and increased carelessness can indicate a substance abuse problem.

  • Increased Difficulty With Everyday Tasks –

    Tasks that were once routine for your coworker now seem increasingly difficult, particularly those tasks that require concentration or memory. In addition, if your coworker seems to be taking an inordinately long time or a disproportionate amount of effort to complete tasks that should be simple, you may have reason to suspect substance abuse.

  • Poor Interpersonal Relations –

    You may have noticed that your coworker’s ability to relate to you or other coworkers now seems diminished. The result may be increased arguments and emotional outbursts, in addition to blaming other coworkers for failed projects and poor performance.

  • Unexplained, Sudden Changes In Personal Appearance –

    Classic signs of substance abuse, such as bloodshot eyes, weight loss, and poor personal hygiene can indicate that your coworker may be struggling with substance abuse, especially if the changes are sudden. A coworker’s inattention to weather-appropriate clothing, such as wearing long sleeves when it’s hot outside, may indicate a desire to hide evidence of substance abuse.

  • Other Changes In Personality –

    Keep an eye out for mood swings, depression, anxiety, self-isolation, or even suicidal ideation. In particular, pay close attention to personality changes other coworkers seem to notice.

As mentioned, any one of these signs alone does not indicate substance abuse. However, multiple signs, if taken together, may indicate your coworker could be struggling with addiction.

What Should You Do?

If you have reason to believe your coworker may be struggling with substance abuse, you must first educate yourself on the particular symptoms he or she is showing. If, after some research, you still believe your coworker’s behavior could be a sign of addiction, consider whether that behavior has negatively impacted the workplace.

Take notes about any incident you believe to be either drug-related, detracting from your company’s mission, or both. Record dates, times, any other witnesses, and what aspects of the work environment you believe to be affected by the incidents. Once you feel you have recorded enough evidence to help you adequately express your concern, gather your evidence, list your coworker’s behavioral concerns, and consider company policy.

Adhere To Company Policy

From here on out, your company’s policy determines your next steps. Determine if your company has a process outlined for reporting drug or alcohol addicted employees; if so, review it carefully. Then, proceed according to the policy and do not deviate from it under any circumstances.

If there is no policy in place, your options are a little less clear. You may consider speaking with an HR representative or a supervisor, who may have internal training or policy in place regarding how to handle such reports. Show them the documentation you collected and stress that while you don’t know for sure that the person is addicted, your concern for the wellbeing of your coworker and the company has led you to report your concerns. Take notes during the meeting to ensure you have a record of the discussion.

What Should You Do After Reporting?

Try not to feel guilty about reporting your colleague. If your coworker does suffer from addiction, you may have prevented your company from undue losses and your coworker from accidental injury or termination. In addition, you may have prompted the person to seek treatment for the addiction, improving his or her overall health. If you were wrong, the coworker’s career will go on as planned.

You may be tempted to discuss the incident with your coworker. However, your HR representative or supervisor likely will caution against the discussion. Legally, your employer should keep your identity confidential, and adding embarrassment and accusation to the situation can make the workplace environment even more awkward.

What If Your Coworker Comes Forward?

Above all, if your coworker informs you or the office at large about a substance addiction issue, remain supportive. Reassure your colleague that although your office has concerns regarding the wellbeing of the workplace environment, you will support positive steps towards treatment. Encourage your coworker to seek professional help if they have not already done so.

If you believe a coworker is struggling with addiction, follow the above steps to report your concerns to your workplace. If the individual is, in fact, struggling with addiction, encourage him or her to contact us to discuss all facets of treatment options.