Determining the cause of addiction among your employees is as simultaneously simple and difficult as asking someone why they’re having trouble paying their bills or why they’re estranged from their families. On the simpler side, we have answers like: “Because I’m overextended” or “We just don’t see eye to eye.” On the more complex side, there is no end of specifics and variables. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that approximately 18.7 million Americans struggle with substance use disorder in the United states; over 36 percent struggle with illicit drug use; 75 percent struggle with alcohol abuse and over 11 percent struggle with both. Each and every one of these people have their own origin stories and specific issues that lead to substance use. Very often, however, the places they work and their professional lives can exacerbate the issue.
Is Your Workplace Culture Driving Employee Addiction?
As the commonly quoted, albeit barbaric, proverb goes: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The reality is that there are multiple ways in which workplace culture can escalate substance abuse among employees. Being aloof or ignorant to the risk can be just as dangerous as supporting a culture of fear and stress, and it’s critical that employers are mindful of the kind of atmosphere they’re creating.
While it’s easy to sit back and believe that workplace substance abuse is an issue that only impacts “other” organizations, the reality is that an overwhelming majority of adults struggling with drug or alcohol abuse are employed full-time, and they work across a variety of different industries. SAMHSA also reports that nearly 11 million of adults who meet the criteria for substance use disorder are full-time employees, and it’s important that executives be mindful of this issue. You may be unwittingly driving your employees to using substances if:
Your Workplace Is Stressful
Ok…I know what we’re all thinking: “What workplace ISN’T stressful, right?” Well…there are different degrees of stress, and if your employees are constantly feeling the heat and working in the face of unrealistic expectations, that can weigh heavily on them and cause them to “let off steam” or self-medicate. The American Psychological Association reports that 65 percent of Americans cite work as a significant source of stress, and one third report chronic workplace stress. In addition to affecting employee health, chronic stress can have serious repercussions for employers. In all, the American Institute of Stress estimates that job stress costs U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance costs.
Your Employees Are Afraid or Anxious
Every day, thousands of employees go into work weighed down by the invisible fear of losing their jobs…and no, not just to robots. Data from Gallup indicates that 11 percent of employees are not confident in their job security, whether it’s based on market forces or immediate workplace dynamics. Very often, this fear is not rooted in any reality governing their workplace performance or their quality as an employee.
Many of these employees are constantly led to believe that their jobs and subsequent livelihoods are only one mistake away from being threatened, an impression many bosses are all too happy to reinforce on a daily basis. Chronic anxiety is a driver of substance abuse, and an aggravator for those who already struggle with the condition. Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that individuals suffering from anxiety are two to three times more likely to develop alcohol use disorder, which very often affects their performance and their productivity.
Workplace bullying and harassment are also common sources of fear and anxiety that, very often, go unnoticed and unreported by the victims. It seems outrageous that the schoolyard dynamics that kept so many in fear throughout their childhoods would transition to the workplace; however, many continue to report that same sort of toxic tribalism. Data published in Forbes Magazine indicates that 75 percent of employees experience some level of workplace bullying, and data from the Workplace Bullying Institute indicates that 40 percent of workplace bullying targets suffer long-term mental health issues. The organization also reports that nearly a third of targets remain silent about their abuse and 17 percent never seek any formal resolution.
Many victims of workplace bullying feel embarrassed and ashamed to admit that they’re the targets of this kind of behavior and, to heighten the stakes even more, feel as though their job and financial security hinges on their silence. As a result, they wind up internalizing the trauma and self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs.
You’re Not Looking
It may seem a little lofty and, frankly, unfair to expect hiring managers and executives to keep the possibility of addiction among employees front-of-mind as a possible workplace hazard; however, the numbers don’t lie, and one of the first casualties of substance use disorder is the professional life. It is more important than ever to be mindful of the risk of employee substance abuse, not only for the long-term health of your staff; but also for the long-term security and progress of your organization. Turning a blind eye or keeping your head in the sand can be just as dangerous as suborning the type of environment that can breed workplace substance abuse. By creating a transparent, open, compassionate yet clearly defined set of workplace policies, you’re sending the signal to all staff that you’re in their corner.
Let Recovery Unplugged Help You Deal with Addiction among Your Employees
If addiction among your employees is sending a ripple of chaos and dysfunction through your company, Recovery Unplugged is ready to partner with your organization to get your employees the help they need so they can get back to being the vibrant and capable professionals you hired. We offer a variety of educational workshops, consultations and treatment partnerships to help you deal with this escalating problem that’s invading more and more American workplaces. Call Recovery Unplugged at (877) 412-1240 today to learn more.