Do Ask & Do Tell About Drugs & Alcohol in the Workplace

Today let’s talk about a starling statistic that’s still not setting well even after a few days of reading it:

According to a national survey conducted by the Hazelden Foundation, more than sixty percent of adults know people who have gone to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.(source)

SIXTY PERCENT!?! Wowza, that’s a problem!

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell … For Alcohol & Drug Abuse?

Now we understand that there are cultural taboos out there that leave people pretty “hush hush” on personal subject matters. Many times we try to not blur the lines between personal and professional – and many times the issues we are trying to protect and conceal have nothing to do with our careers and professionalism. While some may be under the assumption that the choice to intake drugs & alcohol falls under the same category, that doesn’t exactly ring true. Sure, if an employee has a glass of wine with dinner that’s no big deal. But if that same employee has a bottle of wine for dinner, more the next morning and afterwards leaves for work – then we’ve got a problem on our hands.

Why Employee Use of Drugs & Alcohol Matters

Not only do you want your employees clear of drug & alcohol abuse for their own sake, but it can also impact your company in the long run. While you cannot change what your employees choose to do “off-hours,” you can enforce strict guidelines for what is appropriate and not appropriate at work. One suggestion is to enforce pre-employment and post-employment drug testing. Another is to apply Drug Free Workplace protocols in your company. The thing about employees’ drugs & alcohol use is that what they choose to do in their own time often WILL flood into their performance while “on the clock.”

Nobody likes to play disciplinarian (even strict parents and principals) – but putting your foot down for what you will and won’t tolerate is important. The age group entering the workforce most rapidly (ages 16-25) is also the age group that admits to having used drugs or alcohol within the past 30 days. If it’s not an issue for you now, statistically, it’s going to become one soon. Do ask about drugs & alcohol. Do encourage your employees to tell. Because if you don’t, you might be cleaning up more of a mess than if you would have begun with those hard questions in the first place.


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