Signs of Addiction: Hiding in Plain Sight

Part of building a healthy and successful team is being able to notice the underlying problems in the workplace. Addiction is one of them. As HR one goal is to maximize your team's efforts and outputs while also shaping your employees into better people and workers. Considering these signs of addiction may help you avoid any false assumptions. If you come to a confident enough decision about confronting the employee about the problem, maybe you should approach them with compassion and care. The idea of addressing this issue is not to have them feel punished, instead make  them feel valued. Showing that you are willing to invest in the well-being of your employees can go a long way.

If you suspect an employee is suffering from an addiction, you may be struggling with how to approach the situation. The topic of addiction could be swept under the rug as long as everything appears to be fine. Sometimes addicts are afraid to speak out about their problem out of fear of being judged or losing their job. The stigma associated with addiction is the main reason addiction in the workplace might go undetected.

If you have an employee suffering from addiction, here are some of the signs to consider.

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Physical Signs

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Small or enlarged pupils
  • Runny nose
  • Overactive
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Increased weight loss
  • Change in hygiene
  • Pale or malnourished
  • Track marks on arms from injecting

Behavioral Signs

  • Increase in tardiness to work
  • Increase in absences or sick days
  • Decrease in work production
  • Decrease in work skill
  • Taking breaks frequently
  • Complaints about home problems and lack of sleep
  • New financial issues
  • Irrational behavior

Mental Signs

  • Argumentative or defensive
  • Inability to deal with stress
  • Change in work habits or associates
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Lack of motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Periods of increased energy

Defensive Tactics for Addicts

Judging the honesty of the employee during this time may not be easy, but consider trusting your instinct. If you believe the signs point to addiction, there might be a good chance something is wrong. Defensive tactics can be an addicts' attempt to discredit the severity of their problem and avoid treatment. This might be the addiction trying to keep them down, your job is to help them see the light and hope of recovery. Defensive tactics to look for when addressing addiction with your employee include:

Denial – An addict can deny his or her addiction if they feel their way of life is in jeopardy. Once sober the addict can make more decisions to better their life, but initially the addict person may need to be confronted.

Blaming – An addict could blame his situation or behaviors on other problems. For example if you notice an employee has been frequently late recently and sleeping at his desk. He may say he has been having problems at home, or trouble sleeping.

Lying – Addicts could lie to avoid having to confront their addiction, looking at the evidence and evaluating carefully can help see their lies. An addict may be more likely to come clean if they feel comfortable around you.

Diversion – They can create incidents to avoid talking about the situation.

Rationalization – Making your behavior and attitude seem acceptable. For example a person may say he has been drinking to deal with new stresses in his or her life, or has been late more frequently because of traffic. Rationalization is when the person seems to have an excuse for everything.

End Addiction and Build a Better Team

Talking about addiction and rehabilitation may not always be an easy conversation to have, but it could be a necessary one. Consider discussing with your employee the different treatment options and let them know that it will get better! If you value your employee and what he or she has to offer, investing in them with addiction treatment could pay off tenfold. Your goal as HR is to address this situation and help your employee rise to the challenge, crafting them into stronger employees and human beings.