When Addiction Strikes the Corner Office: Intervention on a Boss
A co-worker’s struggle with addiction can make the office a stressful place to be. When the person in charge of keeping the company healthy is the one with a drug or alcohol addiction, going to work can be downright miserable. Covering for a boss who fails to return phone calls or emails, or whose mood swings make for a volatile work environment not only diminishes the employee’s ability to do their job but also enables the higher-up to continue their problem behavior.
But how does an employee stage an addiction intervention for the bigwig in the corner office? Can you say something without putting your job on the line? According to the experts at Promises Treatment Centers in Los Angeles, there are few options for walking this fine line.
Interventions for Bosses
The Direct Appeal
Because of the power dynamics, a casual conversation about a boss’ drug or alcohol problem isn’t typically advisable. But if you care about your boss’ well-being or are concerned about your job or the future of the company, ignoring the problem won’t improve the situation, either.
“If the employee has a solid, long-standing relationship with their boss, a sincere expression of concern and a polite and compassionate appeal for them to get help may make a difference,” says Dr. Greg Skipper, the Director of Professional Health Services at Promises drug treatment center in Los Angeles, who was helped into recovery, in part, by a concerned employee many years ago.
Of course, a direct appeal comes with a certain level of risk, which many employees are reluctant to accept, particularly in a tough economy.
Most companies have policies in place for handling drug or alcohol problems in the workplace, and some have employee assistance programs, built-in support systems designed to help employees address problems that impact their personal and professional lives. Start by speaking with a human resources representative about the procedures in place. Be sure to find out whether complaints are kept confidential.
Professional Assistance Programs
Certain fields have professional assistance programs that accept referrals when a doctor, lawyer or other licensed professional shows signs of drug or alcohol addiction. Many of these programs are able to maintain the anonymity of the individual submitting a report and are highly successful in getting an addicted professional into treatment.
In the absence of an employee or professional assistance program, the employee may enlist the services of a professional interventionist who specializes in interventions for executives. A neutral third party may be able to help you formulate a plan for speaking with your boss or get the appropriate parties involved.
The Boss’ Supervisor
Another possibility is making an honest expression of concern to the boss’ supervisor or another executive. Interventions are often most effective when the person confronting the addicted executive is in a position to use the threat of job loss as leverage to help get them into drug rehab.
“It requires very high management to have that first conversation,” Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises, told BNET.
As you prepare to discuss your concerns, whether with HR, an assistance program or a supervisor, start a log that documents problematic behaviors, including:
• Frequent absences from work or tardiness
• Complaints from clients or co-workers about missed appointments, lack of preparation, or unreturned emails or phone calls
• Illogical behaviors that may range from overly enthusiastic to hostile
• Requests for cover-ups
• Deteriorating health or hygiene
The log should include the date, place, description of the behavior and names of other people present.
Roughly 75 percent of adults who use illicit drugs are employed. Even though they manage to maintain their employment, bosses who are dependent on drugs or alcohol still need help to recover from addiction. If it isn’t your voice they hear, make sure they hear someone’s.