If one of your employees had cancer, would you feel empathy and compassion for their situation, or blame them for being sick? If they had some other life-threatening disease, would you help them get treatment, or tell them the illness was their fault and walk away?
What would you do if they were suffering from alcohol abuse?
We have proof. Addiction is a disease. So why do most people find this fact difficult to accept? (Being Sober by Harry Haroutunian, M.D.)
If you run a business or manage any type of organization, there are likely people on your team who have an alcohol problem. The question then becomes: What are you going to do about it?
30% of adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of alcohol abuse and 12% will become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lifetime. (“Weathering the Storm of Alcoholism”)
Since more than 75 percent of people with alcohol issues are employed full-time, the modern workforce obviously includes a great number of alcoholics. And it’s not just low performers who are affected. In fact, quite the opposite.
What we seek in leaders is often the same kind of personality type that is found in addicts. (Dr. David J. Linden as quoted in What Addicts Know by Christopher Kennedy Lawford)
These facts make it clear that responsible companies—and compassionate leaders—should think about, and build a plan to address, the business impact of alcohol abuse.
Perspective for Leaders to Consider
Before we self-righteously leap to judgment, let’s establish some perspective.
We all have compulsive issues that create many negative consequences in our lives. Even if we don’t admit it to anyone (including ourselves), we are all addicted to something. Some addictions are more socially acceptable than others, such as control, workaholism, or pride, so we think we don’t have to worry about them. The others we just keep hidden.
You would think our individual brokenness would cause us, especially those who call ourselves Christians, to heed the question of Jesus when he asks, “Who among us can cast the first stone?”
Yet we do. Enough so that it is often said, “Christians are the only army that shoot their wounded.”
Mostly, we don’t even recognize the problem. We see employees as resources rather than people, focusing only on their productivity. We don’t get to know them enough to notice or empathize with their problems. Or, if we do suspect something is wrong, we ignore it rather than get involved.
That’s not what great leaders do. And it’s just not right.
If you manage more than a few people, the odds are high that someone on your team has issues with alcohol. Are you going to ignore the problem? Fire them? Or help?
Minimizing the Business Impact of Alcohol Abuse
Most business leaders want to have a positive impact by providing:
- A positive environment – but, inside some workers, are there issues and brokenness?
- A good culture – but, do employees feel safe enough to ask for help for their problems?
- Valuable benefits – but, do they ignore one of the biggest health problems in business?
If you manage a team, you are in an excellent position to make a difference in the lives of your employees. You are around them often, and you have significant influence over them.
You never know, you may be the one person who can help them the most. With alcohol issues so rampant in today’s workplace, how do you do that?
- Set clear policies, and enforce them with grace and compassion.
- Understand that alcoholism is a disease and treat it as such.
- Provide programs to prevent and deal with alcohol abuse.
- As leaders, be proactive getting involved, but not enabling.
You can help improve the lives of your employees, and their families. Especially if they are hurting. And, if you want to integrate your faith into the workplace, this is a great place to start.
In the next STEPS Journey Blog article, we will discuss more aspects of the business impact of alcohol abuse. We will outline the reasons for alcohol awareness and how to provide a proactive program that will help. There are many business benefits that can be achieved.
And, for the people who work for your company, it’s just the right thing to do.
Question: Does your company have a plan to deal with the business impact of alcohol abuse?
Action: Read Part 2 of this series next week; then, decide how you can make a difference.