Alcohol and cannabis (marijuana) have been the main substances of choice in Barbados for a number of years, which logically means that they and other intoxicating substances have been in our workplaces too.
The perception that substance use only affects the individual holds no weight within the workplace as the use of drugs can impact the workplace in several ways. Regardless of the individual’s job title, an employee who is affected by the use, misuse or abuse of legal or illegal substances, will affect their colleagues and clients directly or indirectly at some stage unless there is an intervention.
Take a minute to think of your dream job. Now think of components that make up the job whether it be the opportunity to travel, meet new people, solve problems or helping people. Think of your workspace and some of the things you would like to achieve. Now imagine that one of your co-workers is always late returning from their “earlier than usual” lunchbreak and when they do return, they are unable to complete their tasks. Those tasks are inevitably reassigned to you – without any compensation. It’s possible that your dream job is about to become a nightmare!
Or put yourself in the position of a customer standing in line to make a purchase. While you are there you can’t help but hear one of the store representatives speaking loudly on the phone to what appears to be a colleague at another outlet. From the frequent outbursts of laughter, you can tell that this is not a business call.
The cashiers are glancing at each other and shaking their heads but seem unwilling to intervene. When the telephone conversation is over, you observe the person stumbling to another area of the store, but you can still hear their voice. The tone of the conversation has changed however and while the person is still shouting the laughter has stopped and has been replaced by what you believe to be abusive, threatening language and you can hear furniture moving. Would you stay in line or return the goods while making a hasty turn towards the exit?
Consideration should also be given to the employees who may be distracted and unproductive, not because of their personal drug use, but that of their parent, son, daughter or significant other. The substance used and the physiological and psychological response on the user, can cause havoc within the, where family members may be experiencing emotional, physical and financial trauma. It is human nature for most people to try to cope with this matter on their own. Most of us would not readily reveal our domestic turmoil to our co-workers or supervisor unless we believe that we would be supported rather than stigmatised.
The user may experience bouts of absenteeism or may be present by unable to perform their duties with a level of competence. More often than not, it will be the co-workers who would be expected to cover for the person who has indeed consumed the substance. While someone may not mind covering for their peers occasionally, when it becomes a regular occurrence, the co-workers will become disgruntled, frustrated and stressed out.
Especially when it appears that the person experiencing the drug use is not being reprimanded or that no measures are being taken to correct the situation.
A well-structured workplace drug policy should outline in writing, what support is available, how it can be accessed, the procedures to be followed and should be available for all employees. Each enterprise should also have a document which addresses safety issues and indicate how various high-risk situations are to be managed.
A policy, however, will only be as good as the systems put in place to ensure that it can function as intended. This should include ongoing drug education and awareness sessions at various levels for all employees in an effort to build confidence in the policy and increase comfort levels in its utility.
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