A toxic work environment is defined as an environment that negatively impacts the viability of an organisation. It can be considered toxic if it is ineffective as well as destructive to its employees. Substance misuse in the workplace is a leading cause. Drug and alcohol abuse can not only damage your business, it can cause accidents, a loss in productivity, absenteeism and days off ill, and result in an intimidating work environment.
So, what can you do to build a culture of positive workplace behaviour and eradicate drugs and alcohol from your organisation? Lead by example by demonstrating a duty of care with a clearly defined policy to deal with the issue of substance abuse. Managers who demonstrate their commitment to a positive, fair work environment – with a zero-tolerance attitude to toxic behaviour – are more likely to influence their employees and inspire good behaviour.
All members of staff benefit from a better workplace culture. An aggressive or hostile work environment can lead to poor productivity and feelings of depression, stress and anxiety, which can lead to absenteeism, days off ill, and even resignation. Prospective employees will also be attracted to a more positive workplace culture.
A company can outline its approach to substance misuse with a robust drug and alcohol testing policy backed up by a comprehensive workplace testing programme. With such a framework in operation, systems are in place to help the people in need, whilst contributing to the development of a positive and successful workforce. Should a problem arise, it is important that senior staff are supportive and show compassion. Where possible, assistance should be offered, such as counselling, treatment and education.
A company drug and alcohol testing policy effectively tells employees what is and isn’t permissible. The consequences of breaking the rules or failing a drugs and/or alcohol test will be clearly stipulated. In this way, all members of staff know where they stand and it establishes a company ethos for everyone to adhere to. In addition, a robust policy can have a knock-on effect on other types of associated behaviours. Make it known: inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated.
As well as encouraging your staff to follow them, the existence of rules can also act as a deterrent to future employees. Discouraging substance abusers from applying for a position at your company will reduce your potential for revenue loss and legal problems.
The outcome of a failed workplace drug test or alcohol test could mean disciplinary action, dismissal or therapy. If the company has a zero-tolerance policy, just the positive test could be seen as gross misconduct resulting in immediate dismissal or suspension while there is an investigation. This is most likely to be the case in safety-critical positions, such as driving or operating machinery.
The policy should encourage any employee with a substance dependency problem or other addiction to inform their Line Manager in confidence. Disciplinary action may be suspended whilst appropriate treatment and/or rehabilitation is sought.
A comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol policy should include full details of your company’s testing programme. Implementing a successful testing policy will not only increase productivity, decrease costs and maintain the reputation of the company, but it will also mean that your business is operating lawfully to ensure the safety of your employees and the general public under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (among others).
Figures released last year show that around 1 in 11 (9.4%) adults aged 16–59 took drugs, which equates to around 3.2 million people. As such, workplace drug testing is on the rise. It’s obviously essential for some industry recommendations and insurance policies to demand employees in safety-critical roles to undertake routine drug testing and alcohol testing. There are various types of testing services to suit all forms of business that can protect employees, as well as your company. These include:
- post-rehab and return-to-work testing
It is important to keep your employees up to date with the company’s drug and alcohol testing policy to maintain awareness and educate them of both the company’s obligations and their individual responsibilities concerning drugs and alcohol. Training can reduce any ambiguity about what is unacceptable and provide guidance on what action will be taken if someone is involved with, or accused of, drug or alcohol misuse within the workplace.
A training programme for managers or supervisors could help them recognise the signs of substance misuse. They need to know what to do if they suspect an employee is misusing drugs and/or alcohol, or if they are approached by an employee who declares a problem. A positive drug or alcohol test may indicate a deeper problem for your employee. Try and establish what is causing him or her to act in this way. Financial pressures and excessive workloads are key factors in substance abuse by employees, with more and more high-performing, fully functioning employees harbouring secret addictions.
By implementing a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing policy for your company, it is possible to create a positive workplace culture that all stakeholders can be proud of.