Posts Tagged ‘drugs’

Substance abuse is a business reality. It is an uncomfortable subject, which deserves some mention. There are about 13 million active alcoholics in the United States who have powerful impact on 40 – 50 million other individuals as reported in  “Alcoholism and Other Drug Problems.” The number of drug addicts varies from 600,000 to millions. A substantial number in both cases are white-collar workers.

One thing that can contribute to substance abuse is inability to deal with the stress in complex situations, situations where a balance point must be found among all the disparate forces affecting the project. To make matters worse, the balance point can shift from day-to-day. The stress can just be too much for some individuals who turn to coping mechanisms trying to maintain performance.

Unfortunately, the associated issues can at times be swept under the carpet quite readily. Along with pressure to perform there can be a corresponding fear in the atmosphere suggesting staying in denial and coping will work fine and the focus can remain on producing. Lurking in the background are legal, human resource, and social consequences that can “put a stick in the gears” of the project or process and bring things to a halt.

A Breath of Fresh Air

This all can come to the surface when providing personal, individual feedback after profiling tests have been administered. There is so much focus on performance that a discussion about personal limits and how it feels to work in the given environment can catch a team member by surprise and they drop their guard. It provides a chance to breathe, to let go of the burden even if for just an hour or two.

The information can be quite intimate creating a challenge as to how to proceed, e.g., admission of possible substance abuse problem. Violating confidences is unethical while holding information back relevant to the changes required can compromise the engagement.

What To Do?

As a consultant, a balance can be reached by telling the individual their confidence will be maintained as to particulars, encourage them to take care of themselves, and statements to the managers in charge will be limited to observable behaviors and whether or not they are within acceptable limits. Now, this can include the attitudes of others having to work with the person.

As a project manager or supervisor several options are available.  Stick only to observable behaviors:

  • Pay attention to changes in attitude, poor treatment of others, shirking responsibilities, inability to complete normal activities, constant blaming of others, absenteeism, etc.
  • See if there are any reported safety-related behaviors, e.g., erratic driving behaviors when on company time or using a company vehicle.
  • Contact Human Resources with any information about which you have concern.

Again, this is an uncomfortable topic but one a project manager can expect to run into at least once in a career. Situations requiring resilience engineering (socio-technical solutions) contain stressors that can aggravate existing problems within an individual. Staying levelheaded and dealing with the facts as they present themselves is critical.