Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Improve Observational Skills to Spot Workplace Substance Abuse as a DOT (or Non-DOT Supervisor)

You can learn all you need to know about signs and symptoms of substance abuse and never spot one of them in a 100 years of supervising workers.

Approximately 7% of your workforce is actively alcoholic (or in recovery completely from a prior addiction,) so the chances are pretty good that you have at least one actively drinking alcoholic if you have 20 employees under your supervision or more.

Of course, you could have one employee, and him or her be the alcoholic, but I am just saying...think 100% certainty if you have say 20-25 employees. That's because 70% of employees drink and 10% become alcoholic. Hence 7%.

These are conservative numbers. Eventually that one employee or two will experinece workplace symptoms that grow over time. Now you see the rationale for properly conducted reasonable suspicion training.

Why is it that many supervisors never report seeing the signs and symptoms of an alcoholic

dot supervisor training in reasonable suspicion observational skills blog note
or drug using employee. In fact, many EAPs are reporting fewer substance abuse employees in their statistics, even after extensive EAP Supervisor Training.

Yet, we know they are there. The answer--or at least part of it--is less than adequate observational skills.

Improving your observational skills as a DOT supervisor (or non-DOT supervisor) is not just about looking for toxic signs. Instead it is about engaging with your employees to know them as workers. DOT training courses should discuss observable performance indicators, but also educate supervisors not to remain behind closed doors.

You will simply will not find substance abusers without engaging with workers up close in a manner that allows you to grasp their unique style of behavior and communication of each one.

Mingle with your employees regularly, say hello, and you will learn subconsciously, as a result, of these interactions how employees behave, how they speak with each other, and what they look like physically. This is not a difficult task. It is quite natural. Your brain will do the work for you by registering tone of voice, appearance, dress, facial expressions, voice volume, etc. When any of these things change, you will be alerted because your brain will notify you that something is out of place.

Supervisors who do not engage with their employees are at greater risk of not spotting signs and symptoms of drug use. In some instances behavior, voice, attitude, and an accumulation of other human affected signs and symptoms that have been occurring recently or in the past that lead the supervisor to make a decision that reasonable suspicion exists.

Let's look at a couple signs and symptoms from a handout within our DOT Supervisor Training Course on substance abuse. Any of the following may be identified by the astute supervisor who engages with employees regularly, and possibly missed if a scant interactive relationship exists.

Remember, the rationale for engaging with employees is that they are indeed your most valuable resource. They must be seen as a resource in order for you to maximize their potential and workplace effectiveness, and consequently, their job satisfaction.

See employees as not just "people" but a valuable resource. It will be to their benefit more than the other way around. It will also diminish the risk of engaging in dysfunctional relationships with them, if you are at risk for such. (Some brute honesty there, but make this about putting the company first, and your employees will naturally benefit as a result.)

Drug and Alcohol Use Signs and Symptoms Spotted While Engaging with Employees

1) Stumbling, staggering. A stumble is not just a stumble. When you have been engaging with employees regularly, you will see a stumble differently, what it looks like as it is happening. People do stumble, but when, what, where, and how are worth considering are what you will document

2) Impaired fine motor skills. When you see tremulousness from drug withdrawal, it can be very subtle. If you are engaging with employees daily, you will notice these hand movements more readily. When, how, and during what activity is the basis of documentation

3) Slurred speech. Slurred speech can be extremely subtle, all words may be slurred or just a few that require finer motor coordination of the tongue. What statement did he or she attempt to articulate? When, where? Your past interactions can help you know what to do next, and whether there is more to consider in making a referral for a drug test.

4) Dramatic weight loss. What has your employees past appearance been? How is different now? Weight loss appears to be how much?

The above are just a few of the many, many symptoms of substance abuse.
In our DOT Supervisor's Training, Reasonable Suspicion Course, there are many more signs and symptoms, but I am hoping you understand the point from this short example.

This course is available free as a preview. Learn more at reasonable suspicion training free, in its entirety.

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