Red Hot Thoughts



Last month we talked about the prevalence of prescription drugs use and their abuse in the workplace.  So, what can you do to keep your business, and your employees safe?  What signs might indicate the potential for drug misuse? 

The indicators listed below are “warning signs” of drug and/or alcohol abuse and may be observed by supervisors:

Moods:  Is an employee unusually…

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Suspicious
  • Complaining about others
  • Emotionally unsteady (e.g., outbursts of crying)
  • Moody (his/her mood changes after lunch or break)

Behaviors:  Do you notice that one of your employees is more…

  • Withdrawn or improperly talkative
  • Argumentative
  • Egotistical / Has exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Violent / displaying violent behavior

Absenteeism:  Are any of your employees experiencing…

  • An acceleration of absenteeism and tardiness, especially Mondays, Friday, before and after holidays
  • Frequent unreported absences, later explained as “emergencies”
  • Unusually high incidence of colds, flu, upset stomach, headaches
  • Frequent use of unscheduled vacation time
  • Leaving work area more than necessary (e.g., frequent trips to water fountain and bathroom)
  • Unexplained disappearances from the job with difficulty in locating employee
  • Requesting to leave work early for various reasons

Accidents:  You have an employee…

  • Taking of needless risks
  • Disregarding the safety of others
  • With a higher than average accident rate on and off the job

Work Patterns:  One of your employees is experiencing…

  • Inconsistency in quality of work
  • High and low periods of productivity
  • Poor judgment/more mistakes than usual and general carelessness
  • Lapses in concentration
  • Difficulty in recalling instructions
  • Difficulty in remembering own mistakes
  • Using more time to complete work/missing deadlines
  • Increased difficulty in handling complex situations


Relationship to Others on the Job:  One of your employees is…

  • Paranoid
  • Avoiding and withdrawing from peers
  • Receiving complaints from co-workers
  • Borrowing money from fellow employees
  • Complaining of problems at home such as separation, divorce and child discipline problems

Any one of these signs, alone or combined, could be a signal to a number of concerns, not necessarily substance abuse related.  However, if any signs are combined with other signs of impairment, you have cause for concern.  Some signs of impairment may include, but not be limited to:


Still, even with a number of signs, there may be other issues, such as illness, or a recent family situation, which are causing many of the above signs and symptoms.  You must be careful not to judge too quickly.  While you want to take care of your business, you do not want to falsely accuse anyone.

Next month, we’ll discuss what steps to follow if you do notice an employee exhibiting many of the symptoms above.  Remember, if you possibly have a current situation, and cannot wait for next month’s article on how to follow through on the warning signs, give one of our HR Coaches at Red and Associates a phone call.  We’ll be happy to walk through the situation with you and see how we can help.


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 9:14 am and is filed under Employees, Policies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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