We’ve all seen the headlines and read the news stories about Tiger Wood’s infidelity and his post Thanksgiving car accident. But more recently there have been murmurs about not only his infidelity, but also possible addictions. Some experts have hypothesized that Tiger may be addicted to sex, prescription drugs and pain killers.

This story has garnered a lot of attention because it involves Tiger Woods – arguably the best golfer in the world. Now that the cat is out of the bag, it’s a daily top news story. The question is did anybody know this behavior was going on and did they help Tiger cover it up? Or did they suspect something was amiss but didn’t probe any further for fear of being nosey? In either case, they may have enabled Tiger’s behavior which became increasingly more disturbing and detrimental to his life, his family, and his career?

Everyday thousands, if not millions, of ordinary people like you and me struggle with addiction problems, many of which go undetected or ignored for years. Fortunately, for us ordinary people, there are no trail of reporters, no wall to wall media coverage, no public scrutiny for our actions, but the consequences of those actions may be no less detrimental to our lives, both personal and professional.

As with any addiction, there are always signs and symptoms that indicate there may be a problem. The most common signs and symptoms of addiction include:

1. Extreme mood swings

2. Sleeping a lot more than usual or at different times of day or night

3. Changes in energy unexpectedly or extremely tired or energetic

4. Significant swings in weight, either up or down

5. Unexpected or lingering coughs or sniffles

6. Seemingly unwell at certain times and then better at other times for no apparent reason

7. Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual

8. Unexplainable Secretiveness

9. Habitual Lying

10. Stealing

11. Financially unpredictable, perhaps having large amounts of cash at times but then no cash at other times

12. Changes in social groups – new and unusual friends, odd cell phone conversations

13. Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency

14. Drug paraphernalia

Employers may begin to see these signs and symptoms manifest themselves in an employee’s job performance. As a supervisor or manager, it is your job to address performance problems regardless of the reason for the decline in performance, but in this case, by stepping up and intervening, you may be saving a life! So, if you begin to see a decline in an employee’s performance, talk to them, get involved, find out what is going on. In other words, demonstrate genuine concern and compassion. If during this conversation the employee admits to having an addiction problem seek additional help from your Human Resources department.

Many companies, as part of their benefit plan, offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs provide a wide-range of professional, confidential resources for employers and employees to address a variety of problems and issues, including addiction problems. If your company doesn’t have an EAP, your human resources department may be able to connect you and/or your employee to locally provided community resources who specialize in addiction.

Why should employers take measures to mitigate the effects of addiction on their employees? Simply put, addictions that are ignored or that go undetected take a devastating toll on our human capital and our businesses. Consider the following statistics from The Hazelden Foundation, sponsor of the “Making Recovery America’s Business” campaign and 2003 Workplace Addiction Survey:

• Most people who abuse alcohol or illicit drugs are employed. 76 percent of illicit drug users are employed either full- or part-time. Of the nearly 43 million adult binge drinkers, 81 percent are employed either full- or part-time. Of the 12.4 million heavy drinkers, 80 percent are employed.

• More than 60 percent of adults know someone who has reported for work under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

• All businesses, regardless of their size, at some point must confront alcohol or drug addiction of an employee. Substance abuse in the workplace creates problems such as increased absenteeism, on-the-job accidents, errors in judgment, legal expenses, medical insurance claims, and illness rates, and decreased productivity and employee morale.

• Alcohol and drug abuse cost American businesses an estimated $81 billion in lost productivity in just one year — $37 billion due to premature death and $44 billion due to illness.

• Alcoholism is estimated to cause 500 million lost workdays annually.

• Individuals who are current illicit drug abusers are also more likely (12.9 percent) than those who are not (5 percent) to have skipped one or more workdays in the past month.

• Results from a U.S. Postal Service study revealed that employees who tested positive in a pre-employment drug test are 66 percent more likely to be absent and 77 percent more likely to be discharged within three years than those who tested negative.

• A workplace benefits substantially by addressing addiction in the workplace and getting treatment for employees who need it. Results include improved job performance, motivation, and morale, increased overall customer satisfaction. In addition,[i] a commitment to alcohol and drug abuse treatment for employees in need helps reduce accidents, absenteeism, employee theft and fraud, insurance claims, and workers’ compensation costs.

• Untreated addiction cost employers money. Numerous studies have shown that the resources required to support addiction treatment programs are well worth the investment. For example, full parity for alcohol and drug treatment services in private health insurance plans that tightly manage care would increase family insurance premiums less than one percent.

• Addiction treatment costs less than replacing an employee, especially for high-level professional employees. Replacing a professional employee can cost an employer up one to two times the person’s annual salary (recruitment, advertising, reviewing applications, travel, relocation, HR staff time), not to mention the loss of company knowledge.

Appropriate intervention is part of our social responsibility – both as an employer and a human being. Failure to recognize and respond in a timely manner may have a devastating effect on both the employer and the employee and my ultimately become a deal breaker ending in termination or even death.

Cindy Beresh-Bryant is President, HR Solutions by Design, LLC. She has worked for Fortune 250 and Fortune 500 companies for over 15 years providing innovative HR solutions for some of industries most difficult situations.

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