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Drugged Testing

November 25, 2009

Do you remember back not too many years ago when public policy makers began attacking the tax deductibility of the “three martini lunch”? It wasn’t the tax deduction for the lunch tab as much the business decisions that were being made after the martinis that concerned me.

The current furor over drug testing in the “workplace” brings back similar sentiments. What is the “workplace” anyway? In the current debate I think it is a synonym for the places were the actual work gets done as opposed to the executive suite, where you only talk about the actual work getting done.

If the decision makers are compensated highly because their actions have the greatest impact on the organization, it would appear to me that any kind of substance abuse at these levels would do the most damage. Why not begin the drug testing in the executive suite?

It looks bad when the leaders of employee’s unions that deal with public safety are opposed to drug testing. But I haven’t seen the members of Congress, the highest paid group of public employees that deal with issues of public safety, volunteering for a drug testing programing.

If the decisions made at the top really do have the greatest impact, it’s logical to assume that the public interest would best be served by developing a drug testing and rehabilitation program at the top. Once operating effectively and humanly for those that make the rules, it will be more readily adopted elsewhere. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

I don’t know of any of my former employees that were casual or regular drug users. In fact, I don’t know anyone that would fall in these categories. But the statistics are overwhelming. Drug abuse is prevalent in all segments of our society. The truth must be that I know plenty, I just have failed to recognize them.

Drug and alcohol abuse are certainly legitimate business issues. They have a direct impact on productivity, performance and profit. Equally important, if a business views its employees as “our most important asset”, it has an obligation to provide assistance to preserve those assets and make meaningful its commitment to human resources.

Profit is one of the strongest agents for positive social change. When a drug free organization is seen as being more cost effective than an organization that harbors drug dependence, a drug free workplace will become attainable. If the costs associated with a drug free workplace are perceived to be high, what are the real costs of a drug dependent workplace?
Every employer, big business and small business, private and public, must address drug and alcohol abuse. Mandating drug testing in the “workplace” is not the place to begin. It is a flawed, hierarchical, make the rules for the bottom of the organization concept that will never work.

Substance abuse programs will be effective when they are addressed by example, with commitment and compassion from the top down. While there are restraints preventing organizations from mandating drug testing, there are absolutely no barriers for the top managers, whether they be owners, executives or Senators, for adopting programs of testing, confidential counseling and rehabilitation for themselves.

Any cost/benefit analysis will tell you that in order to get the most bang for your buck, start where the implementation will be the easiest, cost the least, and have the greatest impact. It is at the top of an organization that drugs can do the most damage, let’s start there.

When people have seen the implementation of a constructive, confidential programs and that their bosses are willingly participating, the barriers to resistance will fall. So long as drug testing is viewed as a policing action being enforced from top to bottom, not adopted from top to bottom, the self destructive disputes will continue.

The costs of treatment for drug abuse are an issue. If you assume that the abuse of drugs and alcohol are the cause of serious health problems and that employers are currently paying that cost in their health insurance premiums one way or another, the costs of counseling, rehabilitation, and prevention are really an investment that should pay a triple dividend. With a drug free organization your performance will be increased, your investment in human resources will be protected, and your health related costs will be reduced.

Like me, you probably don’t know any friends or employees with a problem. But the statistics can’t be avoided, they’re there. We just don’t recognize them. Don’t make policy. Lead by example, others will follow.. Invest in the establishment of a confidential program for those that need help. When your actions lend credibility to your commitment and the confidentiality of the program, it will be successful.

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