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 7 Ways to Deal with Coworkers in Active Addiction

By Cheryl Steinberg

Addiction affects as many as 1 in 3 people so, it’s quite likely that you will deal with an active alcoholic or addict in the workplace at some point in your lifetime. Here are 7 ways to deal with coworkers in active addiction.

#1. Keep a written record of any incidents

Such as arguments, that involve you and the coworker whom you suspect is actively drinking and/or using – this is mainly to protect you. Someone who is in active addiction will most likely be irrational at times, and maybe even abusive with their language or otherwise.

Having a record will be proof that they were the aggressor in those situations, in case they do something erratic, like report you, or in case there is an incident that goes on record with your employer, such as a complaint made by a customer who witnesses an argument between you and the coworker.

#2. Make your concerns known with your supervisor or upper management

Go on record with your boss or your boss’ boss or someone with the HR department so that your concerns can be officially noted. Just as in #1, this will serve to protect you in case there is an incident involving you and your coworkers in active addiction. Also, you can establish a baseline from which all ensuing problems arise.

#3. Set boundaries

There are several ways in which to set boundaries when dealing with coworkers in active addiction. The first is emotionally: Come from compassion and don’t take anything personally; financially (see #6); socially: Don’t try to be their friend outside of work, i.e. don’t spend personal time with your coworkers in active addiction.

#4. Be civil

Do your part to be a decent and efficient employee and, if that means, interacting with coworkers in active addiction, then make it strictly about work-related stuff. Remember, you only have control over your own actions; what they do and say is not up to you not is it your place to try to change them.

#5. Attraction, not promotion

Don’t try to shove your fellowship down their throat. If they come to you, be willing to help. Be an example of a sober person by living the principles in your daily life, including your time spent at work.

#6. Don’t lend them money

Unless you don’t expect them to pay you back. This is what is called an enabling behavior and it only serves to support their habit while driving you crazy at the same time. Your coworker in active addiction might say they just need a little help covering their utility bill that month – which could be true but, they are probably short on funds because of their addiction. In this way, you are still enabling them because, without your help, they are more likely to see how their addiction is negatively affecting their life.

#7. Don’t cover for them at work

If your coworker is late or they miss work, it’s not your place to make excuses for them. This is another enabling behavior. For example, if they call you and ask you to tell the boss for them, offer to transfer them directly to the boss. If they insist you just take a message, tell them you’ll have the boss call them back.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction or you know someone who is, help is available. Dealing with someone in active addiction can be frustrating and emotionally draining. But there are ways you can help them. To find out, call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. 

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