When most people think of individuals who struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism, they imagine addicts who are unable to function in day-to-day life—unable to keep up with work and home responsibilities. However, functional addicts do exist and many of them may be in leadership roles—some may even be bosses, executives and managers.

When senior-level employees recognize alcoholism or drug addiction in a coworker, their position gives them more room to take corrective action. For instance, some supervisors who recognize substance abuse in employees may encourage them to seek recovery or even take corrective action if the professional is falling behind on his or her work responsibilities.

However, when the boss is the one struggling with substance abuse, it is much more difficult for employees to know how to recognize and deal with the issue. While many work environments are casual and follow open communication, other professionals may feel that it is not their place to recognize addiction in a superior.

This is a difficult issue, but one that employees do not have to be blind to. As such, here are a few suggestions:

  • Recognize if Addiction is a Struggle

In terms of alcohol abuse, it may be easy to detect if a boss is a functional alcoholic. For instance, if a boss drinks during office hours, on lunch meetings or makes happy hour a regular occurrence. This can be difficult for some employees—especially if they are in recovery and feel that they have to partake in drinking to remain in good status with their superior.

In these situations, it is important to understand that a boss’s drug or alcohol use is never mandatory for an employee. While it may be appropriate to attend these meetings or work gatherings, it is important for those in recovery to remain confident in their ability to stay substance-free.

Other addictions, such as those to prescription medications, can be much harder to detect. An article from Fox News suggests that painkiller addictions are actually increasing among executives in the workplace and states:

“That the two martini lunch from the ‘Mad Men’ era has turned into the two and three Xanax lunch—or the two or three Vicodin lunch. Alcohol and pharmaceuticals can relieve the stress and take the edge off of an overworked person in a volatile and pressure-packed work place (think Wall Street offices); yet the pharmaceuticals of today—primarily opiates (pain pills) and benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety meds)—can be taken much more discreetly than the lunch hour cocktails of an earlier era.”

As such, employees may have to pay more attention to their supervisor’s behaviors in the workplace to adequately assess if addiction is present.

  • Consider Your Relationship with Your Boss Before Offering Help

Raising the issue of a boss’s potential substance abuse can be challenging, especially if an employee fears that the move could put his or her job in jeopardy. If you are fairly close and open with your employer, it may be appropriate to bring up the possibility of alcoholism or addiction. If this is the case, be prepared to help them through the process and offer guidance on the options they have for recovery.

If you are not close with your boss and are removed from his or her substance abuse, it may be more appropriate to reach out to a Human Resources professional. This option may be more suitable for those who may have encountered unnecessary aggression or abuse from their employer as a result of his or her alcohol or drug use.

In either situation, it is recommended that employees refrain from discussing this very personal issue with other coworkers; adding to the rumor mill can only complicate an issue.

  • Remain Supportive

Those who are in a workplace where a boss is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse should make sure to recognize that the addiction is not a personal responsibility. For instance, it is important to understand that boss’s substance abuse was not the fault of the employee.

However, it is appropriate to remain supportive in a professional fashion if your boss is working through addiction and has sought recovery. Professionals who seek recovery may be able to return to a leadership role after going through detox and counseling; however, the risk for relapse is still possible.

Employees who are aware of this risk should make an effort to remain supportive in any way that is appropriate to their role in the workplace. If a boss is triggered to use alcohol or drugs as a result of stress, for example, employees can help by dedicating themselves to work and ensuring things are up to standard to reduce a tense work environment. Those who are unsure of how to act around a boss who is in recovery may want to refer to the individual directly or ask a human resources representative for guidance.

Do You Struggle with Addiction in the Workplace?

Whether you are an executive or an entry-level employee, it is important to recognize if work has presented an environment that has encouraged substance abuse. If you have fallen into drug or alcohol abuse and remain functional at work, it is still critical to seek professional recovery assistance.

As a luxury rehab facility, Chapters Capistrano is an accommodating center that promotes addiction recovery for a myriad of substance abuse struggles clients may have. With a comforting environment and flexible treatment, the Chapters staff has helped many individuals stay on a career-oriented path without relying on drugs or alcohol. Please reach out to us for assistance today at 949-276-2886.

Medical disclaimer:

Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

Talk with one of our Treatment Specialists!

Call 24/7: 949-276-2886