Tips for Talking with an Employee about Addiction

Addiction affects a minimum of 10% of the population. It’s an expensive problem that can dramatically impact your bottom line. Are you worried about your employees’ safety? Managing addictions is vital to minimizing your organization’s risks and liabilities.

  • DO identify specific changes you’ve noticed and your concerns for their health and well-being. Be sincere and factual.
  • DO restrict discussions to job performance.
  • DO explain in specific terms what the employee needs to do to perform to the organization’s expectations.
  • DO let the employee know that help is available and provide specific resources.
  • DO be aware that personal problems generally get worse, not better, without professional help.
  • DO emphasize confidentiality.
  • DO explain that accessing help does not exclude the employee from standard disciplinary action when policies are violated, nor does it include special privileges.


  • DON’T ignore what you see and hear. The behaviour will only get worse and require increased attention over time.
  • DON’T diagnose. You’re not an expert.
  • DON’T discuss personal problems unless they occur on the job.
  • DON’T moralize or judge. Employees with substance addictions should be treated with respect and consistency.
  • DON’T be swayed or misled by emotional pleas, sympathy tactics, or ‘hard luck’ stories.
  • DON’T cover up for a friend or colleague. Doing so will only exacerbate the problem and prevent access to the much-needed help they deserve.
  • DON’T allow the concerning behaviour to continue without any follow-up or accountability.