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Supervisor drug training

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Supervisor drug training

The supervisor's role

Supervisors have a variety of responsibilities within a drug-free workplace program. Supervisors should:

  • Know the organization's program and policy, including:
    • The rationale for the program,
    • Specific details about drug testing procedures (if applicable), as well as other components
  • Be able to explain the program to employees.
  • Know where to refer employees for help and information.
  • Understand and accept the importance of supervision as a tool for implementing the policy.

Supervisors are not expected to provide substance abuse counseling. Neither should they try to diagnose alcohol or other drug problems. If a supervisor suspects an alcohol, drug-related, or other problem, particularly as evidenced by poor job performance or conduct, the employee should be referred for professional evaluation and assistance.

The supervisor: enforcer or advocate?

Because an important responsibility of supervisors is to observe and evaluate employee job performance, they can be effective advocates for employees. They can encourage employees to deal with work-related problems that may or may not be connected with alcohol or other drug use. They also can suggest sources of help and support, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) or local treatment program, when an employee has problems. If an employee has been given a chance to improve job performance but hasn't changed his or her behavior, the supervisor may need to take a more forceful approach. Still, the emphasis should be on improving the employee's job performance, not on judging the employee.

What supervisors need to know

All supervisors should be provided with basic information about the program and their role in carrying it out. This includes:

  • The rationale and specific details of the program startup and implementation
  • The supervisor's specific responsibilities for initiating and carrying out the drug-free workplace policy and program
  • How to recognize and deal with employees who have job performance problems that may or may not be related to alcohol or other drugs, including personal and family problems.

Guidelines for effective supervision

  • Be attentive. Be ready to recognize employee problems (e.g., accidents, frequent lateness, mood swings) that may or may not be related to alcohol or other drug abuse.
  • Focus on specific aspects of job performance.
  • Keep an ongoing record of the employee's performance.
  • Focus on job performance. Avoid judging, diagnosing, or counseling the employee.
  • Be thoughtful. Stay nonjudgmental and recognize the employee's point of view.
  • Be straightforward. Stick to the facts of job performance; don't get sidetracked.
  • Be consistent. Follow the same procedures for all employees.
  • Maintain confidentiality. Discuss employee problems in private and keep the discussion between the two of you.
  • Refer. Encourage troubled employees to seek help from the resources available in the workplace or the community.
  • Follow up. Continue to assess employee job performance over a period of time.

How to provide supervisor training

Supervisor training can be provided in a variety of ways, depending on available time and resources. These can include:

  • Training the supervisors yourself
  • Having a consultant from a local community agency or EAP conduct the training (they may offer role playing and other training methods that are not possible with written materials only)


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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