As we mentioned in a previous blog, my spouse/business partner and I have established formal, written policies and procedures regarding all aspects of our employees’ conduct. Among these policies and procedures is a policy stating we are a drug and alcohol free workplace. We had to modify this policy many years ago because one of our employees, upon being terminated for smoking marijuana daily during his lunch break, informed his supervisor that he thought he was permitted to imbibe during his lunch because lunch was his personal time, not part of the work day. Needless to say, we were shocked that anyone could have interpreted our policy in this manner; nonetheless, we revised the drug and alcohol prohibition to include lunch breaks, dinner breaks (during long work days), and all other times when an employee’s performance would be impaired following the use of legal or illegal drugs. This particular employee became noticeably more “stupid” after lunch and it didn’t take a drug sniffing German Shepherd dog to figure out why! Employees often push the limits of workplace policies, not to mention decency, such that it is crucial for the employer to ensure policies and procedures adequately address any and all contingencies. (In an interesting postscript, this former employee later attended law school, graduated from law school, and upon taking the bar exam required for practicing law, called my partner to obtain a character reference! I guess his judgment continued to be impaired from smoking marijuana!)
Some of our experiences as employers have really surprised us. This one was in the top 5. And, the person’s actions were dumb and dumber with the initial issue and the later call for a job reference. It was dumbfounding to me for sure! But, each experience is a learning experience and things like this cause us to refine both policies and training procedures. Clearly this person was under the influence of something if he thought it acceptable to smoke pot at lunch time and come back to work both impaired, and reeking of smoke. Fortunately for us, we had a person to whom he reported that both noticed and said/did something about it. On another occasion we had an employee who was drinking (vodka) on the job. She, as with the pot smoker, performed noticeably better in the morning than after lunch. As it turned out, she started drinking at lunch time and continued in the afternoon by refilling her opaque “sippy cup” in the parking lot from a bottle in her car. We couldn’t figure out why she was so “dumb” in the afternoon. It turned out she was intoxicated, not dumb (okay, maybe being intoxicated at work is dumb). We never did figure it out until after she quit. After she was gone another employee mentioned that she had observed her going to her car and topping off her cup. We asked why she didn’t mention it and the answer was “I didn’t want to get involved, and I thought you were trying to help her…” NO. That is not how things should work. If you observe a problem impacting your workplace, speak up, privately at least. If you care about the company or at least your job, realize it is part of your job to be mindful of how a wide variety of risks exist and must be addressed. Don’t assume that what you know/see is common knowledge.