Epidemic of Addiction to Painkillers Seeps into the Workplace

Posted by Lori Bourgoin on Jul 10, 2012 3:06:00 PM

Few employers are aware that epidemic misuse of legal, highly addictive and heavily regulated prescription painkillers is seeping into the workplace. Even fewer companies know how to manage a problem that federal authorities say kills more Americans each year than overdoses of cocaine and heroin - combined.

DrugsA research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine found recently that use of prescription painkillers without a medical need increased 75 percent from 2002 to 2010.  Men and people ages 26 to 49 saw the largest increase, taking the drugs on average 200 or more days a year. More than 15,500 people fatally overdosed on pills such as OxyContin and Vicodin in 2009, more than double since 2002, the paper said.

Those numbers make it inevitable that the prescription painkiller problem will show up in the workplace. The impact of drug abuse is not only a burden on productivity, absenteeism, relationships and workplace safety; it also brings legal compliance complexity through the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Department of Transportation regulations to name a few.

Identifying opiate problems in your workplace is first step to managing the issue. Red flags may include:

  • Absenteeism and on-the-job absenteeism: An employee takes longer and more frequent breaks, comes in late, and will often be 'missing in action;'
  • High accident rate: Clumsy and unfocused, disregard of standards.
  • Difficulty concentrating and confusion;
  • Inconsistent work patterns, e.g. becoming unable to take initiative or work independently;
  • Reduced knowledge/technical skills: No longer stays on top of the game;
  • Change in behavior and attitudes: Behaves inappropriately, becomes emotional, or withdrawn, with poor relationships at work; and
  • Lower job quality and productivity.

It’s not always the employer who will recognize potential addiction.  An employee will sometimes self-identify an addiction and solicit help to get clean.

What should an employer do or not do in these circumstances?  What are the best practices in terms of protecting the business as well as helping the employee?

The key areas of focus include:

  • Review relevant policies to ensure clarity among everyone in the organization on how these concerns will be handled;
  • Inventory benefits available to address addition;
  • Train direct line supervisors on how to react when the concern, or suspected concern arise in the workplace; and
  • Analyze your past practices and identify outside resources.

“The use of prescription painkillers in the workplace can impact workplace safety and productivity.  With this in mind, it is important that employers implement a written drug-free workplace policy that addresses prescription drug use in the workplace,” said Amy Royal, an employment lawyer at Royal LLP in Northampton.

“In addition, supervisors should be trained to recognize the warning signs of prescription drug use and to know what their role is in enforcing the company’s drug-free workplace policy.”

Royal will be among the participants in August when AIM conducts a Webinar providing legal, medical and HR approaches to managing painkiller addiction in the workplace. The session will take place August 2 from 10 – 11:15 a.m. It is free to AIM members and $75 for non-members.

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Topics: Employment Law, Management, Human Resources

Who is the Most Respected CEO in the World?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 30, 2011 2:09:00 PM

Steve Jobs’ resignation as chief executive of Apple Computer on August 25 has raised a familiar question around the water cooler: Who is the most respected CEO in the world?

JobsIt’s no surprise that the iconoclastic Jobs comes up often in that conversation. The Apple founder returned in 1996 to the company he founded and developed a string of products - the iMac, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the iPad - that remade consumer electronics.  Macolytes argue that Jobs brought a unique ability to know what consumers wanted before they knew they wanted it.

Who else might be the uber-CEO?

How about New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, builder of one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet, who worked through personal tragedy last month to play a key role in ending the National Football League labor dispute?

Or Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, and one of the most powerful female executives in the world, overseeing the world's largest portfolio of billion-dollar food and beverage brands, including 19 different product lines that each generate more than $1 billion in annual retail sales.

Or Alan Mulally, the former Boeing chief executive who returned Ford Motor Company to profitability without a government-sponsored bankruptcy?

Who gets your vote as the world’s most respected CEO and why? Let the debate begin.  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Topics: CEO, Management

Is Your Company's Immune System Killing Innovation?

Posted by Gary MacDonald on Aug 13, 2010 9:45:00 AM

The innovative ideas that represent your company’s future often appear in a raw and flawed state. They are murky and a bit vague, imperfect in some way.  They’re also fragile and easy targets for an organization’s “immune system.” 

InnovationThe same organizational antibodies that suppress potentially harmful actions can also dispose of valuable innovations before they have a chance to mature.  What distinguishes successful, world-class companies such as Intel, Google and EMC from “also-rans” is a culture capable of separating marginal ideas that need to be eliminated from true innovations to be nurtured. 

Can you think of 10 ways to kill an idea?  How about 20?

When I facilitate AIM’s Fostering Innovation seminars, it’s not unusual for a team to generate – in less than ten minutes - as many as 50 ways to kill an idea.  They’re often relayed from long-ago but not-forgotten personal experience.  It’s easy.  Anyone can do it.  And it’s habit.  When you add non-verbal communications such as tone and body language, to the actual words being said, anyone possesses a potent enough arsenal to do the job quite handily. 

Early suppression of innovations can compound into a cultural reality, requiring innovators to make a heroic effort to push an idea through all the active and passive barriers.  How many people possess that assertiveness and stamina?

This does NOT mean an organization should implement every proposed initiative.  In fact, a high percentage ultimately won’t make sense.  But the critical point is that they are allowed to mature.  Instead of “Yes, but…,” think and say “Yes, and…”  Instead of “It costs too much” think and say “How can we show a stronger ROI on this?”  And look interested and enthused throughout.  Create forums, ground rules and a culture that supports, develops and selects the next generation of initiatives in your business.

Innovation and risk tolerance are cornerstones of long run viability and effectiveness.  Oddly enough, it is often commercially successful companies that are most vulnerable to the suppression of these qualities. 

First of all they’re busy meeting all those urgent customer demands.  The longer run nature of innovation seldom has the same urgency and can easily be crowded out. Secondly, success and stability can lead to a certain organizational complacency.  As the author Jim Collins puts it so succinctly “Good is the enemy of great.”  Entrepreneurial thinkers within the organization tend to quit and leave or quit and stay.  And your organization is the weaker for it.

Keep an entrepreneurial flair alive and well in your organization by creating avenues and time for the advancement and vetting of ideas.  Recognize and stop the comfortable and easy habit of killing them off prematurely.  Don’t allow for contributions to the process, insist upon them.  Then, with a balance of patience and persistence, you’ll see those raw ideas develop into the gems that strengthen your business.

I welcome your comments below.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Management, Innovation

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