These dismal numbers reflect in part the stigma associated with addiction. The fear that others will find out about a drug or alcohol problem is one of the most common reasons why people who need treatment don’t seek it. This is particularly true for those who are in a position of power and have much to lose.
Signs That Your Boss is Addicted
You may suspect that your boss is addicted to drugs or alcohol, but it’s hard to know for sure. However, there are some tell-tale signs that can alert you to a potential drug or alcohol use disorder:
- Mood swings. If your boss seems to have more mood swings than before, drugs or alcohol could be the culprit. She may have trouble controlling her anger, or she may seem more subdued than normal at times.
- Changes in appearance. Unexplained weight loss or weight gain could be a sign of an alcohol or drug problem. Harmful substances can also lead to a haggard-looking appearance, and many people who chronically abuse drugs or alcohol lose interest in matters of personal hygiene.
- Unexplained disappearances. If your boss has a substance use disorder, he may spend more time than usual in his office, call in sick more often than before or leave the office for extended periods of time without explanation.
- Lack of motivation. Your boss may lose motivation if she has an addiction. She may be unprepared for meetings, forget important meetings or events, fail to return phone calls or emails or lose her ability to effectively manage the work force.
- Changes in behavior. If your boss was once chatty but is now quiet, or if he seems angrier, more depressed or more on edge than he once was, drugs or alcohol could be to blame.
- Physical indications. Perhaps you smell alcohol on her breath at unusual times of the day, or maybe she frequently has pinpoint pupils or nods off on occasion. Slurring her words, unsteadiness on her feet and appearing disoriented are other signs of substance abuse.
What You Can Do
If you have a close relationship with your boss, consider broaching the subject outside of the workplace. Explain that you’ve noticed some changes and are concerned about his well-being. Let him know that if he has a drug or alcohol problem, there are ways to get help that will ensure his privacy, such as contacting his employee assistance program or enrolling in an outpatient treatment program.
If speaking directly to your boss would be inappropriate under the circumstances, you should contact the VP of human resources with your concerns and let HR handle it from there. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, keep in mind that addiction only escalates until help is received, and if your boss is addicted, her health—and perhaps her life—is in danger.
When It’s Time to Change Jobs
If your boss’s behavior has reduced your job satisfaction or compromised your safety or your success, you may want to consider sending out resumes and finding another job. Your safety and peace of mind are important, and continuing to work with someone who has an addiction can cause you undue stress, reduce your morale and leave you feeling vulnerable in terms of your job security.