How to Avoid Going in Circles With Reasonable Suspicion of Substance Use

We’ve all been there.

In conversations with employees who deny, minimize, or blame others for their actions. In the case of substance use, you may even have tangible evidence to support your reasonable suspicion of drug/alcohol use and the employee is still taking you in circles.  By the end, you are questioning yourself and if you really do have enough data to support reasonable suspicion!

Here is an approach to try.

“We seem to be going in circles. Let’s pause and go back to the beginning. What do you think is the purpose of this meeting?”

The employee may say something like “you think I’m high at work and I’m not.” They may start the excuses again. Know that is likely and stay focused.

When/if that happens ask, “what do you think is required of you as an employee to fulfill your role as a contributing team member?”

With this question, you are bringing in reality to do their job and their behavior/actions affect others.

You may still get more verbal detours from the employee to answer this question directly. Know that they are feeling anxious and their fight/flight response has kicked in. Once this happens, their brain is in reactive mode and unable to recognize responsibility for their behavior.

By staying calm, composed, and focused, you will increase the likelihood of keeping the conversation from escalating and from going in circles.

Then state “I understand you don’t think this is a problem. We do. We take safety very seriously here – for all of our employees to feel physically and psychologically safe. The next steps are (according to your company policy).

Stay off the merry-go-round

There are a variety of ways to prevent going in circles and interrupt the cycle once it’s started. Prepare in advance what you will say in order to maintain a non-anxious presence and keep the conversation on track. 

Make the Conscious Choice to avoid going in circles when you have reasonable suspicion of drug/alcohol use or any safety concern in your workplace

Next Steps

  • Share this blog with colleagues who want to intervene effectively with reasonable suspicion of drug/alcohol use in the workplace.
  • Learn more about creating a High Performing Culture in your organization