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July 28, 2006

Time to revisit the drug free workplace

The recent arrest of a Southwest Airline pilot on suspicion of intoxication was a grim reminder that employers haven't won the battle of substance abuse in the workplace. It has been almost twenty years since the federal government instituted the Drug Free Workplace Act requiring any organization that sells more than $100,000 of goods or services to the Feds to maintain a drug-free workplace with a complete policy and program. Because of this, virtually all large employers doing business with the government have a program. But, surprisingly, up to half of the remaining US employers don't have any type of active drug free program. The smaller the organization, the more likely there is no program.

I've had discussions with many such employers, and the reasons why they don't have programs vary. Some believe that such a program intrudes on employees' privacy. Others don't think that drugs are a problem for their organization.

Statistics tell the story
However, statistics clearly document the need for every employer: Almost one in ten employees are heavy drinkers or illicit drug users. For those employers in the construction, transportation, and hospitality industries, the numbers are even higher. And employees with drug or alcohol issues are the most costly. The Department of Labor reports that drug and alcohol abusers cost American employers over $81 billion in lost productivity. Abusers are 70 percent more likely to be absent from work than non-abusers. And they are responsible for almost half of all workplace injuries.

When it comes to workplace substance abuse, those employers that don't have a program are the most vulnerable. Employees who can't survive a drug test specifically search out those employers who don't have a policy and an active program. As a result, non drug-free employers become the employer of choice for abusers and are up to three times more likely to have abusers on the payroll than drug free employers.

Resources are available
Getting a program in place isn't that difficult. The Department of Labor's Drug Free Workplace Advisor is a great place to start. You'll find everything you need to develop a program, including an automated policy builder.

Most employers with a drug free program report improved productivity results. They tend to see reduced absenteeism, fewer accidents, better overall employee health status, and improved morale. If you’ve got a drug free workplace program in place, then you’re enjoying the benefits. If not, it may be time to reconsider implementing one.

July 25, 2006

How high is your "Emotional Intelligence" quotient"?

One would have to be living under a rock to have missed the recent head-butting incident that resulted in French soccer star Zinedine Zidane being ejected from the championship game with Italy. The French team was reduced to 10 players and Italy prevailed in extra-time. Head-butting humor has been all the rage on the Web ever since, but at the root of things, the disturbing incident was another example of rage that seems to be encroaching many facets of our daily life.

The trigger for Zidane’s act was supposedly a remark uttered by his Italian victim, Marco Materazzi. When asked after the losing French effort if he regretted his behavior, Zidane stated, “I don’t regret anything that happened. There was a serious provocation and the guilty party is the one who provokes.” Allegedly, the Italian player uttered a derogatory statement that upset Zidane.

Contrast this ugly incident to the continual, overt harassment experienced by the late Jackie Robinson after he became the first African American ballplayer to crack into the major leagues in 1947 when he was called up by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Unlike Zidane, Robinson was able to ignore loud and frequent taunts as well as death threats with grace and dignity. He went on to become the National League’s most valuable player and set fielding and batting records.

Five key competencies
Some would say that unlike Zidane (whose lifetime record indicates 14 additional ejections), Robinson possessed a high degree of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is marked by five competencies or skills, according to psychologist Daniel Goleman:

1. The ability to identify and name one’s emotional states and to understand the link between current emotions and future consequences.
2. The capacity to manage one’s emotional states and to shift undesirable emotional states to more appropriate ones.
3. The ability to enter into emotional states at will that are associated with success and achievement.
4. The capacity to read and understand other people’s emotions.
5. The ability to enter and sustain satisfactory relationships even with those who initially appear antagonistic.

Cultivating your managerial emotional intelligence
Robinson’s emotional intelligence propelled him to triumph over adversity and scorn and become the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Zidane’s lack of emotional intelligence propelled him to an early retirement and notoriety.

Certainly, many of us can reflect on a personal incident or outburst in our life which resulted in a negative consequence such as marital discord, loss of a friendship or perhaps disruption at work. The good news, according to Dr. Goleman, is that emotional intelligence can be cultivated and developed to a high level. To do so, one must honestly review and assess one’s behavioral reactions to negative “provocations” and learn to intelligently respond rather than instinctively react.

If you work in human resources, it's important that you and your fellow managers understand the concepts, and work together to cultivate your managerial team's emotional intelligence. It's also useful to understand the dynamics so that you can recognize and intercede with employees who may be experiencing unresolved anger that they just can’t seem to control.

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