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"HR Tough choice!"

Another debate I keep hearing in my colleague circles about it’s moral aspects – what to do with a colleague suffering from alcohol or other addiction problem?

If we are not discussing legal point if that problem, because I’m sure, it may depend on laws of every country, than we most often hear two conflicting opinions.

One opinion is to fire that person without hesitation as soon as possible, because it is not fair to other colleagues, who probably will work more to cover gaps in total workload. Otherwise the boss will be forced to spend organization’s resources to help this employee, to cover possible loses and dealing with all kinds of consequences. It is not going to help that person anyway, no one gave up his or hers addictions just because of colleagues support, and sooner or later it will come to a logical end. Not mentioned heavy moral atmosphere in the team during the helping process.

Other popular opinion is to help this person anyway possible. Because he/she is part of the team, and everybody need help from time to time.

By now you probably have decided on what side you on. Please share it with me in comments.

I don’t know how it is in your part of the world (if you are not from RF J), but in mine this problem is actual from time to time. It’s not that bad anymore like it was in nineties, straight after Soviet Union, where drinking was just a part of the culture and everyday routine. Like it or not, managers here, especially at productions, logistical, transportation companies from time to time have to deal with this problem still.

Honestly, after almost thirty years of being in some sort of positions “in charge” I have not only come to support first opinion, but I also have fired many people with some form of addiction problems. One nice lady was chronically late or missing her shifts and other employees had to work to cover her place. One driver had damaged company’s truck beyond repair because he was on the job in constant hangover. Same problem was with another guy working on forklift in warehouse, putting in danger everyone around. Some was drinking and stealing at work (or other way around).

Honest hardworking employee’s problems and concerns in my eyes are much more important than one or two may be very nice, but high maintenance person’s problems. Although as anybody, I want to help someone in hard times, I cannot do it on other employee account, jeopardizing productivity of the team or whole organization, big job of team consolidation, company’s reputation.

Why HR choice then? Some bosses make it HR problem, saying – “Deal with this!”. And then it becomes “Sophie’s choice”, dancing between corporate standards and own moral principles. No one likes to fire people, no one likes responsibility of that decision.

Are we always honest with ourselves? Do we play “Good Samaritan” sometimes just not to fire that person? Are we afraid what other colleagues will say?

October 2017

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