Early in my HR career, I had one of those mornings. You know, the ones where you come in to work feeling optimistic. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and you just know it is going to be a great day. I was sitting at my desk taking my first sip of coffee, when one of the supervisors came in and said, “I think we have a problem”. After closing the door, the supervisor shared with me that a long-term employee had been showing up to work smelling like alcohol. For a while, he had assumed that the smell was carried over from the night before, but recent incidents had led him to believe that the employee may be drinking on the job. We did not have a reasonable suspicion drug testing policy in place, so the employee was called in and informed that he would be placed on suspension pending an investigation on the suspicion of alcohol use on the job. Within 48 hours we were able to determine, through witness observances and the presence of hidden alcohol bottles, that drinking on the job was occurring and the employee was terminated.
So where is the good you ask? Just under two months later, I received a letter in the mail from the employee. It wasn’t at all what I expected. The terminated employee was writing to thank me for addressing his problem. He stated that he knew others at work and at home were suspicious of his drinking, but did not confront him. He actually wrote that getting fired was the best thing that could have happened. It forced him to face his demons and get his life back on track, and he was looking forward to receiving his 2 month sobriety chip in a few days.
Lesson learned – We can’t pretend to know what others are going through or what they need. All we can do is act with good intention in a fair and respectful manner, and let the “chips” fall where they may.