Alcohol and addiction problems in the workplace

This year I have been invited back to Japan to teach a three-day Provocative Change Works training on addictions. As a therapist I see lots of private clients with these problems and also have noticed that this behaviour can be a common occurrence in many workplacse. I personally have worked in businesses where people have often exhibited quite erratic behavior due to alcohol and other addictive related problems. Often such individuals exhibit many of the following symptoms
• An inability to engage with professional colleagues
• Erratic mood swings and anger outbursts
• Poor concentration and time keeping
• Paranoid and delusional thinking
• Self-esteem issues that result in attention seeking behaviour
These problems become further exasperated when such individuals are attempting to manage others, as all the above make for a very unstable set of interactions.
I have seen examples of this up close and I’ll be talking about some of these examples in the Japanese event. Often such individuals lead a double life, finding it difficult to maintain consistent employment. They can be well qualified in a professional capacity, but the nature of the problem often means that they have poor attention to detail. Often they will increasingly blame others for their own shortcomings and become aggressive when challenged.

One manager with alcohol issues became so aggressive towards her staff that literally nobody would work for her! Support staff with decades of work experience would literally refuse to work with her and had their notice in without a further job to go to! Managers with alcohol related problems in my experience tend to blame everyone and everything else for their own failings. They also begin to become dysfunctional at work and can forget professional appointments and be consistently late for client sessions. In another example I have also witnessed an individual fabricated sales figures and had a series of imaginary clients. She would often be off drinking during these imaginary client visits! The PCW model is excellent for dealing with alcohol and drug related issues.

My experience is often that classic psychological approaches are not that effective in resolving such problems. The core theme in these behaviours is that the client’s world becomes totally digital, “you are either for or against us!” The challenge for any practitioner or therapist is to assist the client in expanding their model of the world and begin to become less self-obsessive. Of course this can be quite a challenge especially when the client is often in denial and “economical with the truth” Simply talking about the issue rarely produces any useful change and can make the problem worse! The tragedy is that many clients with these issues are in serious denial and excellent at manipulating those around them. However, this is usually short term as in my experience the problematic behaviour usually comes to a head and impossible to ignore.

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