Manager Memos & Tips

Guidance for Managers on Supporting Employees Dealing with Substance Use Issues

Employees have been through traumatic experiences throughout the pandemic and may be coping through unhealthy ways, including drinking more than someone might realize. It is important for managers to pay attention to changes in behavior that may be signs of alcohol or drug misuse. Discuss your observations or concerns with Human Resources and develop a course of action immediately. 

Some examples of behavior change due to substance misuse could include:
  • Absenteeism, particularly absences without notification, or excessive use of sick days.
  • Unreliability in keeping appointments and meeting deadlines.
  • Work performance that alternates between periods of high and low productivity.
  • Mistakes attributable to inattention, poor judgment or bad decisions.
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating or recalling details and instructions.
  • Increases in the effort and time required for ordinary tasks.
  • Problems with interpersonal relations with co-workers.
  • Shirking of responsibility for errors or oversights.
  • Progressive deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene.
  • Increasing personal and professional isolation.
  • Physical signs such as exhaustion, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, slurred speech or an unsteady walk.

Managers should be informed of the university’s Drug and Alcohol Policy and clearly communicate expectations to employees. If you observe concerning behavior, address the situation immediately with your Human Resources consultant. You can also email or call 314-935-2332 for guidance.

As part of our 8ight Ways to Wellness, employees are encouraged to limit alcohol drinking as research shows it has many risks, including an increased chance of developing cancer.  Even just ½ to 1 drink a day can increase the risk of breast and colon cancer.  While moderate drinking may be good for the heart in older adults, zero alcohol is the healthiest choice overall.

Employee Resources:
  • If an employee shares any personal issues that may be affecting work performance, it is a good opportunity to refer the employee to WashU’s employee assistance program (EAP) or another well-being resource
  • Be mindful of how much alcohol is in your drink.
  • Complete this quiz to better understand your drinking patterns.
  • Identify symptoms of alcohol use disorder.
  • UnitedHealthcare members can access 24/7, confidential support for substance abuse concerns by calling The Substance Use Helpline at 1-855-780-5955.
  • We know that individual needs vary and we want you to be successful! Contact your UHC Nurse Advocate, Bridgette Sims, BSN, RN, for private guidance and support as you take steps to reduce substance use. Call Bridgette at 314-440-3882 or email
  • Staff, faculty and students can safely dispose of unused and/or expired medications through a drop box in the Washington University Police Department on the South 40 campus.