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​Tips for Reasonable Suspicion Training: Supervisors Must Spend Time Getting to Know Their Employees to Make Reasonable Suspicion Training Most Effective

Posted by Dan Feerst, MSW, LISW-CP, Publisher on

Supervising employees and managing their performance requires observational skills and interaction with workers. Supervisors, in effect, should get to know their employees. When delivering training to DOT supervisors live or in person, reasonable suspicion online, be sure to at least mention this important point in the beginning of training.

DOT reasonable suspicion training is not just about signs and symptoms of substance abuse.

Both of these DOT supervisor behaviors produce different types of documentable evidence when needed for supporting reasonable suspicion of substance abuse and the referring employees to testing. This is also important for non-DOT supervisor training for reasonable suspicion. It really does not make much difference.

DOT supervisors for reasonable suspicion should get to know their employees

he goal of course is to spotlight successes of workers to reinforce desired behaviors and spot problems with performance issues, but also successfully motivate a subordinate worker to make needed changes. This is about the best summary there is for regular everyday supervision of employees.

Drugs and alcohol in the workplace add a complicated dimension of supervision to the supervisory role. And here is why: Employees who are drug addicts and alcoholics have very polished social engagement skills that are employed to keep supervisors thinking that there are no problems of any kind with their personal lives.

Beneath the surface are massive issues associated with domestic and financial problems that face the worker. Legal issues and problems with teenagers may be severe, and medical problems may also weigh heavily to create stress in the employee’s life.

All of these issues remain secrets away from the knowledge and awareness of fellow workers and supervisory personnel.

So, it is imperative that every supervisor should get to know their employees. This is an ongoing supervisory role, but it is not important from the standpoint of socializing with workers or causing them to be friends with the manager to gain cooperation. It is not about DOT Supervisor Training to probe into the personal lives of employees.

Getting to Know Employees Is Not about Socializing
The reason getting to know workers is critical is to spot expected “normal” behavior patterns and conduct or work styles so when there are dramatic changes later and away from a baseline that you mental establish (a natural phenomenon of all human interaction) then the supervisor can be prompted to consider what might be contributing to the workers undesirable patterns of current behaviors.

Obviously then, reasonable suspicion training is a lot more than a reasonable suspicion checklist pdf given to managers and it is a lot more than drug and alcohol symptoms supplied in an audio visual presentation. It is also about awareness and the supervision relationship.
Awareness of behavior patterns in reasonable suspicion training is key
Awareness for supervisors helps those in charge not be easily manipulated. Remember, getting caught for drug and alcohol use is a panic inducing experience, and alcoholics and drug addicts who are used to being confronted by others long before being spotted by the supervisors, know what to say, and how to say it to maximize the possibility that the authority figure will be successfully manipulated.

When you interact with your DOT employees who hold safety sensitive positions here is what to observe:

Time and Attendance. 
What time does your employee typically arrive to work, and what is their work pattern up on arrival? Is your employee typically five minutes late or earlier than the start of the clock? This is one of the more important patterns of behavior to consider. Employees who are on time and start to come in 20-30 minutes late are being affected by some force. It could be morning hangovers, but it could also be domestic conflict in relation to the alcoholic drinking or illicit drug use.

Anger Management and Frustration Tolerance
Every employee has his or her own unique way of handling conflict in the workplace. Pay attention to how employees do with this work-life skill. When you witness augmented or oddly effected behavior, then you know serious problems may be affecting the worker emotionally. Alcoholic withdrawal is notorious for affecting the emotional reaction to negative stimuli. So, begin thinking observation, documentation, and if needed and justified, confrontation and referral to the employee to testing when these emotional augmentations emerge.
Anger and mood difference often alcohol and drug related

General Communication

Does your employee greet other workers in the morning? If yes, you see a pleasant exchange, but what this behavior pattern suddenly alters? Then you know if a pattern of non-communication is signaling time keep your eyes and ears open for potential issues signaling a serious personal problem. And substance abuse could be one of these problems.

Don’t think with this observation, or the other ones mentioned in this post, that you will be able to diagnose employees. You won’t be able to do so. However, you will become aware. Awareness is have the battle in dealing with substance abuse via reasonable suspicion in the workplace.

Socialization and Engagement
You will notice that I did not list typical checklist issues like alcohol on the breath, walking gait, blood shot eyes, and long sleeve shirts in summer with tiny blood stains in the crook of the arm as a way to spot addicts. No, I am describing behavior, thinking, and emotional interaction patterns that can be influenced by substances of abuse on neurology.

If you socialize with employees, you will likely be in denial if you spot symptoms above, and you will be compelled to inquire, ask, personal counsel, or otherwise get involved in help your employees. This all very natural, and it is all very problematic. So with awareness, consider your options without having to get personally or emotionally involved in your employees’ problems. It will not lead to sudden insights of gratitude and change.

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