Troubleshooting 101 – Tips for Success
(July 2021) Real-Life Incidents: Working Partners® Consortium members receive unlimited phone support and consultation about drug-free workplace (DFWP) issues — a benefit we term “troubleshooting.” Here is a brief description of a troubleshoot call and our response/suggestions.
You’re responsible for overseeing your organization’s DFWP program. And as the program administrator (PA), you learn about an incident involving an employee (e.g., an accident happened, someone was behaving oddly, an unexpected drug test result was received) that makes you question the proper course of action.
What do you do?
Whether you troubleshoot the situation on your own or call us for help as part of your Working Partners® Consortium membership, there are a few things you should do to answer the question, “Now, what do I do?”
Get comfortable with not having all the answers
The first step is to ask questions and gather the appropriate information to ensure you’re responding to the facts and not what you think may have happened or what’s churning in the rumor mill. DFWP issues are a big deal, and ensuring you respond appropriately can help prevent MORE problems that stem from acting on false or inaccurate information.
As a PA, this may require you to wade into uncomfortable situations as you talk with employees and others to get the facts. But, as the leader of your DFWP program, you’ll have to get comfortable with moments of uncertainty as you work to sort things out. Ask the relevant questions, and remember, you don’t need to have all the answers. If you don’t know how to respond in the moment, be prepared to tell the employee and those who “need-to-know” that you’ll follow up once you’ve finished gathering the necessary information. And that’s where we can help — just reach out! Once you have all the facts, we can help you plan a fitting response that is in sync with your DFWP policy.
Start gathering data
If you call us to help troubleshoot your issue, we’ll likely start by asking you to review the facts of the situation, which include things like
- The name(s) of the employee(s) involved
- Relevant dates and sequence of events
- Date(s) testing occurred (if applicable)
- Details of the incident
- The employee’s response to the situation
- The supervisor’s response to the situation
- Feedback from the collection site or drug-testing lab results
- How YOU think the situation should be handled
Be sure to verify this information before you take any action (or reach out for help if you need it). This may require you to go directly to the source, like talking with the employee involved or contacting your drug testing vendor to verify the reported details. These facts set the stage for deciding how to apply your policy to the situation.
For your DFWP program, consistency is a key element in promoting fairness and responding to an employee who decides to contest your response.
That’s why it’s crucial to do your homework to determine if your company’s had similar situations in the past and how they were handled. Inconsistent policy enforcement can be a morale killer in your workplace; policies should be enforced fairly and across the board.
During most troubleshoots, we ask, “what precedence has been set for situations like this?” As you respond to DFWP issues, you need to take the time to find out, and if you’re not sure, check with your HR or other management personnel to see if they can help. Managers and HR professionals need to be in lockstep when it comes to managing your program.
Documentation is the cornerstone of your DFWP program. It’s an essential element that allows decisions to be made with as much information as possible and ensures a lasting record that supports actions taken in response to policy issues and violations.
Proper documentation also becomes important when a decision, such as a termination, is challenged. So, make sure you document the information collected and actions you take, including, if applicable, why you deviated from established precedence. Also, keep it confidential (sharing only on a need-to-know basis) and store it in a secure place where it can be accessed when needed.
We’ve Got Your Back
And, of course, if you need help, we’re here for you. As a Consortium member, don’t spend more than 10 minutes trying to figure out how to respond to an issue. We’ve created a troubleshooting tip sheet you can request to help you gather information. Use it to get started. Then just give us a call and we’ll guide you through the important considerations. And if you’re not a member, call us anyway. We’ll give you a trial run of our troubleshooting service and share membership information with you.