The Effect of Drug Abuse on Workplace Performance in the Philippines

The international media is predicting a further boom for the Philippine economy following the Duterte election, with announced intentions to remove the 40 per cent cap on foreign investment and the resulting expectancy of more capital, healthier competition, further development and more optimal results. There is, however, one area that could compromise growth unless it is halted: the abuse of alcohol and drugs, which, according to a recent US report, is a growing problem in the Philippines.

Thus far, shabu (or ‘meth’ – a highly addictive drug that is very difficult to quit) has been garnering the most media attention, though other commonly used drugs include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and MDMA, with over 6.5 million people falling prey to drug and alcohol addiction. The Philippines is the second largest consumer of alcoholic beverages in South East Asia. Duterte has also made international headlines in this regard, promising to reward the police for eliminating drug dealers. The new President is big on fighting crime, having seen the criminal rate reduce significantly in Davao City, for which he served as Mayor for 22 years.

Drug addiction is not only linked to the crime rate, of course, if not to work performance, an issue which could stand in the way of the burgeoning economy. Experts note that the roots of addiction are profound and highly individual. When substances are abused in the workplace, however, the problem can be linked to specific factors that can promote a sense of isolation and lead to risky drinking or substance abuse. Therefore, effective change can only arise from addressing the specific issues that contribute to the problem. These include:

  • Low job autonomy – a sense of not having enough of a say in how one’s job is carried out, or in how office procedures can be improved.
  • Lack of creativity – jobs that are too simplistic or repetitive can lead to stagnation and frustration.
  • Sexual harassment and aggression – offices should work hard to promote a policy of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, bullying and violence, either physical or verbal. Respect for others’ limits and healthy conflict resolution should also be promoted.

It is also vital for managers in Philippine companies to understand the extent to which drug abuse and alcoholism can affect turnover and revenue. Employees who are addicted to drugs and alcohol display a number of negative behaviors, including tardiness, frequent absences, taking unsafe decisions and making poor decisions, stealing, sleeping on the job, etc. The relationship between colleagues is also hampered, since staff can suffer from low morale, encountering difficulties and conflicts with those who are under the influence. Even when a problematic worker is dismissed, the cost of hiring new workers can be debilitating to a company, decreasing its competitive and causing upheavals which may take a long time to overcome.

Currently, it is mandatory in the Philippines for private companies with 10 or more employees, to formulate and implement drug abuse prevention and control programs, including the creation and adoption of specific policies against dangerous drug use. Companies must educate their workers regarding the adverse effects of drugs and monitor employees they believe may be susceptible to drug use. Companies should also decide upon the steps they will take when intervention is required, and think of the services offered to employees who require treatment and rehabilitation.

Small, companies, too, are encouraged to adopt programs that will ensure their workplace is drug-free. Whenever possible, training sessions should be held to inform staff of steps to take to prevent addiction. Companies should also aim to foster a healthy corporate culture where autonomy, flexibility, and a sense of playfulness (rather than excessive authoritarianism) is fostered. These values have been shown to be present in some of the most successful companies in the world.

Counselling programs should be offered to stressed employees, enlightening the latter on healthy, natural ways to release tension (via exercise, yoga, time spent in natural areas, etc.). Management should also promote an open, communicative environment in which employees are encouraged to voice their ideas on how to improve the workplace and are invited to give feedback on matters of vital import for the company and staff. A drug-free workplace is a more profitable one, after all, for the workers, company, and national economy.


Article from Gemma Graham

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