Expert Advice

'High Times' at a Nonprofit?

| Updated September 10, 2018

Drugs in the workplace

Nonprofit experts Gary G. Godsey, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, and Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, have teamed up to create MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the authors' personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.

I heard a rumor from a trusted source that a few of my co-workers are getting high in the parking lot at lunchtime. I'm not planning to tell my supervisor or our executive director, since snitching isn't my social suicide of choice. Should I tell my co-workers that I think these "smoke fests" are a bad idea? Or should I mind my own business?

Gary says …

I would let the "smoke" clear on this one before taking any action. First, you said you heard a rumor from a trusted source. I can't tell you how many times I've personally seen how unfounded rumors have killed relationships and morale in the workplace. Don't be Betty Butt-In, especially if you're getting your information secondhand.

It's another matter, though, if you witness this behavior personally. In that case, I'd advise you to speak directly to the offenders about the negative things that could possibly happen— especially if they're lighting up on your employer's property. If they choose to continue after that, then so be it. You've done all you can.

Kathryn says …

This same scenario has played itself out several times in my career.

In one case, I was the CEO and I called a lawyer/board member for help. He came into a regularly scheduled staff meeting to lay out our "zero tolerance" drug policy (which was also in our employee policy manual). I firmly concurred and made it clear that I would fire anyone and everyone involved — with full board support and on the spot — if I happened to leave the office and walk into a cloud, so to speak. This reminder seemed to do the trick.

Since it doesn't seem that you're the boss, this option may not be feasible for you. So, here’s a thought for your situation.

Who's the ring leader of this magical mystery tour in the parking lot? If you know him or her, perhaps casually mention that leadership has gotten a "whiff" of problems in this area and they're ready to come down with a metaphorical hammer. Express concern for the job stability of those involved as well as the clear and complete lack of professionalism, the poor work ethic, the unfairness to your employer and the poor judgement shown by these idiots. (Don't say idiots.) He or she will likely get the picture.

If all else fails, I suggest that you become an anonymous whistleblower. Good team members are there for their co-workers, and everyone needs to be on point. If your co-workers can't save their recreational activities for recreational time, maybe they should get jobs at the local fairground.

Now, your take!

Lois says ... That's good advice: proceed carefully. I ran into this situation long ago at a former workplace. A co-worker and I had noticed it happening quite often. We were speaking in low voices about whether we should confront them or discuss with a supervisor since it was affecting our work. Unfortunately, someone was eavesdropping and informed management before we could decide what to do. The group that was toking outside blamed us for ratting them out, though I don't think they got into serious trouble. However, the behavior did stop!

Ruth says ... I might ask HR (or someone in management, if you don't have an HR department) if there's a company policy about smoking weed on company premises. If the answer is yes, ask if it could be announced to the staff as a whole. If they want to know why you're asking, say that it's just something that occurred to you that isn't in the employee handbook but could become an issue given the increase in medical marijuana stories in the news — so a reminder could be timely. If the answer is no, suggest that a policy be developed and announced. That way, you're not squealing, but you're protecting the business from any number of potential problems.

MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

Was this article helpful? Recommend

Expert opinions on all things nonprofit