Emotional Distancing in Your Staff

How does emotional distancing in the workplace relate to drug and alcohol abuse? Not only can emotional distancing be a sign of substance abuse, but it can also cause or indirectly lead to substance abuse.

Often, when employees are abusing or nearly abusing alcohol or drugs, they become quite careful in their movements, controlling their demeanor, watching what they say, and consequently acting out of character. [1]

Their normal behavior, which most people do not pay attention to, is not something they feel that they should control. Not knowing what they normally say and do leads them to withdraw both verbally and physically in the workplace and particularly in situations where they might display unnatural behavior due to their abuse.

Employees feel that others know how they normally act, so they must be extra cautious not to display uncharacteristic behavior. This caution can lead to physically withdrawing from social interactions, groups and crowded areas of the workplace. It can also lead to silence or near silence in verbal conversation, due to fear of exposure. [2]

In addition to this, emotional distancing can be a factor in encouraging drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. Since time at the workplace consists of such a large part of their overall waking hours, employees must find their job enjoyable, productive and feel as if they are contributing to the greater good of the company, or at least their part of the workforce. One of the best ways to make an employee feel depressed and anxious is to act as if their contribution is meaningless.

In a study performed by Alicia Grandey, she states that employees deal with the stresses of the workplace environment, such as dangerous jobs and dealing with potentially armed criminals, by emotionally distancing themselves from their coworkers, clients and even their families. This emotional distancing can have many negative side effects. [3]

Frances Bell asserts that emotional cutoff or distancing in any situation, including the workplace, starves our need to feel accepted and a part of a group, be it family, coworkers or friends. This emotional cutoff increases anxiety and can be the partial cause for substance abuse. [4] Employees need to feel as if they are contributing to the greater good of the business or organization. If they are not behaving like themselves, or if they are pushed into the far corners of the production cycle, abuse may exist.

If you would like more information on drug and alcohol testing and testing equipment, please contact CMM Technology by phone (+618-9204-2500) or by fax (+618-9204-2522).

  1. 1. Crandall, Rick, and Pamela L. Perrewe. Occupational stress: a handbook. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis, 1995. Print.
  2. 2. Perrewe, Pamela L., and Daniel C. Ganster. Exploring theoretical mechanisms and perspectives . Amsterdam: JAI, 2001. Print.
  3. 3. Grandey, Alicia. “Emotion Regulation in the Workplace: A New Way to Conceptualize Emotional Labor.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2011. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/books.htm?chapterid=1757223&show=pdf.
  4. 4. Bell, Frances. “Emotional Cutoff in Women Who Abuse Substances.” Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Jan. 2011. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-09122000-10580012/unrestricted/Bell.PDF.

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