How to Talk to a Co-Worker Who Tests Positive on a Drug Test at Work

In today’s workplace, drug testing has become common place to ensure safety and productivity. However, learning that a co-worker has tested positive on a drug test is something no one wants to experience. Here are some tips on how to handle this sensitive issue so that it has the least amount of impact your workplace environment and your professionalism.


Understand the Company Policy on Drug Testing

Before initiating any conversation, it’s crucial to understand your company’s drug testing policy. Familiarize yourself as the supervisor with the protocols for handling positive results, the support systems in place, and the consequences outlined by your employer. This knowledge will help you approach the situation with an informed perspective.

Choose the Right Time and Place

Choose a quiet and private location where you won’t be interrupted. Avoid discussing the matter during stressful times or in public spaces where others can overhear. You do not want to be responsible for a breach of confidential information.

Use Non-Judgmental Language

When talking to your employee, use non-judgmental and supportive language. Avoid making accusations. Instead, express your concern and willingness to support them.

Listen Actively and Offer Support

Allow your co-worker to share their side of the story without interruption. Active listening can help them feel heard and understood. Offer support and suggest resources that your company or community might provide.

Encourage Professional Help

Encouraging your co-worker to seek professional help is a constructive step. Suggest that they talk to a counselor or seek support from a healthcare professional who specializes in addiction.

Maintain Professional Boundaries

While it’s important to be supportive, avoid getting too involved in their personal matters. Your role is to offer support within the confines of your professional work relationship.

Follow Up

After your initial conversation, following up with your co-worker to see how they’re doing can make a significant difference in their recovery journey. However, respect their privacy and avoid prying into details they may not want to share.


Handling a situation where a co-worker tests positive on a drug test requires sensitivity, empathy, and professionalism. By approaching the conversation with care, offering support, and respecting their privacy, you can help create a supportive work environment that encourages positive change and recovery.