The goal of this study was to explore the relation of the substance use climate at work to key work outcomes among the majority of employees who do not use alcohol and drugs at work. Prior research suggests that a permissive workplace substance use climate may encourage workplace substance use in a significant minority of employees (e.g., Ames & Grube, 1999
; Frone, 2003
). The present study extends this research by suggesting that a permissive workplace substance use climate may be more broadly related to outcomes among the majority of employees who do not use alcohol and illicit drugs at work. Specifically, all three dimensions of a permissive workplace substance use climate were related to lower perceptions of workplace safety, higher levels of work strain, and lower levels of employee morale.
These results should be interpreted within the context of the strengths and limitations of the present study. In terms of strengths, this study used a large probability sample of employed adults in the U.S. Also, relative to small samples, the large sample used in this study provides (a) adequate statistical power to detect the hypothesized effects and (b) more accurate estimates of population effects (e.g., Schmidt, 1992
). Finally, the relations of the three dimensions of workplace substance use climate to the various outcome variables were tested controlling for the interrelations among the climate dimensions as well as their relations to a number of potential confounding variables. These strengths notwithstanding, the present study has several limitations. First, the data were collected from a single source. Nonetheless, the measures used a variety of response formats and asked questions regarding the respondents own work outcomes and attitudes as well as their reports of the behaviors and attitudes of their coworkers. These features should minimize any effect of common method bias. Also, single source data did not allow for a comparison of the measures of perceived norms and availability used in this study with measures of actual norms and availability. Second, the data were cross-sectional. Thus, it was not possible to assess test-retest reliability for the three dimensions of substance use climate. Moreover, these cross-sectional data do not lend themselves to strong causal inference. However, some longitudinal research exploring general substance use norms suggests that the relation between the perceived workplace substance use climate and employee substance use may be reciprocal (e.g., Bullers, Cooper, & Russell, 2001
; Neighbor, Dillard, Lewis, Bergstrom, & Neil, 2006
). Finally, the 57% response rate may be viewed as a limitation to generalizability. However, for response bias to exist with a response rate under 100%, the reason for nonresponse has to be related to the substantive variables under examination. There is little reason to expect that this is the case in this study (see Frone 2006b
, pp. 864-866, for a detailed discussion).
Future research efforts should attempt to replicate the present findings using other methods, such as longitudinal designs and assessment of workplace substance availability and norms within intact work groups. Also, future research should explore the organizational characteristics and policies that may foster or discourage permissive workplace substance use cultures. The present results suggest that future research on and management attention toward workplace substance use may have broader organizational relevance than merely the productivity of those employee employees who engage in substance use at work. It also may have a relation to the work environment, health, and morale of the majority of employees who do not use alcohol and illicit drugs at work. The climate dimensions of physical availability of substances at work and descriptive norms, or the use of alcohol and drugs at work by employees, are the most directly manageable through workplace policy, supervision, and education. The dimension of injunctive norms, or employee approval of workplace substance use, is more difficult to alter directly. However, the use of organizational policy, supervision, and education to target directly workplace substance availability and descriptive norms may ultimately have an indirect impact of reducing approval for workplace substance use.