A Counter-Intuitive Source for Clear Thinking Employees
1/14/2014 (Updated 11/21/2015)
by Sam Carpenter 

Two simple mechanical facts:

  1. Employees who can’t think straight, make errors.
  2. Businesses that don’t drug test will stumble because of this….

A number of our Centratel employees are participants in substance addiction recovery groups. For the last few years we’ve been actively seeking new employees who are participants in these programs. (We refer to these recovery groups collectively as, “The Program”).

The painful truth is that a huge percentage of the younger population is using “state-of-mind adjusters” that affect clear thinking. So many, that we prefer to hire staffers who are in these programs.

In the western world it’s quite hip to smoke marijuana, and for our type of emergency-messaging business, a Telephone Service Representative (TSR) who is stoned, or suffering next-day effects – and I’ll be charitable here – won’t be at 100% effectiveness.

But although marijuana use is endemic (and remains the poster-child for the burgeoning legitimacy of substance abuse), there is prolific use of killer hard drugs (opiates, meth, heroin…). Here’s an article pointing out the drug-death  problem.

“The deal” I offer both at Centratel and at Work the System Enterprises, is this: you give me 100% and I will pay you well. “The Deal” has benefited everyone involved: my staff, me, my business partners, and our clients, and in attempting to get that 100% from each staff member, years ago we made the decision that we won’t allow less-than-clear-thinking people to handle our call traffic and customer services.  We rely on random drug testing to help us accomplish that goal.

It’s not enough to do testing on the intake of a new hire. It must be done after-the-fact, too, randomly and frequently.

Recreational marijuana use is legal in Alaska, Colorado, Washington State, and, effective last July, here in Oregon. Twenty three other states have decriminalized it, or allow for medical marijuana distribution (the medical marijuana exception is thinly disguised legalization: “You say you have a headache? Pay me $250 and here’s your prescription.”).

My expectation is that soon we will not be able to terminate employment of an employee who fails a marijuana drug test. So now is the time to start using an alternative way to guarantee a 100% clear-headed staff.

Of course there are individuals out there who want to be clear-headed. The simple solution is to find these people who self-regulate. These are people who WANT to be drug and alcohol free.

This is hard to believe but, at Centratel,we don’t have many job applicants because we stress the ongoing, random drug testing in our job postings. And for those people we hire who are not in a Program, some have “gone clean” in order to get past the initial testing, or they have alcohol problems (we don’t test for alcohol). These people don’t last long. On average, new employees who come to us via The Program have a longer job tenure than people who come to us who are not…

At Centratel, in using The Program to find new employees (and while we an still can drug test), here are the basics. For a new hire:

  1. We rely on referrals by employees already in The Program. They know the players insdie the circle; they personally know who would make a great employee
  2. The potential employee must have been “clean” for at least two years
  3. This applicant must pass through ALL of the other eleven Centratel, “hoops.” (See pages 163-164 in Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less)
  4. There are NO second chances. It’s zero-tolerance. A first-time failure in one of our frequent unannounced random drug tests (as many as six times a year), means immediate and non-reversible job termination.
  5. We use inexpensive saliva drug kits (approximately $6.00 each). If an employee fails this test, he or she is immediately sent to a medical facility for a urine test to confirm our in-house results. Here are the testing kits we use.
  6. We test all employees at the same time in order to avoid accusations of individual targeting

And yes, participants in the rehabilitation Programs can fall-off-the-wagon. It happens.

Some answering services drug test as part of the initial job screening process, but very few have an intense on-going drug testing protocol. The drug-free staff at Centratel is a large reason why we’re the highest quality telephone answering service in the United States. Recent Client Reported Error Statistics show one error per 10,000+ messages processed, an untouchable level of quality in the industry.

Questions or comments? Email me at


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