Frontline Supervisor

This monthly informational newsletter is designed to assist supervisors with various important employee-related issues.

November 2022

New Supervisor is too Self-Conscious

Q. Can the EAP help me stop worrying about whether others are judging me as a new supervisor? I don’t want to go through a big therapy process. I just want to stop being so self-conscious so I can engage with my peers, be more relaxed, and stop worrying about whether others are judging me.

A. Discuss your goals with the EAP. The program can help you by giving you a plan to practice, monitor, and gauge progress in overcoming these habits of thinking so you feel more confident. Your struggle is a common one many people are hesitant to admit, but you can learn social and engagement skills that will help. You will discover positive self-talk affirmations, how to avoid becoming preoccupied with these thoughts, how to focus on others rather than yourself, and how to overcome false beliefs about what people are thinking in social settings. You will learn to stop thinking about making an impression and instead concentrate on engaging effectively. After an assessment, or later, you might become interested in exploring other challenges related to your immediate goals. If so, the EAP can offer ideas or other sources of assistance. 

Helping Employees with Personal Problems can Increase Productivity

Q. My employee is an outstanding performer and until recently highly productive. Productivity has lagged, however. Is it appropriate to refer this worker to the EAP for the sole purpose of increasing productivity? No personal or emotional issues are apparent.

A. For decades, the accepted practice was to base supervisor referrals to EAPs on employee job performance issues. Can the EAP help? It depends on what factors influence the ability to improve their productivity. There could be a personal issue requiring some help or intervention. It may be something beyond the scope of your ability as a supervisor to influence. The EAP may be the best resource for help because some issue not related to skills or training that could be influencing the decline in performance. Your problem with this worker illustrates another important convention in EAP programming–don’t diagnose (or rule out) the cause of performance issues you can’t correct. In this case, it would be tempting for some managers to assume the EAP is not an appropriate source of help.

Communication is the Key to Supervising Remote Staff

Q. I am now supervising remote staff. I can see how communication, trust, and engagement (trying to ensure remote employees are happy and delivering their best) will be challenging. How can I ensure that I am communicating effectively.  

A. Communication is the key issue that affects remote workers and your relationship with them. The other two concerns you cite—trust and engagement— have mostly to do with the effectiveness of your communication strategy. It is crucial to create communication protocols and systems so those you supervise do not feel left out or unsure of what you want them to do and are working with recognition, value, and parity with office employees despite being off-site. The EAP can be a helpful resource for supervisors who are working toward improving effectiveness of their communications. 

October 2022

EAP Provides Focused Support

Q. I have wondered about the EAP experience and how the EAP assists employees in connecting with referral resources?   Can you comment on this?

A. The EAP provides short-term, solution focused support.  The EAP clinician works with clients to fully assess and understand the nature of their concerns and will make a recommendation about resources that may be helpful.  While some clients may be able to resolve concerns without referral, others may benefit from a referral to treatment that is longer term or more specialized.  Feeling ready to connect with a referral is not always easy and the EAP is here to help.  A supportive connection with the EAP can ease transitions to referrals when they are needed.

Dealing with an Employee Coping with Depression

Q. How does the EAP help if an employee comes in with general complaints indicating they are depressed?

A. When an employee visits the EAP for symptoms of depression, much more happens than a routine depression screening. Typically, the EA professional will assess psychosocial or environmental/lifestyle issues that are either symptoms of the depression or distinct from yet exacerbating the primary condition. The EAP will assess the appropriate level of care and help the employee with a plan for treatment.  

Conveying Expectations to Employees

Q. What are best practice ways to communicate expectations to an employee with ongoing work quality, conduct, or attendance problems? Would it be helpful to make a referral to the EAP?

A. It is helpful to document and discuss with the employee concerns such as ongoing performance, observed behaviors, conduct, and work quality as they arise.  Ongoing dialogue with an employee can help the supervisor create interventions and help the supervisor consider whether there is a need for additional training, clarity of expectations or if the employee’s performance concerns may be related to something outside of work.  It can be helpful to consult with EAP to explore how to approach a conversation around an employee’s ongoing performance and how to present the benefits of a referral to EAP if needed.  It is important to remember that every employee’s needs are unique and EAP professionals are extremely attuned to performance issues and the nuances of how they present in the workplace.  Based on the patterns you as supervisor experience with an employee, an EA professional will make recommendations about how to approach the discussion with the employee including how to make a referral to the EAP. After meeting with the employee and a referral to EAP is made, it is important to contact your EAP to share the content of the conversation to order to help the EA professional consider the assessment approach that will ultimately make the referral more successful. 


September 2022

Employee is Struggling with New Role as Supervisor

Q. I promoted my employee to an assistant supervisor, but I see him struggling in the leadership role. He isn’t very proactive, doesn’t speak with confidence, and is not decisive. Can the EAP help? Or would it be better to suggest workshops or other supervisor training where skills can be taught?

A. Assuming you have discussed with your employee the need to improve his leadership skills and you continue to observe challenges, an EAP referral could be a helpful resource. This does not rule out continuing education the EAP may suggest to the employee. The EAP will discuss the difficulties he is experiencing in the position, the work climate, and the employee’s understanding of what underlies the problem. There are many issues that can interfere with performance beyond the educational piece, but it is likely the EAP will identify what they are. If the employee is comfortable, a release can be signed. The EAP may inquire about your experiences during and after your attempts to guide the employee to support his performance, which can offer the EAP professional greater insight.

What is Growth Mindset?

Q. What is meant by an employee having a “growth mindset”?

A. A growth mindset is a term first coined by Carol Susan Dweck, Ph.D., a Stanford University psychologist. She was famous for her studies of mindset, temperament, and personality. Growth mindset refers to the way employees approach the world of challenges and obstacles with optimism, a sense of opportunity, resourcefulness, positivity, and resilience. This contrasts with employees who may have a “fixed mindset” and resist change, give up easily when faced with obstacles, feel anxious about others’ successes, and shy away from negative feedback. Consider researching “growth mindset” online to identify articulable descriptions of positive behaviors associated with the mindset. Then you can reward and affirm these behaviors while also helping struggling employees by guiding them in performance reviews to adopt the behaviors and work attributes that support productivity and help demonstrate outstanding performance. You also can use the EAP to help employees examine patterns and approaches to work struggles.

What are the Best Tips for Confronting Difficult Employees?

Q. I have been a manager for 20 years. Although I have given advice to other supervisors on confronting difficult employees, it still seems more like an art than a science to get changes from an employee. What are the best tips for confronting difficult employees to keep and pass along?

A. Although each of the following could be divided into additional steps, they represent some of the best tips in correcting behavior or performance. 1) Don’t delay in dealing with a problem. As time passes, it generally becomes more difficult to correct. 2) Prepare to be surprised by an employee’s explanation for the behavior or issue. Be open-minded about what to do next. 3) Don’t be long-winded, lecturing, or parental. It triggers resistance. 4) Employees are your most valuable resource. Keep this in mind and you will use the right tone. 5) Don’t be angry with employees to the degree that you omit reminding them what they do well. Doing so generates motivation to cooperate with you. 6) Bring notes or an outline. It helps you and helps the employees take you seriously. 7) Meet in a nonsocial, business setting to convey importance. 8) Mention the EAP as a resource for employees to use if they experience difficulty making the changes requested.

August 2022 

Providing Grief Support When Employee Dies Unexpectedly

Q. Our supervisors recently struggled with how to notify employees about the unexpected death of an employee. The delay in informing employees contributed to distress and anxiety among coworkers. What is the most supportive way for managers to respond? 

A. The death of an employee, especially when unexpected, can shift the manager into a crisis role that employees instantly rely upon for direction, support, and empathy. Step-by-step protocols and checklists exist for managers to follow, although smaller employers may not keep such material on hand. Examples can be found at the American Psychological Association, the Society for Human Resources and nonprofits that focus on helping people manage grief (see below). The EAP can also assist with helping managers find such resources, while supporting employees and later offering more awareness and education about helping employees and recognizing protracted grief and its effects on productivity. Note that the two most significant mistakes managers make regarding death in the workplace is treating such incidences too lightly or turning away from them too soon in an attempt to get back to work. Source:

Dealing with Immaturity in the Workplace

Q. Can I refer an employee to the EAP for acting “immature”? By immature I mean demonstrating behaviors such as acting out of personal desires rather than putting the needs of the team first and displaying jealousy and envy of others. How can I address these concerns and set expectations for appropriate workplace behaviors. 

A. Since “immaturity” is difficult to measure, it becomes important to be descriptive of the objectionable behavior so it can be presented in a corrective interview. You can then ask that it stop, be clear about it, and later measure whether change happens. This is not as easy as it sounds, but it is crucial to motivate change and refer the employee to the EAP if it becomes necessary. You may need to witness again the behavior you describe, and document it contemporaneously so it is clear. You have witnessed the employee “not putting the needs of the group first.” How is this demonstrated by words or behavior, and what substantiates the attitude and misdirection you see? Rely on the EAP or your human resources advisor for help in how to construct useful documentation. You are more likely to see the changes you want, possibly without ever needing to make a referral.

What to Expect When an Employee Signs the Release of Confidential Information

Q. If I formally refer my employee to the employee assistance program because of performance problems, and a release of confidential information is signed, what information should I request, that won’t cross the boundaries of what is routine and necessary? 

A. The EAP will contact you when a release of information is signed, and it may do so more than once to provide information that is appropriate and enough for you to perform your job as a supervisor. You also can call the EAP if this communication does not seem timely enough for you. There may be good reasons the EAP has not contacted you yet, but it is better for you to not wonder what is going on at the EAP. When contacting the EAP, it is appropriate to ask whether an issue or matter is being addressed, but not about the nature of the problem or its diagnosis; whether the employee is cooperating and following through with the EAP recommendations; and whether the employee will require any accommodations from you with regard to scheduling, time off, or other changes in the work situation necessary to treat or address the employee’s problem. These three types of information have historically been recognized for decades as the essentials for communicating with supervisors who have made formal referrals. It is important to note that the EAP cannot provide any information unless there is a signed release of information from the employee, and this includes whether or not they have attended any appointments with the EAP. Because of the EAP’s limited ability at times to share information, EAP will encourage the supervisor to reach out to the employee about their concerns.

Assisting Employees as they Return to an On-site Workplace

Q. We have employees returning to on-site work, and many have not been together for quite a while. Is there something I should do as a supervisor to facilitate the renewed team environment or will this naturally take care of itself? 

A. “Reboarding” (re-onboarding) describes the process of reuniting employees and facilitating their renewed role in the workplace. The process recognizes that previously quality teams and effective coworker relationships will not necessarily pick up where they left off. Many surveys report dramatically increased anxiety of employees returning to the worksite. Change can contribute to stress; this alone is enough to make the transition back to work more difficult. Managing this anxiety falls on supervisors. Along with many employees perceiving remote work as more desirable, changes in family routines add to employees’ stress. A key objective for managers is helping to prevent attrition by facilitating an equally happy on-site job experience. This requires understanding, patience, reassurance, and good communication. Being present and holding meaningful conversations with employees and allowing them to share their viewpoints and opinions about what they are experiencing being back onsite are crucial. Pay attention to signs or symptoms of troubled workers, particularly those who appear unable to reengage. Suggest the EAP, or refer employees as needed.

July 2022

How to Stem the Flow of Employee Resignations 

Q. News reports have frequently mentioned “The Great Resignation” over the past year, referring to how many employees quit their jobs and why. What can supervisors or managers do to help curb the loss of good workers? 

A. Research studies showed that when the crisis subsided enough for employees to return to work, millions had moved on. What followed was a worker shortage allowed employees to compete for greater benefits, including attractive remote jobs. A desire to not return to the original job also played a role in adding to a labor shortage. Suddenly, “employers needed employees more than employees needed employers.” One study concludes that factors that can exacerbate the loss of workers are “toxic” company culture, low salary, poor management, lack of healthy work-life boundaries, and not allowing remote work. Are you able to influence change with any of these issues? Some are not related to pay but soft skills and relationship management. It is here that the EAP has expertise. Read below what the Gallup research organization discovered about the supervisor’s role. Strive for a positive and engaging relationship with workers. Most will think twice before giving it up, even for additional pay in another job. Source: 

How to Look for the Signs of Depression

Q. Periodically, my employee has crying bouts but says it’s a way to manage stress. Should supervisors be more aware of depression’s symptoms, not so they can diagnose someone, but so they do not dismiss serious behaviors just because they do not cause performance issues?

A. To be completely unaware of the signs and symptoms of depression or any health problem that could lead to behavioral signs and symptoms in the workplace would not be a good thing, so it is appropriate to help supervisors be generally aware of observable signs or symptoms common among troubled employees with health or mental health conditions. This could lead to more supervisor-prompted self-referrals influenced by concern for the employee. This is a key reason for educating supervisors about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. No matter what the health concern underlying the performance issues, the overriding principle that should be kept in mind is that focusing on the performance issues of quality of work, conduct, and attendance is more likely to lead to referrals of employees to the EAP, where treatable health and mental health problems can be identified. The recovery from these problems is what will lead to improved performance, reduced turnover, and a healthier workforce. Check out the signs and symptoms of work depression at

Does Alcoholism Fall Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Q. I interviewed an employee for one of our new positions, but he looks like he might be an alcoholic or have a history of alcoholism. I know the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies in this situation, but is the EAP the right resource concerning understanding its provisions and restrictions?

A. Your human resources advisor is your go-to professional for concerns about interviewing, the hiring process, and laws like the ADA and how they may apply in certain situations. The ADA treats actively drinking employees with substance use disorders and those who have been treated for addictive diseases differently. Decisions you make based upon your perception of their recovery or non-recovery status can also have legal implications. Sometimes, managers are educated and trained to understand employment laws, but if you are not applying them or recalling them regularly, it is easy to get confused. So, even if in doubt, reach out to human resources. Later, after someone has been hired, should you become concerned about behaviors, signs, and symptoms, or wonder how you should document performance, your EAP is available.

Stress and Remote Workers

Q. There is debate about which employees are more stressed, those on-site or those who work remotely. What does the research say?

A. The Gallup organization examined employee stress during the pandemic. They discovered that remote workers generally experience more stress than on-site workers. Although there are clear benefits to working from home, like avoiding the need to commute, remote workers often manage their personal lives and domestic issues in tandem with expectations by employers to deliver high levels of work performance, both in quality and quantity. The research found that remote workers may be more engaged, meaning they appear to demonstrate more enthusiasm, eagerness to perform, and desire to do a good job. This increased engagement may help others support their position and see its positive benefits. Supervisors should be watchful for signs of stress in remote workers who may tend to minimize or mask them, thereby risking burnout.

How to Motivate Employees

Q. What is the #1 way to motivate an employee?

A. Thousands of resources have been authored on motivating employees, but the one thing that appears to dominate most lists is “personally thanking employees for good performance.” Sound simple? It is for some, but not all. A critical part of the strategy is communicating gratitude with sincerity. Humans easily detect non-sincerity, so one must get this part right. Start by examining your own personal reaction to something the employee has done well. Feel the gratitude. Appreciate its impact. Visualize the benefits. Then use this energy and awareness to communicate appreciation. Praise put in writing will “10X” your positive impact on the employee. Some managers offer praise naturally. It’s a critical soft skill for supervisors to know, but it will feel awkward without sincerity accompanying it. Can the EAP help you be a more genuine and authentic praise giver? Yes. 

June 2022

Supervisor's Role in Assisting Workers to Attain a Work-Life Balance

Q. Should it be part of a supervisor’s responsibilities to help employees pursue work-life balance? This is something that extends beyond the workplace and is personal for employees. 

A. Technology can turn a job into a 24/7 experience, so a lack of work-life balance can be a challenge. This strain contributes to lower productivity and burnout. It’s up to employees to “hit the off switch,” but some are better at doing it than others. This makes awareness and education about work-life balance a worthy pursuit. Practice establishing traditions that facilitate work-life balance. One tradition might be having everyone agree to not respond to emails and work-related texts after business hours, except in specific circumstances. (This could influence employees to get more done during regular business hours.) Brainstorm other work-life balance ideas. Celebrate and reward participation in these practices. A Web search of “ways to achieve work-life balance” will lead you to many ideas. Consider input from your human resources advisor, too. Suggest the EAP to employees who demonstrate struggles with work-life balance. Note that motivating employees to practice work-life balance won’t be effective unless you are doing it yourself.

Supervisors Should Never Fill the Counselor Role

Q. I have known supervisors who were great listeners and advice givers. But what if the supervisor actually has professional counseling experience? Does this create an exception to the rule of avoiding delving into an employee’s problems and taking on the counseling role? 

A. Employees who raise concerns about personal problems with supervisors often have more than one reason for doing so. One, of course, may be a sincere desire to find a solution. But consider the high likelihood that similar discussions have taken place many times before with others outside the workplace, particularly with family and friends. It follows that an employee’s desire to focus on solving a personal problem is in part motivated by a need to shift attention away from any performance issue and its consequences. A discussion about the nature of a personal problem and its resolution would certainly be more satisfying. Even if the supervisor has the skills to help the employee, engaging in the problem-solving process ultimately requires follow-up. These include, motivational counseling, relapse prevention, and detection by the counselor as to whether treatment is being accomplished, or whether it is being resisted or applied in only half measures. It is unrealistic for a supervisor engage in these elements of problem resolution, and risk increases when supervisors play the counseling role.

The EAP Role in Frequent Absenteeism

Q. If my employee is experiencing frequent absences from work and I make a supervisor referral to the EAP, is it enough to let the EAP know the employee is being referred and the reason? What other information would be helpful for the EAP to know?

A. EAPs have extensive experience helping employees with problems, many of which are associated with different absenteeism patterns. The more information you provide about the history of the employee’s attendance issue and your attempts to resolve it, the more effective the EAP interview will be. This means a faster resolution to the problem. Problematic employee absenteeism may be ongoing and consistent, cyclical, or sudden and unexpected. Each includes different degrees and forms of communication (or lack of it) with the employer concerning the absences. This history gives the EAP clues about the nature of any personal problem that may be associated with the absences, even when an employee is not completely forthcoming in an interview. For example, an employee who suddenly does not show up for work and does not phone in, and whom you can’t reach, will have a personal problem far different than that of an employee who phoned you the night before with notice that they were taking unapproved leave without pay. 

Providing a Smoother EAP Referral

Q. At times, I don’t think employees truly understand the purpose of an EAP. Sure, they know it is a professional source of counseling and referral, but when supervisors refer, some employees become defensive. What’s missing, and how can supervisors make formal referrals go a little smoother?

A. When a supervisor suggests the EAP or makes a referral, it can be helpful to explain early on that the basis for your recommendation is job performance, not your belief that a personal problem exists, and that all EAPs work this way. This issue, perhaps more than any other, is what prompts defensiveness. Also, do not mention the EAP for the first time late in the process of an attempt to correct performance. If weeks and months of difficulty, arguing, or tension have existed, your employee may believe that your motivation for referring now is to “cover your bases” as you prepare for termination of the worker. 

Employees are a Resource

Q. I strive to know my employees well so I can assess their needs and develop their talents. When employees don’t perform well or keep commitments, or come to work late, I feel taken advantage of and angry. This causes me stress. How can I react differently?

A. Perhaps you have heard the expression, “Employees are our organization’s most valuable resource.” It offers a clue to help you understand how best to work with employees when they disappoint you. Wanting your employees to be happy and productive is a good thing, and the EAP plays a key role in helping you do this, but you will use the EAP less when you are emotional and feel personally hurt in response to employees not living up to your expectations. When you use the “employees are a resource” paradigm, you respond differently. You become more strategic, and this means a possible referral to the EAP sooner. Viewing your employees as ungrateful invites you to take their shortcomings personally, experience more stress, delay referral to the EAP, and be angry with them. You feel taken advantage of, and the risk is that you will experience a desire to retaliate, terminate, or “teach them a lesson.”

May 2022

Overcoming an Employee's Attendance Problems

Q. I was discussing my employee’s attendance problem when she mentioned that family issues were causing her lateness. She added that she would be contacting the EAP. I look forward to positive changes, but should I have done anything more?

A. Beyond following up later and affirming the positive changes in her attendance, the situation with this employee seems to have been handled well. This is a self-referral and a great example of how EAP’s perform, but there are a couple of tips worth considering. Depending on the seriousness of this attendance issue, offering the employee the opportunity to use your phone or to call the EAP “now” from your office might be effective in helping ensure she does in fact use the EAP. It’s the employee’s choice, of course. The second is to be firm and supportive but clear that if the attendance problem does not change, then you will be considering the next steps in correcting the problem. This will also facilitate follow-through because a disciplinary step is implied without it being committed to it yet. 

Using Constructive Confrontation 

Q. Is a “constructive confrontation” with an employee interview that always includes mention of some potential disciplinary action to help motivate the worker to feel more urgency about making changes in performance? 

A. The term “constructive confrontation” has many definitions and applications in human interaction, but in the work setting it typically refers to a purposeful and planned meeting with an employee experiencing performance or conduct issues to motivate the worker to make improvements or desired changes. Although a constructive confrontation may utilize mention of disciplinary action, this is not a required element. Most employees perceive the supervisor to be a legitimate authority figure who has control or influence over the disciplinary processes. This is a dynamic of authority, and it is not overlooked by employees when confronted by supervisors. This dynamic is also helpful to instill motivation. Supervisors who socialize frequently with subordinates or are viewed by them as a friend may experience more difficulty in succeeding with constructive confrontations. This is because the dynamic of authority has eroded. Reasserting this authority can be tough because it requires choices that stress the friendship.

The Benefits of an Engaged Relationship with Employees

Q. I have been a department head overseeing dozens of other supervisors for many years. I think many don’t see all the benefits that come with managing a more complete relationship with a worker beyond simple concerns about work output. What benefits accrue from more engaged relationships with employees?

A. As you point out, a more complete supervisory relationship with employees has many payoffs. Beyond focusing on quality or quantity of work, these payoffs include improved communication and a closer, more trusting relationship between the supervisor and employee. This reduces supervisor stress and negative emotions that create unwanted, unnecessary distraction when problems arise. Employees become more interested in their work, improve self-awareness, accomplish more goals, and experience improved job satisfaction, which can reduce turnover and loss of a valuable worker. Ultimately, proper employee management reduces conflict, too. Trust and respect between the worker and manager grow, and a collaboration develops that benefits the work unit. EAPs can help supervisors develop more engaged relationships with employees by helping analyze personnel problems, conflicts, and communication issues, as well as assist in finding creative approaches to help workers make changes that the supervisor can consider.

My Employee Complained to my Boxx

Q. My department manager just informed me that one of my employees went over my head to complain. It made me look bad, and, frankly, I am upset. How should I intervene? The concern is related to a disagreement we are having about her job description. My boss hasn’t said anything about the end-run.

A. End-running can be a problem among troubled workers, but it can also be a naïve decision by a new or younger employee without experience in understanding how hierarchical organizations function. End-runs are usually managed with two issues of concern: addressing the importance of the complaint (i.e. a harassment complaint, etc.) and the organizational problem of the end-run itself. Referring the employee back to the subordinate supervisor is a common response by the upper-level manager for issues that are not serious. Most end-runs are an irritation, but not calamitous. They are teaching moments for employees, and they can help the supervisor examine areas of improvement in conflict and communication management. Discuss with your employee the complications that result from an end-run. If your employee has more serious conduct issues making behavior difficult, then work with the EAP to help the worker improve conduct, attitude, and performance. 

Making Corrective Interviews Meaningful

Q. What can supervisors do to help their employees correct performance more efficiently? I have often met with employees to discuss problems that need fixing, but I have later been surprised by what’s been forgotten or not understood despite what appeared to be a well-communicated meeting! 

A. If you have been a supervisor for any length of time, you have likely noticed how an employee may be very attentive in a corrective interview as you explain a problem, but later it is as though they were daydreaming the entire time they were looking you straight in the eye. You may have asked to have key points in the meeting repeated, but later the details are surprisingly overlooked. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including attention deficit issues due to stress, fear, or even possibly depression or medical issues. It is common for such employees not to return later for clarification, fearful of the manager’s response to their apparent lack of attention. For these reasons, practice putting problems in writing along with the key points needing attention. Doing so early when problems arise may eliminate the need for a meeting entirely. If a pattern of inattention remains, refer the employee to the EAP based on performance shortcomings.

April 2022

The Risks of Over-Rating an Employee's Performance

Q. I do not always provide an accurate rating of my employee’s performance. I tend to grade higher than what is deserved. My purpose is to avoid conflict and the souring of the relationship, which I depend on to get work done. What am I risking with this practice? 

A. The practice of grading an employee’s performance higher than you should is called “rating inflation.” It’s a well-known phenomenon in management, and often the reason it occurs is that the manager is trying to keep peace with the worker whose performance is problematic. Unfortunately, the short-term gains of rating inflation are usually outweighed by the long-term negatives. For example, getting a higher rating than they deserve will give your employee a false sense of pride in their work, and it can undermine their career growth, lower productivity standards, and prevent your employee from realizing their potential in the current position. Consider meeting with the employee assistance professional to examine this issue more fully. Discuss what contributes to your fear of grading the employee properly. Also discuss communication strategies likely to help you meet your goal to establish a more truthful supervisor-supervisee relationship that will benefit you, the employee, and the organization.

What to Do When an Employee is a Domestic Abuse Survivor

Q. My employee went to the EAP. She is a domestic abuse victim, and there are legal, financial, and child custody issues that she is dealing with. She is off work right now. I want her to take all the time she needs, but how long should I wait? What’s fair? What is the EAP’s role?

A. It is commendable that you are accommodating the employee’s needs, but you will need more details regarding the amount of time she anticipates being away from work. You and your manager, along with your HR advisor, must stay in close communication. Choose someone as lead communicator. Ask the employee what conditions are necessary for her to return to work. Then follow up. A breakdown in communication and a lack of being proactive to keep communication moving along are what cause situations like this to get more complicated. This also adds to management’s frustration. Timely communication and clear expectations will help your employee remain engaged, follow through, and complete numerous stressful tasks she likely must handle. Patience is important, but your organization’s mission is also important. If you ask the employee to sign a release of information and speak to the EAP, you will feel more assured and less anxious about the employee’s status and return to work. 

Preventing Workplace Bullying

Q. What are the most important steps for supervisors and managers in helping prevent workplace bullying? 

A. The single most important step for a supervisor to take in preventing workplace bullying is informing employees that the behavior won’t be tolerated. Even if your company has an anti-bullying policy, as about half of all companies do, personally stating your position will make a lasting impression. Be aware of the work climate, and do not hesitate to ask an employee you suspect of being victimized about whether they are being bullied in any way. Periodically educate employees about workplace bullying. Also, have a discussion about different types of bullying behavior, because some employees may be practicing bullying behaviors while being completely unaware of their seriousness. Your EAP or HR advisor can offer guidance on education and awareness. Hint: Searching for bullying prevention materials associated with specific professions may yield a more applicable list of workplace bullying behaviors. Consider a meaningful staff follow-on discussion about the content. Source: 

Important Tips for a New Supervisor

Q. I am a new supervisor. What are some important tips to follow, mistakes to avoid, and considerations to think about to help keep me on track to becoming an effective manager and leader?

A. Here are a collection of tips worth considering: Avoid assuming your position gives you the privilege to be pushy and demanding. Admit you need help as a new supervisor, and turn to experienced managers for it. Understand nearly everything you say and do is modeling and will be remembered. This includes what time you come in, how late you stay, how organized you are, how you dress, the loyalty you demonstrate to your employer, admitting what you don’t know, and whether you practice work-life balance. Prepare to discover that being a supervisor is more challenging and demanding than you expect. As the boss, you have more control over your schedule, but do not abuse this privilege by doing personal business on company time--especially managing a side business--or taking longer lunch breaks than others do. Don’t be “invisible,” hide behind closed doors, or have your employees wondering where you are. Do not borrow equipment or supplies for personal use. Engage with your employees. Identify their strengths and yearnings, and then leverage this knowledge to achieve the goals of your work unit. 

Proper Documentation for Disciplinary Action

Q. On several occasions over the past year, I was told that my documentation was not good enough to support a disciplinary action. Needless to say, I am frustrated. What are the most important issues in documentation for supervisors?

A. Most supervisors have heard repeatedly that writing “the facts” and details--what, where, when, and who--are the critical parts of documentation. The parts to avoid, of course, are your opinions, analysis, and psychological appraisal of the worker. Less discussed, however, is timeliness of documentation, which refers to the lag time between the incident and when you write it. You may be busy, but as more time passes between an event and documentation, the less accurate that documentation will tend to be and the more likely it will contain judgments and overtones of your emotional response to the incident and the employee’s personality. The reason is that you will remember how you feel and emotionally respond to the worker or incident longer than you will remember the facts and details of what actually occurred. 

March 2022

Drug Testing Does Not Prove Impairment

Q. Urine drug testing is part of our comprehensive drug-free workplace program. I know that a test will tell us whether indeed someone is positive and what drug they are using, but will it also prove they were impaired? My employee insists he was not impaired.

A. Your company may conduct a urine drug test in accordance with its policy, and a positive test alone is grounds for taking administrative action. However, a urine test does not prove impairment. But that is not the focus of the policy, so your employee’s argument that he or she was not impaired is irrelevant. An employee can be completely sober but still test positive for a substance, because metabolites can be present in the urine for days or even weeks. Many people confuse the objectives of business organizations that test for drugs of abuse with those of law enforcement officials, who must be able to prove impairment if a person is arrested for drunk driving. A field sobriety test or a certain blood alcohol level establishes the legal existence of this impairment.

Supervisor Avoidance of Performance Issues Only Make Them Worse

Q. My employee apologizes constantly for her inadequate performance. I know she is sincere, but I feel a bit guilty putting pressure on her and taking some action that could cause her to lose her job. She won’t go to the EAP. I feel torn. I am more frustrated with myself than with her!

A. Your employee may indeed be sincere, but she is not a satisfactory performer. When she apologizes without correcting her performance, she effectively avoids disciplinary action you are unwilling to take. Until now, you have been manipulated to avoid taking stronger measures to correct her performance. But remember, discipline is not punishment; It is a tool for correcting performance. Your own performance is suffering because you are not managing this situation properly. What’s more, if her problems are chronic, eventually the current performance issue will get worse. This could lead to a crisis you want to avoid. Consider this: By not acting more decisively, you have enabled her problems to grow worse. Not all employees are defensive when confronted. Some simply agree with you and but not feel motivated enough to change. Consult with the EAP about your indecisiveness. The EAP won’t tell you to take disciplinary action or suggest what that action should be, but it will help you with personal issues that keep you avoidant and indecisive. 

Dealing with an Employee's DUI and Court-Mandated Training

Q. My employee participated in a court-mandated driver education course related to alcohol and drug use after a recent DUI arrest. The court did not refer him to treatment, and I disagree with that decision. I think he’s an alcoholic, because frankly, I am recovering myself. Can I involve the EAP?

A. If your employee’s job performance is satisfactory and the employer has not determined that the arrest and court referral constitute a business concern (i.e., “conduct unbecoming of our employees”), then you don’t have a basis for a formal supervisor referral. You do know about the DUI, however, and that an assessment of alcoholism was not made by the court. How did you come by this information? Did the employee volunteer it? If so, suggesting a self-referral to the EAP as a source of help and assessment is appropriate. Regarding your status as a recovering alcoholic, be cautious. There is nothing wrong with sharing personal information, but don’t diagnose your employee or engage in a diagnostic discussion. Realize that the crisis has passed, and the pursuit of treatment for alcoholism is usually motivated by a sense of urgency based on circumstances. You’re not likely to inspire a revelation. Still, such conversations can play a role in a future decision to enter treatment.

Why are Some Supervisors Resistant to Using the EAP?

Q. The EAP has been a wonderful service for our organization. Many employees have been helped, and it is a great resource for our supervisors. I’ve noticed not all supervisors use the EAP equally. Other than simply lack of training, why might some be resistant?

A. Although EAPs help both employees and supervisors, and protect the organization by reducing behavioral risk, some supervisors may feel that the EAP takes away something that has given their job meaning: counseling or at least advising employees about personal problems, in addition to using persuasion to inspire changes. Some supervisors possess a style that includes being a confidant, a friend, and a wise advice giver. Some supervisors are more empathetic than others and are more interested in the human experience. This is positive, but their identity may be too closely connected to how others look up to them beyond pure performance and leadership matters. The desire to play a larger role in employees’ lives can conflict with the role of supervisor and the critical link needed in facilitating referral to the EAP for troubled workers with severe problems that the supervisor is unable to resolve or possibly even identify.

The Lone Ranger Syndrome

Q. What is the “Lone Ranger Syndrome” that is sometimes used to describe supervisors and how they conduct themselves in their role?

A. The Lone Ranger Syndrome is a construct originated 50 years ago by Arthur Purvis, an EAP author and federal employee personnel specialist. It describes supervisors who take on so much responsibility for managing workers’ performance as well as their personal problems that they begin to burn out. They may feel anger, confusion, frustration, and helplessness, and their state of overwork may lead them to ineffective management practices. When EAPs first originated in the mid-1970s, it was important to recognize this construct in order to motivate supervisors to come forward and take advantage of what the EAP could offer them in the way of relief. It’s considered a classic in EAP education and training.

February 2022

It Appears Many of My Employees are Suffering from Stress

Q. The EAP gave a presentation on stress, and a few employees who attended the presentation openly stated that they planned to go visit the EAP. It was a great presentation, but I was surprised at the number of stressed workers. Should I be concerned? Should I ask the EAP how I can help? .

A.  Interest in participating in the EAP following a stress management presentation is not necessarily because of work strain as it is typically viewed. A multitude of other personal problems that your employees may initially only label as stress in public with their peers who also attended the presentation could be the reason. Saying that one is getting help for stress is less stigmatizing than admitting one is suffering with depression, couples problems, addiction, a teenager with an eating disorder, etc. Stress management training, while helpful to employees in offering insight and techniques in managing stress, has a tremendous benefit in also helping promote the EAP. It demystifies the program and encourages employees to take the next step and feel safe in using the program to resolve personal problems. There are many ways supervisors can help alleviate stress, of course. The EAP can consult with you and offer tips on what might be helpful based on the nature and circumstances of your workgroup. . .

Dealing with a Tragic Event in the Workplace

Q. If a tragedy occurs in the workplace and employees are emotionally affected, what signs and symptoms should I look for later (following any counseling and “psychological first-aid” employees receive) so I can be supportive and encourage self-referral to the EAP?

A.  An acute stress response is normal during and immediately following a tragic and frightening event at work. The best intervention after any initial support given to employees is education about the signs and symptoms that could later constitute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Signs and symptoms of PTSD may not be easily noticed by you. They may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the event; mental or physical distress in response to trauma-related cues; efforts to avoid trauma-related situations; and an increased fight-or-flight response, especially to events that are similar to or trigger memories of the tragic event. These symptoms could produce secondary effects that you might observe, including job performance issues, attendance problems, or behavioral struggles on the job. If you observe such effects, you can then discuss your observations (not your diagnostic impressions) and suggest the EAP.

Is a Messy Desk a Sign of Bad Management?

Q. People criticize my messy desk. It’s quite a joke with the office. I don’t feel that I am bullied, and I haven’t been lectured by management or experienced any adverse actions, but am I a bad manager because my desk is messy and looks completely disorganized?

A.  The effects of a disheveled desk on productivity and the work climate are what would concern your management. Either these issues aren’t a problem or your manager has not been willing to confront you about them yet. Being disorganized is a trait commonly observed in ineffectual managers. At the very least, it does not demonstrate good role modeling. Do you forget details, lose things, show up to meeting with missing documents, or miss meetings altogether? If so, a messy desk may be a symptom of a larger problem. Meet with the EAP to discuss the disorganization, which may lead to insights as to causes and what you can do about it. The teasing and reactions you receive from others may bother you more than you are willing to admit. If so, you may find motivation at the EAP to make changes so you can benefit from a more organized workspace.

Personal Knowledge Does Not Change EAP Privacy Standards

Q. Q. I have known my employee for many years and am quite familiar with her personal problems. Does this create an exception in terms of not being given more specific information about the nature of her issues discussed at the EAP?

A.  Typically, EAPs share very little information with a signed consent to release confidential information. This protects employees from the possibility of improper and reckless disclosures of confidential information, and in turn helps underscore and ensure the confidential nature of the EAP. Information that the EAP can share with managers, with an employee’s signed release, includes acknowledgment of participation, cooperation with EAP recommendations, and accommodations for a manager to consider in supporting the employee’s functional capacity and limitations. Historically, managers don’t need any additional information to successfully manage their employees’ performance. Your employee is free to share information with you directly about treatment or medical recommendations, but it would be improper for the EAP to communicate with you about these things because there is no clinical or performance-management justification. This may be difficult to accept after having played a significant role in supporting your employee up to this point, but you can still do that by being a manager who stays focused on performance.

EAP Participation May Not be Revealed to Manager

Q. Can I phone the EAP to find out if an employee I suggested attend the program showed? More specifically, if the employee was in fact never seen, can the EAP say so?

A.  TMost EAPs will state that they can neither confirm nor deny participation in the program, and this answer is the best one to help protect employee clients and the program’s perception of confidentiality among the workforce. Whether or not the employee is an EAP attendee does not interfere with, prevent, or amend any administrative actions you need to take or consider in response to the worker’s performance, because the EAP is not a “safe harbor.” This is consistent with EAP policies. Conceivably, employees could tell you they are participating in the EAP when they are not, but you should still make decisions based on what is observable, measurable, and consistent with employees’ performance.

January 2022

Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

Q. Is it appropriate for a supervisor to raise mental health issues with employees, such as pointing out that an employee “looks stressed out”? This might prompt employees to consider using the EAP.

A.  Although it is not uncommon for a manager to use phrases such as “you look a little stressed out,” those might be misinterpreted by your employee. So, why not consider a different question with a business purpose, such as “you appear rushed and are fumbling with your work. Is there something I can do to help? Is everything all right?” This can lead the employee to mention something personal, in which case you can respond by recommending the EAP as a resource. Mental health in the workplace has received much attention in business news recently. This does not mean that supervisors should probe mental health issues or become diagnosticians. Continue to focus on performance issues that don’t resolve. You will ultimately refer employees with personal problems earlier and more often. .

How to Gain Assertiveness

Q. I have always struggled with being assertive. As a new supervisor, I can imagine some problems this might cause. Are there any problems outside my awareness that I should be careful to avoid?

A.  Supervisors who struggle with assertiveness often fear saying no. Rather than state unequivocally to their employees that something won’t happen or can’t happen, and risk disappointment or anger, they may give the impression that there is hope or that they will “look into it.” Whether it is about a pay raise or some other question, they give employees the expectation of an affirmative outcome. For the supervisor, the goal at the time is avoiding anger or conflict with workers. Their strategy is to “wait and see” with a middle-of-the-road approach. Later, when the thing hoped for does not materialize, anger and accusations of broken promises occur. Trust is lost among staff. Unassertive supervisors often know they are setting themselves up for these conflicts, but the need to avoid conflict in the moment overrides their better judgment at the time. If you struggle with this level of assertiveness, contact the EAP. .

EAP vs Peer Counseling

Q. My employee made a group of coworkers aware of communication problems she was having with her husband. One employee gave her the name and phone of a marriage counselor. I was a little uncomfortable with this process. Should I have discouraged this exchange and recommended the EAP instead?

A.  It is not unusual for employees to recommend resources to each other for dealing with problems, but the EAP would have been a better recommendation. EAPs don’t do marital counseling per se because this is treatment/therapy, but they do start with an assessment that is free and unbiased. The goal of this assessment is to determine precisely the nature of the problem the employee is experiencing. Imagine the broad spectrum of issues that might exist in any situation like this one. Is this simply about communication problems or something more? Financial problems, drug and alcohol issues or other addictions, sexual issues, depression, or even an extramarital affair might be characterized in a group setting as “communication problems.” Indeed, most therapists discover deeper and more maladaptive concerns within a couple once therapy begins. Go ahead and recommend the EAP, even now. It is possible that she did not follow through with her friend’s recommendation. Share with her the nature of what a free and professional assessment can accomplish.

The Cost of Misconduct in the Workplace

Q. Q. What are the costs of misconduct in the workplace, and what are the dominant behaviors constituting misconduct?

A.  There are many areas of misconduct, but the three that drive costs are discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying. A recent study by Vault found that the cost of workplace misconduct nationally is about $20.2 billion per year. When an employee leaves an organization because of these behaviors, the cost to hire a new worker averages $4126. And that is a low average, because this cost estimator from the Society of Human Resource Management is several years old and does not include many indirect costs. The latest report on misconduct in the workplace can be found at short form appears before you can download the 16-page document). Among the findings, of women who have experienced sexual harassment, only one in five reports it despite today’s education, policies, and legal remedies. Fear of retaliation and impact on one’s career still drive the hesitancy to report victimization.

Accepting EAP Counseling vs Alternative Source of Help

Q. Over the years, I have noticed that the most difficult and troubled employees also offer the most resistance to supervisor referral to the EAP. A few have actually agreed to go to counseling, but not to the EAP. Why is it important to not accept the employee’s alternative source of help?

A.  The EAP plays a key role in reducing risk to organizations regarding formal referrals. It is not unusual for difficult employees to resist referral and offer their own “solution” at a corrective interview. However, serious risks may continue without EAP involvement. These risks aren’t dispelled even if the employee goes to the same source of help the EAP would have recommended. Follow-up allows the EAP to gauge progress or lack thereof, identify waning motivation to continue in treatment, re-motivate the worker to cooperate with the provider’s recommendation, identify additional help, or monitor post-treatment recommendations crucial to success. Imagine an employee with an intermittent explosive disorder, who is prone to violence, agreeing to get help but not going through the EAP. Accepting help is a good thing in such a case, but the risks mentioned above certainly remain.