As a manager or team leader, your primary role is to maintain productivity and safety within your team and the workplace. You may find it difficult to help an employee when you suspect that personal problems are impairing their job performance. Your organisation’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and service provider can be very helpful as a management tool – providing support for the troubled employee as well as being a knowledgeable and confidential source of guidance and information that can help you, as a leader, to provide encouragement and support.
“Your organisation’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and service provider can be very helpful as a management tool.”
Here are four ways to use your EAP as an employee management tool:
1. Making an informal referral to employees with personal problems
Distressing personal issues such as marital strife, domestic violence, substance abuse or financial/legal concerns can be detrimental to an employee’s performance at work. By way of an informal referral, you can recommend your organisation’s EAP to employees as a way to help them address issues early on, before they become large problems – or for support should bigger problems come to light. When you initiate an informal referral, you are suggesting or encouraging an employee to use the EAP. However, since the EAP is a confidential benefit, you will not know whether the employee has chosen to follow through and, so, should continue to monitor the employee’s performance and productivity.
…you can recommend your organisation’s EAP to employees as a way to help them address issues early on, before they become large problems
“An EAP counsellor can help you objectively evaluate the conflict within a team and identify actions to address the situation.”
2. Managing team conflict
Tensions can arise within any group of people and sometimes personality clashes can get in the way of employees getting their work done. An EAP counsellor can help you objectively evaluate the conflict within a team and identify actions to address the situation. Conflicts may surface as result of a serious underlying problem such as bullying or sexual harassment, which will need the attention of a Human Resources representative.
3. Managing performance problems
Dealing with performance problems can be one of the most common yet challenging tasks you face as a manager. At some point, managers will need to address an employee performance issue. Your EAP practitioner or service provider can help you develop a plan to deal with employee performance issues, saving you valuable time by providing solutions.
Serious job performance problems, violations of workplace policies or disruptive behaviours in the workplace may warrant a more formal type of referral to the EAP. A formal referral provides an employee the opportunity to address an issue that may be affecting work performance, while providing you the assurance that the issue is being addressed in the most appropriate manner. For you to receive updates regarding an employee’s compliance with the recommended services. the employee must sign a Release of Information form. In some cases, a formal management referral to the EAP may be mandatory and a condition of the employee’s continued employment.
4. Response to Critical Incidents
A Critical Incident is any event that occurs in the workplace, or arising out of the course of work, that has the potential to cause disruption and trauma to employees who have experienced or witnessed this event. Examples such as the death of a co-worker, serious workplace accidents, violent confrontations such as an assault or an armed hold-up, or any natural disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can be hugely disruptive to employees. EAP can help organisations and management to plan an appropriate response to such events and how to respond should a critical incident occur. Some events warrant having EAP counsellors available onsite, or virtually, to support impacted employees.
“EAP can help organisations and management to plan an appropriate response to such events and how to respond should a critical incident occur.”
EAP can help managers with staff issues that include:
- Return to work issues
- Substance misuse at work
- Employee terminations
- Suicidal employees
- Relationship challenges
- Grief over loss of a loved one
- Financial or legal problems
- Stress management
- Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD
- Workplace or domestic violence
It is important to stress the privacy of EAP
While managers can suggest and advocate the use of EAP (or even in dire situations make a formal referral to an EAP) it is essential for managers to communicate confidentiality of an employee’s dealings with an EAP. In addition, employees should understand that their interactions with these services are completely private and are not shared with any other person within the company, including the employer. By stressing the private nature of an EAP, employees are more likely to utilise these services without fear of jeopardising their job, or being subject to judgement or discrimination from their colleagues.
- Photo by Anete Lusina: https://www.pexels.com/photo/unrecognizable-woman-demonstrating-light-bulb-in-hands-4792509/