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    My employee was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for depression. The treatment team phoned to discuss the employee’s return to work. I suppose I can do it, but would it be better for the EAP to play this role? I gave the EAP phone number to the employee, but I’m not sure there was a follow-through.

    Consult with the EAP. If the employee becomes an EAP client, the proper consent forms will be signed so limited; appropriate information can be released to you. This process will allow the EAP clinicians to discuss clinical matters with the treatment team without your involvement. Later, the EAP will monitor the employee and encourage compliance with discharge instructions for follow-up care. Reasonable workplace accommodations, if necessary, will be shared with you for your consideration. Keep in mind that supervisors are much less burdened when they rely on the EAP to manage communication issues like the one discussed here. Most importantly, recovering employees are better supported in managing their personal matters or health conditions that can impact their performance and engagement.

    I have referred many employees to the EAP over the years. I often notice that personal problem gets resolved, but performance also improves. This is expected, but it is often beyond what even I anticipated. What explains this surprising level of performance improvement after employees use the EAP?

    When employees participate in the EAP, they are not only assisted in resolving a personal problem but may also need to participate in ongoing activities or personal efforts to maintain and improve mental and physical wellness. For example, preventing a substance use disorder relapse requires a lot of self-care for the patient/employee. This may include focusing on improving one’s diet, attention to health needs, better stress management, chronic disease education, better problem-solving, psychotherapy, goal setting, work-life balance, and attending to relationship problems at home, the continuation of which would jeopardize recovery. It is sometimes said that employees who use the EAP for help with a personal problem often get “better than well.” This is because they learn the importance of taking personal responsibility and a holistic approach to maintaining and improving their well-being. This is the phenomenon you are witnessing.

    My employee has had serious attendance problems. I referred the worker to the EAP, and a release was signed. Everything is going well, I hear, but should I expect attendance problems to stop immediately, or should I give it some time?

    You should expect a complete resolution of the attendance problem the next time your employee is due to be at work, no matter how long the attendance problem has existed. Attendance problems are symptoms that stem from the problems that create them, whether it be a faulty alarm clock or a serious personal issue. Consider if the worker can’t engage in the essential functions of the job, one of which is coming to work on time, then the worker is not qualified to be in the job. So you should expect a return to the approved schedule. If the EAP informs you that the employee will miss work for specific periods of time necessary to address a concern or need associated with the resolution of the attendance problem, and this accommodation is one you can grant without undue burden on the employer, then this informed absence or lateness to work would be appropriate. Be sure to consult with your HR resource about matters like this.

    What is the underlying reason some supervisors bully employees? Is it insecurity or psychological problems? And what are the most common types of bullying behaviors exhibited by supervisors?

    Research appears to show that a supervisor’s motivation to bully is predominantly driven by the need to control subordinates and fear that they won’t successfully do it without being intimidating. Research also shows that some supervisors feel better and get an energy boost from intimidating others, but the penalties arrive shortly in the form of poor productivity, morale problems, and turnover – everything a good supervisor doesn’t want!

    Workplace behaviors indicating supervisor bullying include: 1) yelling at employees or speaking to them in a way that causes them to feel intimidated; 2) making inappropriate personal criticisms; 3) giving unreasonable deadlines and workloads; 4) showing favoritism toward only certain workers; 5) constantly criticizing and failing to notice accomplishments; 6) constantly threatening employees with disciplinary action or termination (e.g., “I’m going to write you up!”); and 7) micromanaging (needlessly nitpicking and controlling the details after delegating work).

    I referred my employee to the EAP for being quarrelsome with coworkers. I don’t know the underlying issues with this employee, but the program worked! After nine months, the EAP lets me know the employee is participating in the program. Is this necessary?

    It is likely the EAP team made a decision that feedback to you would be important to help the employee remain both focused and motivated to continue treatment or involvement in whatever help was determined necessary. The leverage of the formal referral you made, which employees always perceive to be linked to their job security (whether stated by you or not), is what created (or helped create) a sense of urgency to get help for the quarrelsome behavior. Dozens of health issues or conditions can contribute to such quarrelsome behavior at work: poor sleep, chronic pain, depressed mood, alcohol withdrawal, marital or family problems, medication reactions or misuse, and a plethora of others. Be sure to periodically notice and praise the employee’s performance and cooperation with others at work. This may be very helpful to your employee and your team! Realize that the role of a manager in influencing the employee’s productivity and wellness doesn’t end after the EAP referral. Instead, it is often the beginning.

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