Created: 4/1/1993

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Employee Assistance Program

People are our most important asset. The phrase hasliche, but only because It's truth ensures its frequentperhaps too frequentrepetition. Managing people is often satisfying, but rarely simple. Keeping your employees informed, motivated, focused and productonstant challenge. In good circumstances the challenge can be exat and exhilirating. In bad drcumstances,eem like an insurmountable task.

Few circumstances can be ashose createdroubled employee. When an employee's personal problems make it difficult for him or her to function productively, the entire Office is affected including his or her co-workers and me unifs mission. And you, charged with keeping up morale and productivity while managing wisely and well,isproportionate share of the load.

Even the best employees occasionally have problems or golump wr their work just isn't up to Its usual standa

ough situation. That's why the Agency created an Employee Assistance Program located in the Office of Medicai Services. The EAP provides professional help to employees and to the supervisors who refer them to EAP because of performance problems. This guidehat help is available, how and whenAP. and what you can expect from it. Identifying the problem and making the decision to uso an Agency resource is up you. Making the resource work wellnd your employees is our concern.

If the situation pc-rs-.sts. your responsibilityupervisor is to call attention to it. Your employee's responsibility is to remedy it. When the problems are minor, thafsll that's required to right the situation.

But thereariety ot serious personal problems that make it difficultorried and preoccupied employee to focus enough to perform well. These problems include family disruptions, emotional problems, financial worries, and substance abuse. Helping employees with those problems is why EAP was created.

EAP's staff of clinical social workers, psychologists, substance abuse counselors, and financial counselors provides professional assistance to both supervisors and employees. The EAP staff helps supervisors by assessing whether the employee's performance deficiencies are rooted in personal difficulties, and the staff helps employees with those problems to deal with them.

EAP services are available to employees who often self-refer to the program, to family members, and to supervisors who refer employees to EAP. Management referrals to EAP by supervisors are based on problematic performance which has been previously identified to the employee but which has remained unacceptable. There's another way. short ofeferral, that supervisors can use EAP. By making your employees aware of the program's existence and encouraging them to self-refer for personal, job. and/or family problems, you may prevent the developmentull-scale problem fornd for you.

The critical question inanagement referral is when to do it. An EAP referral isirst step in dealing with performance problems. It'serthe normal supervisory counseling process hasn't worked that you shouldeferral to EAP. When the performance issues that you've discussed with the employee haven't

improved at all. or as is more often the case, when the performance has improvedhor time and then reverted back to an unacceptable level,ime to refer. EAP was designed toery specific category of performance problems: Briose that persist or recur intermittently and which are not remedied by normal supervisory counselling sessions.

When performance problems become the rule rather than theeferral to EAP can provide the professional help you need toritical distinction: either to rule out personal problems as the explanatio for performance difficulties, or toroubled employee the help he or she needs. The course ot action outlined below should help you reach that point. While this plan works best in most cases, there willituations where the need for immediate help makes preparation Impossible. EAP is available to help in any circumstance.


rivate record of the performance problems, including dates, specifics of each deficiency, and your directions to the employee about needed improvement.


Documented deficiencies must be discusse with the employee. To emphasize the seriousness of Ihe issue as well as the planne nature of the intervention and its folidwup. make an appointment with the employee. Rather than an impromptu discussion of "impressions" or "feelings" that the employee', work is somehowour planned meeting shouldactual description of specific performance issues based on the documentation you have gathered. The absence of specific and factual data is unfair t. the employee and may be self-damaging.


You must be as specific about the solution as you are about the problem. What must the employee do to bnng his/her performance up to an acceptable level and by when must he/she have demonstrated the improvement? Be prepared to discuss specifics of performance andeadline for the improvement to be apparent. Without concrete standardsimetable, the employee is left without recourse. Conclude your interview by setting an appointment for the next discussion in which you'll assess progress. The employee must know that just as the initial discussionlanned event, so is the foltowup.


Before your scheduled follow-up. decide rf you're satisfied with the improvement. If you are. congratulations! tf you re not. this is tho time to consult with EAP. The contact should take place prior to your next scheduled appointment with the employee. You can alert EAP that you'll beeferral, and provide some specifics of the caso. It's Important that EAP is aware of an impending referral to ensure that the referring supervisor gets the necessary feeback. The initial conversation isood opportunity to get some case-specific advice about making the actualhich is the next step.

ood supervisor. Stay focused on your professional responsibilities. EAP will focus on its role.

EXPLAIN EMPLOYEE OPTIONS Referrals to EAP are NOT adverse actions. Employees should know that. They should also understand that the decision to consult with EAP is their's and they may choose not to do so. What if an employee says no? The supervisor may decide to give Ihepecific amount of time to reconsider the referral, or may choose to initiate an adverse action. The initial conversation with EAP may have provided another alternative specific to the case. Doing nothing is a1 ways an option, but at this juncture It would signal your approvalontinued performance level that you've already labeled as unacceptable.

UNDERSTAND YOUR OPTIONS Referring an employee to the EAP is NOT your last decision about theeferral does not preclude your taking alternative action later on, including initiating an adverse action if the referral is not solving your concerns about performance. While an EAP referral doesn't forecloso future action, it does mean that you're doing what you can to help solve the problem andogical course of administrative action by selecting the least senous option first.

Your concern about the employee is based on performance issues, ft is in the best interest of everyone concernedthe employee, the Agency and yourselfthat you remain clear on your role in the process:upervisor. Be one. Your responsibility is not to diagnose the employee's problem or to solve it. Stay focused on performance deficiencies both as the cause for the EAP referral and as the indicator you'll continue watching. Be clear with the employee that the "problem" for which he/she is being referred to EAP Is his/her performance. Let the omployoo know that EAP is expecting him/her. and that he/she will be asked toonsent form thatow the EAP counselor to provide you with very general feedback about his/her willingness to work with EAP. The single best gu defcne to follow throughout the process S.


When you've kept your focus consistently whereelongson the employees performanceyou'll be able to complete the loop by continuing to monitor the performance. Daily contact and observation will help you to assess the employee's progress, and to provide relevant feedback to the EAP counselor. If the performance continues to improve with lime, Ihe procoss has worked. If it doesn't, you've doas your best to help, have used the right Agency resources and are free to pursue othor actions.

It's up to Ihe employee to Wtow-up on your relerral to EAP. You should emphasize the employee's right to make that decision when you first make the relerral. The employee should also understand that his/her refusal means that you will pursue alternate adminsistrative actions, including adverse actions. If an employee refuses an EAP referral and you arelternative actions, that is the rightjjme to contact. Office of Personnel's

Personal information such as that regarding mantai or family issues, will not be discussed with the supervisor without the employee's written consent. However, it the employee acts on the management referral, but refuses to grve the EAP counselor such wntten consent, the EAP counselor will be able to release work-related Informationrognosis for performance improvement) lo the supervisor. Continued supervisory involvement is encouraged, tf tho employee's performance improves rapidly, all is well. If it takes kx>geras it often doesthe supervisor's involvement and cooperation is necessary so that alternative actions can bo


part of their job is knowing Agency resources and exercising good judgment about how and when to use them.

Often, supervisors aro concerned about relinquishing controlesponsibility they rightfully see as belonging to them. Referring an employee to EAP does NOT end your involvement with the case or your responsibilityupervisor. The ultimate goal of an EAP referral is to correct performance deficiencies. Your continuing involvement is critical to monitor and evaluate the employee's performance.

Because supervisors are so concerned about the harm an EAP referral may cause an employee, they often overlook the harm that not referring causes. In trying to "protect* employees, supervisors sometimes become overly and inappropriately involved with an employee's personal problems. When that happens, no one benefits. EAP is staffed with objective, trained professionals. When supervisors try to become professional counselors lo their employees, they areole they are not trained tor and depriving their employees of the professional help they deserve. Meanwhile, supervisors become diverted from their primary responsibility.

The effectiveness of the EAP depends on how much it Is trusted by employees and supervisors alike. Because the confidentiality between The employee and counselor must be maintained, you may never know the exact nature of the underlying personal problem(s) and you won't bo aware of specific details, unless the employee chooses to let you know. EAP records are confidential under tho provisions of the Privacy Act. They do not become part ol an employee's security or personnel file.

umber of concerns about referring an employee to EAP. Supervisors worry lhal an EAP referralegative .udgment about an employee, even trcgh their judgment ts about performance and is required ol them. They're often afraid of hurting an employee, even though an EAP relerral may be the only chance an employee has of gerang the help ihey need. Supervisors frequently feel thatroblem means they're not doing their |ob. evenig

Whal can you expect? If you've alerted the EAP before reforring an employee and the

referred employeeRelease of Information" form, you'llollow-up call from EAP immediately alter the first visit. The EAP counselor will provide answers to generic questions.

he employee keep Ihe appointments)?

Will additional sessions be necessary?

Is Ihe employee cooperating?

Will ihe employee be out of the office to keep appointments, see an outside source of help, or receive other helath services?

Whai are the prospects for improvement?

If the employee continues lo see an EAP counselor, you'll receive periodic reports. You should also expect to be asked by the counselor about the kind of progress/improvement you observe in the employee. Supervisors, by virtue of their daily contact with employees, are in the best position to evaluate the kind of slow and steady progress that are the hoped-for outcome of any EAP referral. Remember that the information exchangewo-way street with both counselor and supervisor working together and sharing information to achieve the same goal: improved performance.

Employees must be able to trust EAP to keep their personal problems personal. Supervisors must be able to trust EAP to provide Ihem with the information they need to do their job.

sense of how the case is going. Then give yourselfand your employeethat much time before considering alternative action.

The EAP hasart of the Agency lorecade. Thousands of people have been helped and careers salvaged. But outcomes aren't always positive.eferral doesn't result in improved performanceeasonable amount of time, you'll know two things as you prepare to fake other administrative action: Organizationally, you chose the least serious option first and you may now proceed to the next level. Personally, you tried to get someone assistance in solving their personal and performance problems.

More frequently, it does work out. Supervisors who have been involved in positive EAP interventions often consider that experience among the most satisfying of their careers, both personally and professionally.

Call EAP on I

We hope (his guide proves useful. Call EAPsooner rather than laterto discuss any case that may be causing you concern. You needn't identify the employeeor even yourselfuntil you're certain about your course of action. The EAP staff can help you think about the case, consider your alternatives and weigh the pros and cons ofuccessful outcome is most likely when the supervisor and counselor work togetherutual goal:ood employee to full productivity.

or,ecure line.

serious enough to affect performance usually take some time to develop. They generally can't be solved overnight.

Decide, alter some consultation with the EAP counselor, when you'lleliable

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