Employee Assistance Program:
A Management Guide

Contents: (Click below to jump to section)

Employee Assistance Program Policy;

Responsibility of Supervisors;

Evaluating Employee’s Performance;

Interview & Referral Process;

Do’s & Don’ts For Supervisors;

Finally

 

EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM


The Employee Assistance Program is designed to help employees whose personal problems seriously interfere with their job performance.

It does this by identifying, motivating, and referring these employees to a professional counselor in the community. Some employees ask for help themselves. They recognize that they have problems that require outside help and they are willing to request that assistance.

Other employees who could benefit from this program are identified by you in your role as supervisor. You do this by doing what you are already expected to do: supervise their job performance. Poor performance is often caused by personal problems your employees are experiencing.

These personal problems are not normally the Agency’s business. They become the Agency’s business when they interfere with job performance. When you find it necessary to discuss poor job performance with an employee, you are in the unique position of offering him/her both the help of the E.A.P. and the motivation to use the program. (back to TOP)

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SUPERVISORS


Certainly a large number of personal problems not directly connected with the job can have a negative effect on the employee’s performance. These problems can be related to alcohol, drugs, the family, marriage, health, finances, emotional difficulties and so on. In many instances employees can overcome such problems with little or no effect on their job performance. In other instances your normal supervisory practices will resolve any temporary poor performance. Some cases, however, require outside professional assistance. This is where the Employee Assistance Program comes in and where you as a supervisor have a very good professional tool to help both yourself and the employee at the same time. As a supervisor you are in the unique position to take the initiative and act before poor job performance deteriorates to unacceptable job performance and eventually to termination of the employee.

As a supervisor you are usually the one who first becomes aware of an employee’s excessive absenteeism, errors in judgment, frequent unsatisfactory work, etc. Ultimately you may have to make the painful decision to take disciplinary action in the hope of changing poor job performance to acceptable performance.

To bring about this change a confrontation is necessary which normally can make you and the employee anxious. The stress can be lessened if you are able to offer the employee the help necessary to resolve whatever is causing the poor performance. On the one hand, you are telling the employee that his/her poor performance has to change. This is necessary but hard to do. On the other hand, you are able to offer help through the E.A.P., an effective tool to help supervisors and the employee who is willing to take advantage of the program.

It is also importance to know that you are a key person, often the key person, in motivating the employee to face the harsh reality that his/her problems are serious and that something should and can be done about them. A job is important to most people. They are frequently willing to change when their job is in trouble. You are the one who connects the job performance with this change. Your responsibility is to speak only about job performance. You are not to diagnose or discuss the employee’s personal problems.

There are two key steps in utilizing the E.A.P.: The first is an adequate employee performance evaluation. The second is the interview and referral. (back to TOPback to TOP)

EVALUATING EMPLOYEE’S PERFORMANCE

The specific action to be taken by the supervisor to correct poor job performance due to personal problems doesn’t differ basically from the action to be taken to correct job performance problems caused by other factors.

Most employees show occasional signs of poor work performance. A recurring or consistent pattern of poor performance by an employee over a period of several weeks or months is a cause of concern for the supervisor.

Signs of deteriorating job performance include one or more of the following:

· Absenteeism (unexplained or unexcused)
· Unsatisfactory productivity
· Missed deadlines
· Careless or sloppy work
· Inability to get along with supervisors or fellow employees
· Tardiness in reporting to work
· Complaints from the public
· Unpredictable, inappropriate or unexplained change in behavior or appearance
· Unexplained absence from work site during normal working hours

To deal with these performance problems, the supervisor should:

1. Be sure that each of his employees is INFORMED and UNDERSTANDS CLEARLY what is expected in terms of work performance and attendance.
2. The supervisor should be alert through continuing observation to CHANGES IN WORK PATTERNS of employees under his supervision.
3. The supervisor should DOCUMENT all unacceptable behavior, attendance, and job performance that fails to meet established standards.
4. The supervisor should DETERMINE whether the poor performance is related to the job itself. The employee might need training or a change in work environment.

Two clear indications of personal problems affecting job performance are:

1. Poor performance by an employee who previously had been rated satisfactory for a period of time;
2. An employee who exhibits sporatic periods of high and low performance levels.

Once the poor job performance has been documented and it is established that training and skills are not contributing factors, the cause of the poor performance may be considered to be outside the job, i.e. a personal problem in the employee’s life over which you have no direct control. The supervisor should then proceed with the interview and referral process. (back to TOPback to TOP)


INTERVIEW AND REFERRAL PROCESS:

The Agency has adopted the following interview procedure to be carried out by supervisors. This process consists of three phases: informal communication, formal action, and disciplinary action.

PHASE ONE—INFORMAL COMMUNICATION

When the job deficiency first shows up, initiate an informal interview with the employee. Be sure to indicate that no record of this interview will go into the employee’s file if the performance shows improvement. Review the declining performance record, presenting the documentation of facts that you have to substantiate poor performance. Outline your suggestions on improving performance.

Emphasize that continued failure on the part of the employee to improve job performance within a stated period of time will necessitate further disciplinary action.

If it is felt that personal problems are a factor, tell the employee about the Employee Assistance Program, stressing the fact that it is a confidential resource. Do not attempt to diagnose or talk about personal problems. Explain the E.A.P. and urge the employee to talk with the program counselor. Make it clear that correcting the job deficiency and bringing performance up to an acceptable level is the main concern.

Suggest that if there are any doubts about the E.A.P. the employee may discuss the program with his/her employee’s representative.

Continue to observe job performance and within a reasonable period of time conduct another meeting. If the employee has corrected the deficiency and his/her performance is now satisfactory tell him/her about the specific areas where improvement has been observed. Encourage the continuation of good work performance.

If the job performance has not improved or has deteriorated further, initiate phase two.

PHASE TWO—FORMAL ACTION

Formal action is characterized by: 1) a formal meeting with the employee; 2) written documentation of the observed deficiencies and; 3) a written statement concerning the potential disciplinary action. A record of these three actions are placed in the employee’s personal file.

Interview the employee. Provide a written description of the job performance problems with accompanying examples of supportive documentation. Provide a statement of your expectations for job performance. Officially advise the employee of the disciplinary action that will be taken if improvement is not forthcoming.

Urge the employee to call the E.A.P. and make an appointment. At the employee’s request the supervisor may call the assistance counselor and arrange for an appointment.

Prepare a written summary of the interview. Include the observed deficiencies and specific activities the employee needs to improve. Note the agreed upon date for the follow-up meeting and have the employee sign the document.

Again suggest that the employee contact his/her employee’s representative if there are any questions or doubts about the E.A.P.

Continue to observe performance. Be specific in recording observations. Note, for example, not only that the employee was late or absent but also the reasons he/she gave for being absent. Do not dismiss poor work, nor neglect to comment on good work when it is apparent.

At the follow-up interview, go over all that you have observed. If the performance deficiency has been corrected, note that in writing and have the employee sign the document. Usually it is best to have one other follow-up meeting. The supervisor should make it clear that improved job performance will continue to be expected. If performance is not improved go on to phase three.

PHASE THREE—DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Disciplinary action is taken when the job performance continues to be unsatisfactory. In this step the disciplinary action that was outlined in phase two is carried out. Initial disciplinary action usually consists of a letter of reprimand, withholding the merit step, or suspension without pay. The most serious disciplinary action is of course discharge from employment.

Start the interview with the employee by reviewing the written account of the previous interviews. Go over job deficiencies that have been documented in writing. Explain the disciplinary action again and implement the necessary action.

Advise the employee in writing what will happen next if improvement in job performance does not occur. Again, strongly suggest that the employee contact the E.A.P. Underscore the fact that the program is confidential.

Prepare a written report of the interview including: 1) a description of the job deficiency; 2) what has happened to this point; 3) what must be done to make the performance satisfactory and; 4) a date for a follow-up evaluation meeting.

Have the employee sign the document.

Continue to observe work. Document any change, good or bad. Conduct a follow-up meeting on the agreed upon date. If performance had improved, note that in writing and set up an additional follow-up meeting to provide accountability and support on an as-needed basis. If the performance has not improved, document this in detail and initiate more serious disciplinary action.

REMEMBER

The Employee Assistance Program is designed to help employees with personal problems which might affect their job performance and also to help supervisors deal more effectively with such employees. The program does not prevent you as a supervisor from taking the appropriate disciplinary actions. It does allow the supervisor to make an offer of assistance in dealing with performance problems.

There is always a greater possibility of success if the employee receives the needed help in the early stages of the problem. You are therefore encouraged to make appropriate referrals to the E.A.P. as soon as possible. This will prevent further deterioration of the job performance and the employee’s problems. (back to TOPback to TOP)

DO’S AND DON’TS FOR SUPERVISORS

DO’S:

· Do make it clear that the Agency is concerned only with job performance. Unless job performance improves, the job is in jeopardy.
· Do make sure that your employee clearly understands what is expected from him/her in work performance and attendance.
· Do monitor the employee’s performance to observe any change in work or behavior patterns.
· Do document all unacceptable behavior, attendance and job performance that fails to meet established standards.
· Do intervene if the performance does not improve.
· Do explain that the E.A.P. is an employee benefit provided by the Agency. The employee must decide, however, whether or not to seek assistance.
· Do emphasize that all aspects are completely confidential.
· Do remember that some personal problems often get worse. It is better to err on the side of early intervention than to wait too long.

DON’TS:

· Don’t try to diagnose the personal problems.
· Don’t “moralize.” Restrict criticism to job performance or attendance.
· Don’t be misled by sympathy evoking tactics which may interfere with the employee getting the professional help he/she needs.
· Don’t “cover up” for an employee. Your misguided kindness can lead to a serious delay in overcoming their problem.
· Don’t be fooled by a “let me do it myself” appeal.
· Don’t dismiss previously satisfactory employees without first offering help through E.A.P. The possibility exists that the unsatisfactory performance is due to personal problems. (back to TOPback to TOP)


FINALLY…

These procedures suggested for the supervisor have several advantages: 1) they make it clear that the supervisor has no need to get overly involved in his employee’s personal problems; 2) they limit the supervisor’s disciplinary action to correcting unsatisfactory job performance, not to correcting people for having had a problem; 3) they give the supervisor specific direction on how to deal effectively with problems which may have caused him/her a great deal of difficulty in the past. Again, a supervisor need never step out of his/her role of being a supervisor. Supervisors are paid to observe job performance and, if there is a continuing problem, to correct it. This policy and procedure can be put to good use for both the employer and the employee’s mutual benefit.

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