EAP as a Supervisory Tool

supervisors managers 01As a supervisor, you understand that many factors contribute to employee job performance. Situations may arise unexpectedly, and you need to have the tools and knowledge to deal with them quickly and effectively.

Because employee personal difficulties often create problems that affect not only the employee but also you and your company, below are some guidelines to help you manage these occurrences as smoothly as possible.

Be Prepared

Have a policy in place via your employee manual and have procedural steps outlined to facilitate solutions for performance problems. Make sure these policies are discussed at orientation for both employees and supervisors. Your advance preparation can go a long way toward staving off an even worse crisis at a crucial moment. When a performance problem arises, be sure to review your organization's policies before taking action.

supervisors managers 02Assessment

Your first focus after discovery of a problem should be on assessing the severity of the problem. Once it has been determined that the problem is manageable--without need for urgent intervention--then it is appropriate to ascertain the best time to talk to an employee about the performance problem.

In general, the best time to schedule a discussion is as soon as possible after you discover the problem. Many times an employee's behavior will change if he or she is aware of your concern, and the problem will be resolved. A problem can get worse if you wait until a scheduled job performance evaluation before discussing it with an employee. After an initial meeting with the employee, regularly scheduled reviews can be used to evaluate progress toward solving problems. Remember that if you, as a supervisor, feel that you need further guidelines and/or support prior to tackling a particularly challenging situation, EAP consultation services are available for you, as well.

Communication Tips

It is sometimes difficult for a manager to express concern about poor performance. Here are some tips on how to talk to an employee about job performance problems without dipping into anger:

  • supervisors-managers-03.pngChoose a private and comfortable setting to meet with an employee. Select a location where you will not be easily distracted or worried about someone overhearing your comments.
  • Be direct, and use specific examples of problems you have observed, such as:
    • "You've missed the staff meeting for the last two weeks."
    • "This month, three co-workers have complained to me about your tone of voice."
    • "You have used up all of your sick leave for the year in two months."

  • It is important to be clear about your expectations for improvement. For example:
    • "I don't want these problems to continue. Can you tell me some ways that you can improve your performance?"
    • "I will watch your performance and we will review your progress next week.“

supervisors managers 04Personal Problems

Remember that performance problems may be caused by personal problems on or off the job. EAP assistance is available to the employee and can often make an enormous difference in helping the employee improve his or her performance.

After consulting with EAP, you may decide to formally refer an employee to an Employee Assistance counselor. (See more information on Referring an Employee to EAP).

It is not necessary to become personally involved in employees' problems. EAP counselors are trained to deal with these problems and can refer the employee to other professionals when needed.

supervisors managers 05


Help is Available for Supervisors, Too

Don't be afraid to ask for assistance. There are several ways the EAP can help you:

  • An Employee Assistance Professional can suggest what to document so you can talk concretely and specifically to the employee about them.
  • An Employee Assistance Professional can help plan and organize your observations so you can present your concerns clearly and concisely.
  • An Employee Assistance Professional can help you recognize your feelings about an employee's problems. Sometimes that's an important step in preparing to discuss problems with a subordinate.
  • The Employee Assistance Program can help you with any personal issues that are interfering with your life or your work. Don't forget that you have the benefit as well and can call us for coaching, counseling, or work/life support (legal, financial, ID theft, mediation, and eldercare/healthcare navigation consultation).