Wednesday, December 24, 2008

EAPs and the Great Uncharted Territory of Cost-Benefit

(In this post, I am going to add a bit more to my previous post in November on EAPs and management liability. I see that I missed a couple points.)

The great uncharted territory of cost-benefit for EAPs is the positive impact they have on the bottom line in helping prevent lawsuits brought against companies by their employees for employment practice missteps and wrongdoings.

Did you know that the average out-of-court settlement for wrong discharge is over $100,000? The average jury award is over $500,000, and employers lose over 60% of the time. Health care dollar saved by EAPs do not compare with the size of the awards employers face in the lawsuit arena.

Discrimination, wrongful dismissal, constructive discharge, and dozens of other employment practices violations cost American employers billions in awards. Many of these awards are secretly agreed to by undisclosed out-of-court settlements.

So risky is the employment setting that a new insurance emerged in 1991 called EPL (Employment Practices Liability) insurance. Two companies existed then. Now over 80 insurance companies offer EPL. None of these insurers are using EAPs as cost-containment products like managed care is doing for their products. And, hardly any company is considering how an EAP can help reduce this liability in general.

EAPs are frequently first to learn of an employee's intention to sue. Indeed, how often have you had an employee in your EAP office say, "I think I want to sue?" "Hey, do you think I can sue!?" or a similar statement?

As an employee assistance professional, your task is to help the employee get their needs met in more effective ways. The buzz phrase for thwarting lawsuits and handling disgruntled employees is "alternative dispute resolution." (Yes, I know this is really a term used in labor disputes, but let's broaden this term for a second --- really, to be more precise, this term describes official channels established by management to deal with disputes employees bring, which if not managed effectively, could lead to litigation. Very frequently EAPs work things out and save management and litigation dollars. I see our ability to management conflict in organizations as a form of ADL.

Does the human resource department of the organization understand your ability to align constructively with employees and help them get their needs met without turning to lawyers? The biggest weapon you offer is an empathic listening ear and the most valuable benefit you offer employers is empathy for employees and redirection to constructive help. It’s called “putting out the fire.”

This impact of empathy toward employees that EAPs provide and that cannot be provided by other individuals in the organization who are closely aligned with management (human resources, occupational health, etc.) is under-researched and under-appreciated.

The employer who understands this empathy-redirection-protection paradigm will give you more time to educate managers. They will ask the EAP to be involved in providing management consultation. And your influence will expand as an EA professional beyond the limited role many HR managers mistakenly believe you only fill now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You Gotta Get Out More

Sure, it can difficult because you are so busy, but few things will help keep your utilization up more than getting out of the office and traveling to the work sites to show your face to employees. In some organizations, factories, plants, or huge industrial work yards or similar settings, it's easier to simply go without a specific purpose. You go to the site, and with permission from a yard supervisor or other management official, walk in. Say "hello and greeting people as you go. NOTE: This strategy is very powerful and reinforcing, and will drive your utilization up faster if you go to the work site the DAY AFTER A TRAINING EVENT. The reason this is true, is because it is immediately reinforcing. You were just there. The memory of who you are is still present in the temporal lobes of these employees (to put it bluntly!) Do not be surprised if calls come to your EAP office afterwards or if employees walk up to you directly to chat about problems.

If you have a huge organization with multiple sites, consider assigning one of your EAP staff to that location for training, communication, and relationship-building.

Other work sites make it less appropriate to just show up and do a walk through. In such instances, you’ll need to consider a specific reason to show up. Perhaps your moving posters, dropping of cards someplace, or simply having a monthly meeting with the site manager on what needs might exist for the organization's work unit.

Why does this external rubbing of elbows work? Employees see you, consider their personal problem (remember 12-18% of the workforce has one right now) and think about calling. Then, some do. Visit again in three months and different employees will phone. The key low-dose frequency of contact with these potential clients.

Employees are also reminded about the company’s investment in them. This is appreciated and the reputation of the EAP as “being available” grows. Hint: 800#'s don't have legs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1991-- the Pivotal Year for EAPs that Wasn't

What were you doing in 1991 when the U.S. Congress passed the 1991 Amendment to the U.S. Civil Rights Act? If you were like me, you were oblivious to its implications for the employee assistance field, but it was earth shattering and monstrous.

The only reason the EAP field didn't feel the 9.0 quake rumble under its feet was because all of us, or nearly so, were on the wrong side of the mountain mining what little gold there is in the Managed Care industry. We were trying to understand it, team with it, fight it, and for some surrender to it. Some really famous EAPs sold themselves completely--and vanished.

Where we should have been was digging for the mother lode was on the other side of the mountain. We should have been teaming up with the Property-Casualty insurance industry. That's because the property-casualty insurance industry is not interested in keeping employees from accessing their behavioral health insurance benefits and using EAPs as gate-keeping devices to save health insurance dollars--what little there is to be saved.

These big boys want everything an EAP can throw at a company to reduce behavioral risk exposures. They want--they need the core technology. Why? They pay for the lawsuits that were made possible by the 1991 Civil Rights Act. They are the insurers for damages caused by bad employee/manager/management behavior.

Are you beginning to see the picture?

So what happened in 1991? You will answer this question for yourself in just a minute.

Let me ask: Are you aware that a corporation like Denny's, Toyota, or any business entity can be sued for unlimited punitive damages for sexual harassment and racial discrimination?
Did you know that 10 years ago the average out-of-court settlement for a wrongful discharge claim was $100,000. Even better, did you know that the average jury award for wrongful termination/discharge is $500,000?

So how expensive, or better said, how cheap is an EAP that can help prevent these payouts using its tools and resources so problems never become problems? Call it "dollars recovered from loss."

Ask yourself: How many times have you, as an employee assistance professional sat in your office and had an employee grumble, "I'm going to sue this place." If your experience has been similar to mine, you will probably say, "quite a few times." Of course, if you're a pro, your approach is to help such an employee get their needs met in more effective ways than suing the employer. Unfortunately, these vital successes probably aren't statistics in your annual reports.

The 1991 Civil Rights Act relates to behavioral risk exposures of employees and managers--ones that EAPs deal with all the time. But here is the kicker: Insurance policies were developed in 1992 to protect these companies. But who is protecting the insurers? Enter EAPs.

EAPs, with their education, intervention, assessment, proactive program development, supervisor training, and effective follow up can reduce these exposures. Are you aware of the psychomedical aspects of worker injury and recovery? I would suggest you investigate it. It is rich territory for EAP application. The goal: reducing Workers Comp payouts.

EAPs haven't seen their best days yet. They're ahead. They lie in protecting companies against financial loss associated with human behavior. But these programs can't be watered down. They need to represent the robust approach that the core technology suggests.

Head for the other side of the mountain--and bring a shovel.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cover Your W-2's and 1099s

So let's see how much of an EAP purest you are.

Depending on your orientation to employee assistance programs, it makes absolute perfect sense for the EAP cover only workers who are actually paid employees, who are full time or part time, and who receive access to the employer's benefits, especially health insurance plan.

But what about this? Should an EAP be made available to any employee who works for the organization regardless of pay status--volunteer, 1099, contract, or W-2s?

Any worker who touches the company is subject to personal problems and other forms of behavioral risk. This has nothing to do with pay status. EAPs were developed first and foremost as tools to manage trouble employee behavior, primarily substance abuse. The goal was not only to salvage employees and the proverbial secretary who costs $7000 to replace, but to protect the organization against financial loss--loss of all kinds from troubled employee behavior.

It makes sense to manage any paid worker's or unpaid worker's performance with the EAP. The rationale for doing so is based on the historical reasons EAPs emerged. I know many internal EAPs--especially older programs--that do precisely this. However, I know very few external provider EAPs that do. That's because employers don't want to pay for the extra lives and they have "met the need" by offering the EAP as a benefit only to their "insureds". They forget, or have never learned, that the EAP is a productivity tool. It is not a benefit or counseling service. It's there to protect the employer as well. Many would argue this is their first and most important purpose, and that this is perfectly consistent with the well-being of employees.

The view that an EAP is a benefit has brought us to the point where behavioral risk exposures are increasing for employers. Many don't get the number of supervisor referrals they believe they should be seeing. I have read where some HR managers are taking on the counselor role with employees. Look around the mainstream HR journals and you will find articles on the subject of "putting 'humane' back into human resources." In other words, some HR writers are calling for the HR role of pre-counseling, and then referral of employees to resources in the community. (Holy mackeral! This is what EAPs do!) This phenomenon is due to the loss of the EAP message in mainstream HR literature.

There is a need for education to help make a “cross over” to another way of thinking about EAPs, one that would renew and re-establish, what EAPs can do for organizations. We then need to market the EAP as a resource for all employees and workers, not just the "insureds". The EAP field will be better off, and so will its future. Employers may then begin to pay the necessary fees to have viable EAPs that keep their tushes out of the sling and understand why EAPs are such a good thing for them, not just their employees. Increase your EAP utilization with communication materials that actually keep the need for building utilization in mind with each article written.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

EAPs: Teach this Strategy

No EA professional that I know of has ever helped a troubled employee learn this strategy, but it will go light years in helping employees with performance problems flip overnight to become outstanding employees if they aren't impeded by a severe personal problems like alcohol or drug addiction. To purchase this fact sheet go to It's reproducible and editable, and you put your name on it, etc. Search for fact sheet E076 after November 10, 2008. That is when I will have it posted.

Understanding Completed Staff Work

Maximizing your effectiveness in providing superiors with realistic and actionable solutions to problems is one of the quickest ways to enhance your value within an organization. Understanding the principles of Completed Staff Work will help you to develop a comprehensive and systematic approach to researching, documenting, and presenting your recommendations to your superiors.

Completed Staff Work is a doctrine originally developed in the U.S. military that describes the standard of responsibility, thoroughness, detail, professionalism, and accountability required when preparing material for a superior.

According to a document prepared by the Office of the Provost Marshall General of the U.S. Army, Completed Staff Work is “the study of a problem and presentation of a solution by a staff officer in such a form that all that remains to be done on the part of the head of the staff division, or the commander, is to indicate his approval or disapproval of the completed action.” (Harari)

Principles of Completed Staff Work

Creating Completed Staff Work is as much about process as result. When you are charged with finding solutions for your superior, your job is to work without further input or advice from your superior. Although certain matters may need clarification during this process, all details necessary to researching, documenting, analyzing, and providing a solution are your responsibility.

Your research and analysis should be exhaustive, considering all possible scenarios,
alternatives, and repercussions in determining the best recommended course of action. This recommendation should include thoughtful and detailed steps for implementation, including contingencies for any foreseeable problems.

Once your research and analysis are complete, you should prepare your final recommendations to your superior in a short, concise format. Your presentation should present a clear, unmistakable conclusion that leaves no question unanswered.

Completed Staff Work requires the individual presenting the material to take a strong, clear position. Bureaucratic doublespeak and tepid conclusions are unacceptable. Your final recommendation should be one that you would be willing to stake your career upon.

Rising to the standard of Completed Staff Work requires the best that an employee has to offer. The default operating procedure in many bureaucracies is to limit personal risk, shift responsibility, and do the minimum required to “get by.”

Consistently presenting Completed Staff Work to your superiors will set you apart from peers and earn you notice as a serious and diligent professional.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Old Trick Pulls Utilization--Table Top Tents

Yes, it's simple. But, if you have a workplace with a large cafeteria, table-top tents (cardstock
paper folded in half with your EAP message on either side placed in the middle of
the table) can be effective at marketing the EAP. MS Publisher -- a common Microsoft Office software program can provide you with a quick do-it-yourself template for this marketing strategy.

Use 100# cover or card stock paper or this strategy to prevent drooping messages! It stays standing.

Consider placing five questions about your EAP that target myths and misconceptions about confidentiality, communication with management, what kind of problem EAPs tackle, and other interesting--tough but contraversial questions--on one side of the card and the answers to these questions on the other side of the card. This will stimulate conversation between employees at the table with one asking questions and the other trying to respond with the correct answer.

Everyone will be talking about the EAP by the early afternoon guaranteed.

Use questions that dispel myths and misconceptions about the EAP. Directly under the answers, consider providing additional information in smaller type that expounds on the answer given to the question on the other side of the card.

Consider these issues: Is the EAP is part of the disciplinary process? Is the EAP is therapy? Biographies about staff. Do supervisors find out what employees use the EAP? Can family members use the EAP? What confidentiality laws that govern EAP records, etc. Why EAPs formed. History of EAPs.

Don’t forget to put the phone number of the EAP on the card!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How to Get a Whopper of High EAP Utilization By Promoting Your Professional Staff

Chances are your EAP staff are a unique bunch of folks, but employees within your organization simply don’t know much about them. Of course, they may have heard a brief bio at an EAP orientation but, this alone is not enough to have a favorable impact on your EAP utilization.

Promote your staff using internal communication like your EAP newsletter or other in-house publications. If an organization that you are serving as an EAP provider has its unique internal newsletter, say at a large bank or other business, go to the public relations department and suggest that they run a series of articles that highlight your EAP staff, their background, and skills. A picture along with the bio is a plus.

Specialities such addiction intervention, mental health treatment, adolescent expertise, family counseling, or eldercare resource knowledge will draw employees who identify with those problems. “Identify” is the key word. Simply telling employees that EAPs deal with personal problems is not as effective as actually talking about the specialties of EA staff directly. You want your potential client to get closer to the EAP, and you do this by creating imagery of expertise that the client will feel attraction to using. This makes it all real. Employees don’t want to see themselves as having “personal problems.” They will however, be attracted to solutions.

They much rather stay in denial about the label, and pursue help for their pain. Don’t profile all your staff at once. This is too overwhelming, and a tactical mistake. Instead, dedicate a whole column to one staff member. Really get in there and supply some detail. Then watch how the phone rings. Two years later, do the same thing, but come at it from a different angle. This time discuss past positions prior to the EAP, hobbies, or unique interests. Make your staff real, and you will get a real return.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

EAP Marketing and Utilization: Channels of Communication

One of the secrets to promoting any product or service is becoming a pro at using multiple channels of communication for that product or service in delivering the marketing or promotional message to the customer. In this sense, I am speaking about potential EAP clients (employees or work units) within the organization that can take advantage of your services. Increasing your EAP utilization or marketing EAP services effectively requires analyzing and studying these channels of communication and keeping your eyes open for new ones as they pop up. You may spot one at any moment as it produces an EAP client. That’s a signal to grab it, stick it in your marketing basket, and add it to your marketing mix. A focused discussion with your staff can produce more through a brainstorming process, but arriving at the point where your antenna go up with "Marketing Channel, Alert! Alert!", is the place you need to eventually arrive.

If you worry about your EAP utilization, the answer to increasing it off the charts lies in examining, tracking, and exploiting these marketing channels. Putting pen to paper to identify them and work them strategically can boost your utilization rate, reduce behavioral risk exposure in the organization, and provide evidence to prospective EAP corporate customers that expertise in your craft is going to return big bucks to them in cost-benefit if they go with your proposal. It may also prevent your EAP from closing its doors or getting farmed out to an 800 number in a cubicle on the 24th floor of an office building on the other side of the country. Understanding marketing channels is not only an art, but an essential strategic undertaking in the survival and growth of your EAP.

You are already very familiar with one or two channels of communication that apply to your employee assistance program. One no-brainer is the EAP brochure distributed in strategic locations within the organization. Another channel is your health and productivity, or work-life newsletter given to employees at a frequency decent enough that you are actually remembered. And still another is making short presentations on mental health or work-life topics. There may be 20 to 30, and even more marketing channels that escape your awareness, yet each may potentially contribute to a higher EAP utilization. You should identify these channels of communication so you can work them to your advantage. If you do not make a focused effort on doing this, you can easily miss half of them.

Channels of communication reinforce each other and each contributes to increasing or maintaining your EAP's utilization. In the next few messages, I will begin discussing a few of these with the goal of helping you establish a 6th sense for spotting these gems and mining them for the benefit of your EAP, corporate customers, and most important troubled employees.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mastering EAP Word of Mouth Advertising

Nothing works like word-of-mouth advertising, and the best part is that it's free. Did you know that word-of-mouth marketing is taught to employees at Disneyworld? It's is a major marketing strategy for them. And it can be the same for your EAP. What's more, you can influence word-of-mouth advertising favorably with a conscious approach to a marketing strategy that includes it. You don't have to hope that word-of-mouth advertising works. You can know it is working. Let's talk about that.

There is a single, basic secret to stimulating a high rate of word-of-mouth advertising among employees so your EAP will be well utilized.

The key is this: Purposely, consciously, find ways to do what you do so well and so uniquely that employees cannot resist telling other employees about it. When it comes to Disneyworld, their target for what they do exceptionally well that flips people out is cleanliness and authenticity. That's what sticks in people's minds who visit Disneyworld--how clean the place is, and how real everything looks in those theme parks. When people go back home after visiting, they tell coworkers. The rest is dominos.

You will stimulate referrals if you apply the same formula to your EAP.

A quick digression: Remember, as I have said on numerous occasions, you must market confidentiality in numerous ways. Any EAP client fears a lack of confidentiailty. This "concern" will breed its own counter-measures to your confidentiality message if you do not beat it back by promoting and marketing the confidential nature of your EAP frequently. Without that, not much else will aide your word-of-mouth marketing efforts.

What will give EAP clients a "wow" experience?

Here are few suggestions: Treat employees with tremendous respect--almost as though they are your first client ever, or that they are visitors to the Ritz. Tell them how you store information they provide you and explain the confidential process of how that information is retained. Give them a cup of coffee in the waiting room. Follow-up and find out how clients are doing, and use a tickler system to do so in the future, even if their personal problem is not associated with something major like abstinence from drug use. Use your professional self to communicate a feeling of enhancement--that the client is going to be a happier person as a result of coming to the EAP and something is going to be added to their life. Certainly you believe this is the case, but communicating it in so many words or with your tone and non-verbal approach to the client gets missed. Understand that everything you do relates to word-of-mouth advertising and you may discover a new attitude about service and energy in your EAP work.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Employees Have Questions About Your EAP

Answer Key EAP Questions in Newsletters

Do you issue an EAP newsletter to the workforce that addresses productivity, work-life, and a variety of personal problems that employees and their family members face? If so, you have an excellent forum for answering common questions about the EAP that can increase your utilization and program security.

Here are a few questions I bet you have not been asked by employees, but many employees have them. It is not the common questions--it's the unusual questions--employees want to hear answers to. And your newsletter should be answering them. Not only are they more intriguing, they also inspire employees to use your program because they are memorable.

Employees will read the answers to the following questions with earnest. How many could you answer right now without thinking about it?

“Can the EAP call my friend who is depressed. I’ve asked her to contact the EAP, but I think she is too depressed to make the call?”

“If my supervisor refers me to the EAP can he or she take disciplinary action if I don’t go?”

“How confidential is the EAP, really?”

“Is the EAP ‘counseling’, ‘therapy’,‘assessment’, or all three?”

"Can my supervisor tell other supervisors, and can they in-turn tell other employees that I went to the EAP? How is that confidential? What penalties do they face for disclosing my participation?

Can I choose my own counselor? One of the EA counselors is best friends with my mother.

Do you see how these questions both help employees feel better about the EAP and increase the likelihood of the program being used? If you have your own newsletter, you can answer questions like these and many more. They are not the kind of questions that you are likely to put in a general information brochure. But inquiring employee minds want to know. And there are many more.

Consider calling such a column in your newsletter, “Employees Ask About the EAP” This type of employee education is essential. Many employees in the company or companies you serve have not had a presentation from the EAP to orient them to the program in years. Many may have been absent the day they were supposed to attend their first such presentation. Most companies will never give you a second opportunity to have an EAP orientation program for employees to answer questions about the EAP.

The questions above are just a few of the types of questions you may want to consider. You can create many more qusetions yourself based upon the experiences you have had as an EA professional with the companies you serve. Answering common employee questions will stimulate referrals and improve management’s satisfaction with your program. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Helping Disciplined Employees

Click here for New Fact Sheet for Download but read about it first.

Employers and employees equally dislike the dispensing of discipline, also referred to as adverse actions. When discipline happens, a variety of employee reactions are possible. Some employees accept discipline as a constructive experience and opportunity for change. Others react to discipline with anger, resentment, threats, and in the worst cases, violence of the worst kind.

Discipline isn't going away, no matter what kind of reaction employees have to it. Some organizations make it the last resort, but nevertheless, helping employees respond to discipline in a constructive way is a worthy, possibly life-saving endeavor.

Without a doubt, EAPs are in the best position to help employees gain the most from a disciplinary experience, both in heeding its message and gaining the most personal growth from the crisis it represents. Whether it's discovering an unresolved personal problem that contributes to problematic behavior, or reframing discipline as an opportunity for a better future going forward, managing an employee's reaction to discipline remains somewhat unexplored territory for stakeholders.

The most rudimentary steps have been recommended by some insurance companies to prevent violence following disciplinary actions. However, these ultimate payors of enormous sums resulting from violent reactions to discipline have not used EAP processes to their fullest advantage.

This is another argument for EAPs being an essential part of any organization's risk management strategy, not just a service tucked into a benefits package. The excitement lies in advocating for this increasing role for EAPs in work organizations to save lives and money. Is this the shortest distance between two points? Is an all out assault on the goal of incorporating EAPs in risk management strategies to help allay the financial risk of major insurers easier hanging fruit for us? Is it a faster walk to what we all want than searching for next rung on the "EAP ladder of acceptance" using long-term strategies like funding more research to prove our worthiness? I think free markets and market forces have faster solutions for EAPs. Practiticioners must take the lead in the field, not academics. What do you think? (Just thinking outloud here folks.)

This month's editable and reproducible fact sheet, When You've Been Disciplined at Work, is designed to add to your ability to help employees respond constructively to the disciplinary experience. It's part of the new GROUP 5 fact sheets released today at

Amend this fact sheet with your own experience. Do collaborate on its use with your HR and management partners. I am certain you will find creative ways to use it--perhaps before discipline happens--to help employees, protect organizations, and possibly save lives. New Fact Sheet for Download

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Getting Through the Door to Train Supervisors

Top management is typically stingy at giving EA professionals time to make presentations on the EAP. And if you want to come back a second time for refresher training, well, good luck. Still, you are more likely to get their attention if you offer shorter, more concise supervisor training that tackles key problems in the supervisor referral process and helps supervisors use the EAP as a management tool more effectively.

The key is to help supervisors, not put your focus on helping employees. I know, that sounds a bit out of place, but it's not. You have to play to your audience. The best way to arrange supervisor training is by sending a letter or memo to departments rather than top management.

Break the organization down and mail a memo that asks a contact person within a certain department to call you to arrange the presentation. Send the memo to the most senior manager of the unit.

Say you would like to include your presentation at the front or back and of a regular supervisor's meeting routinely held in the work unit. You aren't going to be asking for any special meeting times. In the memo, stress that you will helping managers manage stress and give them some helpful tips on how the EAP can help them.

Think about a presentation that includes any of the following:

  • Resolving Conflict Among Employees;
    Resolving Conflict Among Peers and the Boss;
    Negotiating with Others;
    Supervisor Role in Conflict;
    Supporting Troubled Employees without Overstepping Your Bounds;
    Coping with Feelings of Isolation in Supervision;
    Dealing with Discipline and Dismissal Stress;
    Conquering Self-doubt;
    Time Management,
    Getting Things Done,
    Intervening with Burnou;
    Coping Skills;
    Dealing with Change;
    Staying Positive;
    Leading in the Midst of Stress;
    Taking Charge;

Motivating Others;

(Go here to see more ideas that you can pick and choose from.)

Too many employees and managers, as you already know, think EAPs are just about counseling services or feel-good programs. They don’t understand their larger productivity purpose. (Actually, many EA professional struggle with this as well, but that's for another blog post!)

You goal is to help change that perception so they can see how the EAP can work for them. Actually, the first element of the EAP Core Technology is not about employees--it's about helping management with employee and productivity issues. (That's right!)

Call your presentation Seven Secrets of Making the EAP Work for Supervisors. Make your content focus on relieving them of stress associated with managing difficult employees. Talk about EAP Referral Myths, Misconceptions, and Missteps for Supervisors make.

Ask to come back in the future. They'll be looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Five Ways for Supervisors to Refer

There are five ways to make a supervisor referral. (Reproducible Fact Sheet V006 explains all.)

Educating supervisors about these five techniques will increase referrals to your EAP.

1) The Casual Encouraged Self-Referral. With this technique the supervisor mentions the EAP as a reminder in response to hearing about a personal problem first mentioned by the employee. No big deal, but still the supervisor plays an appropriate role. No counseling. No diagnosis. Just a mention.

2) THe Strongly Encourage Self-Referral. Here the supervisor mentions the EAP in response to an existing job performance problem hoping the employee will self-refer. No disciplinary action is used or believed necessary by the supervisor. No contact with the EAP is made prior to the corrective interview.

3) The Type 1 Supervisor Referral. The supervisor notifies or consults with the EA P first. The supervisor meets with the employee and requests performance changes. The supervisor then tells the employee that a “supervisor referral” is being made. The employee is asked if he will accept? A release is requested. Supervisor follows up. Straight forward, this referral works for most employees who are in trouble with their performance.

THE TYPE 2 SUPERVISOR REFERRAL. The supervisor consults with the EA Professional and coordinates a meeting. The supervisor meets with the employee and requests performance changes. Disciplinary action is promised if changes aren’t forthcoming. The supervisor gives the employee the name of the EA professional and an appointment time offered to the supervisor as a possible choice for the employee. The employee is not required to accept this appointment. It is only a helpful opportunity. The employee will almost always accept the prearranged appointment.

THE TYPE 3 PERFORMANCE BASED INTERVENTION: The most powerful and serious supervisor referral. It works virtually every time when done correctly. TI also call this the one minute intervention. Disciplinary action is warranted, known in advance, and administered on the spot if the employee does not accept a supervisor EAP referral presented clearly to the employee as an accommodation and alternative to disciplinary action in the event the employee believes (solely believes!) it would be helpful to address a personal problem he or she thinks is affecting job performance. It is the employee’s choice. Management is not "invested" in the decision either way. The employee is in complete control of their employment future which ends immediately (or other disciplinary action given) or he or she receives the red carpet treatment and is promised A) complete support for getting help, B) No loss of job or promotional opportunities solely for making a decision to go to the EAP; C) the disciplinary action held in abeyance pending follow through with EAP recommendations. The referral to the EAP is in lieu of termination (or other certain disciplinary action.) The employee feels pressured, but it is his or her decision entirely. There is NO other option. Either the EAP referral is accepted or warranted and justifiable disciplinary action based on the performance or behavioral incident is administered. (Termination will provide the most powerful leverage.) The agreement includes following through with EAP recommendations entirely.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Did you know that the first element of the EAP Core Technology has nothing to do with assessing or counseling troubled employees? In fact, the first element is about the EA profession's unique role in consulting with managers and supervisors. That's fitting, because EAPs were historically established to consult with managers and more specifically coach them in referring troubled employees so a consultant or counselor could assess them to determine whether the employee was alcoholic.

(DIGRESSION! Do you know who this person was--the person who first established this linkage? His name was Lewis Presnall. And he accomplished this feat at the Chino Mines of Kennecott Copper of Arizona in 1959. (Not to be confused with Kennecott Copper INSIGHT program of Salt Lake City, Utah which came years later in 1969.) Presnall has been credited by EAP historians with discovery of the mechanism and "intervention technology" for how to find more alcoholic employees by referring them for job performance problems to a person who could conduct an assessment and provide motivational counseling. Presnall is in fact the Grandfather of the EAP movement.)

The EA profession has historically put its focus on solving employee personal problems that may or may not affect job performance. Unfortunately, this message has been the only one, or the main one, for many EAPs. As a result, supervisors have failed to consider EA professionals as the most knowledgeable workplace professional for advising and consulting with them on the subject of employee supervision. Ask most supervisors ‘Who do you believe in the world of work is most able to advise you on the subject of employee motivation, morale management, performance evaluation, and behavior change? The answer most supervisors will give is human resources consultants or senior managers. No way. In reality, EA professionals are the most qualified to teach and consult on the subject of employee supervision, but few supervisors know it because this ability has not been historically marketed or advertised by EA professionals. HR managers and senior supervisors do not accumulate anywhere near the experience base that EA professionals do when it comes to the subject of ‘how to supervise.’ To increase your utilization rate, claim the high ground in your organization and say you are the expert, the one most qualified and capable of helping supervisors learn how to supervise better. Do this in phone calls, follow-up, and of course supervisors training. Your experience at dealing with trouble employees and consulting with them on difficult employee behavior has supplied you with a large base of knowledge capable of boosting your clout and prestige as a performance management consultant. It also turns EAPs back to what they were always meant to be – management tools to salvage employees and increase productivity. This will also help you lose some of that “do-gooder” tag you may have been given by some.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

EAP Professionals and Alcoholism

New EA professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, and there was a time when it absolutely unconscienable to consider hiring a person as an employee assistance professional who did not have an extensive background in alcoholism treatment or substance abuse knowledge. But there is something I have discovered that could arguably be considered worse: Employee assistance professionals experienced in alcoholism, but completely misguided by false beliefs and misconceptions about the illness based upon their personal experiences with family members or people they have known very well. I was speaking with an employee assistance professional recently who said it doesn't matter what definition of alcoholism one uses, or for that matter, one's philosophy. All that matters is that the patient get well. This is terribly misguided view of helping people manage this disease. And it serves to prevent the advancement of societies understanding of alcoholism and addictive disease. Do you agree? I would like to link you to the best article on the subject of alcoholism and what it is that I have seen in almost 15 years. It think it should be part of every EAP library. Here's the link to: What is alcoholism?Alcohol Health & Research World, Fall, 1991 by Daniel K. Flavin, Robert M. Morse

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Send Your EAP Brochures On A Tour of the Town

EAP cards and EAP brochures are essential marketing tools for EAPs. You typically give them out at employee orientations and supervisor training programs. You may display them in the hallway outside the EAP office, or in the company health clinic.

There are other places to display EAP brochures. Here are some distribution tips you may not have considered that could increase your EAP utilization. If you are an internal EAP, make sure your name is prominently displayed on the front of your brochure in the upper 40% of the front panel. (Brochures that end up inside brochure display cases can be “cut off” from the mid-point downward when inserted into display cases not made of clear plexi-glass.)

If you are an EAP provider, consider producing a separate brochure that lists the eligible companies on the back panel with a message on the front panel to attract the reader to look closer at the brochure to see if they are eligible for the services the EAP offers. If your EAP is associated with a large employer in town, put these EAP brochures in the waiting rooms of local urgent care centers and doctors offices. They’ll be happy to allow you to do so.

Next, consider distributing your EAP brochures in the lobbies of community agencies around town that provide health, mental health, and other wellness services (like recreation centers.) Unlike other product vendors, EAPs serve a special purpose and it will be a rare agency or doctors’ office that will refuse to display your brochures.

Carefully consider the content of the message in these types of brochures. They should not be the same as the brochures you distribute at training and orientations. Instead, they should be written to attract family members, with appropriate images. These family members may never step inside your company, but you can attract them as clients. The message should invite them to call the EAP to consult on personal problems, or seek additional support for the health or personal problems that brought them to the agency where they found your brochure.

With some thought, it is not difficult to think of a generic message that could apply to most settings where your brochures might end up. For example, in a family practice medical office or other general health care setting, your message might encourage the reader to call the EAP to inquire about services that include family counseling, home health care referrals, elder care assistance, help for a teenager, and similar adjunctive assistance.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Publicity Secrets for EAPs

“Hello, DesMoine Register? I am from ABC Employee Assistance Program. I am calling about the General Motors layoff announced today and its impact on employees and their families. We have an expert you can speak to on that subject, if you like.”

DesMoine Register: That's great we will send a camera crew to your location in two hours.

The story above is not real, but similar stories happen every day in communities nationwide. Learn this short presentation, keep paying attention to the news, and your EAP will end up on television or a local radio station very soon. The payoff will be communicating the EAP message to those who have never heard it--future potential EAP contracts for your EAP firm. The key phrase is “we have an expert on that subject available who you can interview.”

Do you remember the key story that emerged the day or two after the unfortunate and untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith? I do. The top story was the impact on employees at the hotel who discovered her body in the workplace! This was the MAJOR focus of the story for about 72 hours.

Later, the focus of the story shifted to the personal and flamboyant issues of Anna Nicole Smith's life. But for 72 hours, the focus was the hotel workers affected by the death of Smith, not the personal issues of the celebrity. Unfortunately, no experts on the subject of employee assistance offered their expertise that could have provided an enormous opportunity to educate the public about employee assistance programs and assist employers in making effective use of EAPs. (Actually, I have an even better question: Who was the EAP at the hotel, or to what EAP was the hotel linked? And was it a viable program or a obscure and unpromoted 800# on the back of an insurance card?)

The Anna Nicole Smith story is now past, of course. But, don't fret, another one will come along soon enough.

Side note: If you feel that such a move to gain publicity for your EAP is exploitive of tragedy, you have it exactly backwards. Enter the real world: This is an opportunity to help others, the profession, and yourself.

EAPs can benefit from understanding a few things about free publicity that will aid them in working toward a better relationship with American businesses.

1) Media outlets need experts who can comment and explain human suffering and tragedy, as well as those who can offer prescriptions and messages of hope. EAPs are about both.

2) Media outlets need experts fast. They can’t wait, but you can help them fill the need.

3) Media outlets hate going to the same people every time for the expertise. They like variety. Although I will not name them, there at least two nationally known EAP organizations with well-funded public relations efforts who end up in almost every national newspaper, personnel journal, or television show relevant to the EAP message. This isn't so bad in itself. They're smart. The problem is that fueling misinformation and misconceptions about employee assistance programs to match their model of service delivery. The media doesn't know any different.

It is an exciting and rewarding experience to reach millions of people with the proper EAP message. Here’s betting you will do it very soon.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Promote Your EAP Staff (and Use Photos!)

Finding a great excuse to promote your EAP and build top-of-mind visibility is what makes for a high utilization rate. One super way to do this is by promoting your professional staff. Most professions have a specific week or month during the year that is used to promote that profession's unique contributions to the world of work. March is the month of social work, for example. Do you have any EA professionals who are social workers on your staff? If so, profile these staff in a newsletter next month. Identify the staff member’s unique educational background and perspective, and what that professional brings to the EAP. Find out what professional groups other staff belong to and do the same thing. Promote your staff personally with their photos so employees can see who they are. You must do this to get closer to potential employee clients. Use an editable Employee Newsletter (hint, hint) to make it easy. And here is the link to a monster list of Health Observances:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gold Mining Physician Referrals to the EAP

Medical professionals, particularly occupational medicine and physicians on workers’ compensation evaluation and treatment panels are in an ideal position to refer employees to your EAP. Do you know who they are, and do you have an ongoing marketing campaign to reach them and solicit passively their referral of employees to your treatment program. Unfortunately, these physicians like other people suffer from misinformation about how to use the EAP effectively and make referrals. Research into the role of physicians unequivocally shows their effectiveness in motivating alcoholic employees to consider further diagnosis and treatment of addictive disease, reduce the consumption of alcohol, and examine drinking practices. The key is a knowledgeable doc. Consider meeting with occupational medicine physicians in the company or companies you serve, and make sure this includes private physicians in the community chosen by the workers compensation insurer who are part of its examining and treatment panel. Have CME Category 1 credit available and only let a another physician (who is a good friend of your EAP) discuss alcoholism diagnosis and referral. An ASAM doc is ideal. Every EAP should have an ASAM buddy.When injured employees show up to the medical doctor’s office, you can count on these educated doctors giving their patients a closer look. Discuss their role in identifying medical symptoms of alcoholism (or other addictions) and recommending blood work-ups for employees, when appropriate, that include liver function tests that can demonstrate pathologic organ changes due to alcohol consumption. Positive results are powerful tools in encouraging self-diagnosis of alcoholic employees, and opening the window of opportunity that can lead to accepting an EAP referral. Did you know that many late stage alcoholics worry about their liver, despite their denial? Many alcoholics will agree to a liver functions test just to get it off their mind and confirm their belief they aren’t alcoholicand tell their spouse about it. Positive values on liver function tests mean pathologic organ change. Pathologic organ change is ITSELF diagnostic for addictive disease. You don’t need anything else to corroborate the diagnosis. In my experience, those with a pain in their side are particularly curious. (When I was at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Occupational Alcoholism Program, we used strategy routinely to identify and refer alcoholic employees in annual examinations. Have fun. This is a very cool EAP utilization improvement strategy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Supervisor Improper and Reckless Disclosure

Many supervisors are not aware of the legal implications for disclosing personal and confidential information to others who do not have a right to know it. Personnel files are confidential. Medical files are confidential. And, of course EAP files are confidential. Which files are governed by the strictest confidentiality laws? You are right if you guessed EAP files. EAP files are governed by federal confidentiality laws in most cases when they manage alcohol and drug abuse related information and receive federal funding indirectly or directly. You would be surprised how many EAPs fall under this ruling. Most EAPs choose to be governed by these stricter laws or should declare that they follow these strict guidelines for managing information. A supervisor who discloses to other employees, or announces without authorization that an employee has gone to the EAP is not guilty of violating a confidentiality law, but reckless and improper discloser of personal information and violating the employee’s privacy. Of course these issues can kill your employee assistance program utilization. Supervisors who blab about employees referred to the EAP are damaging the perception of the EAP as a confidential service. And, they are holding themselves out at risk for a lawsuit for reckless and improper disclosure. Talk about these supervisor risks during supervisors training. It will help everyone -- employees, supervisors, and the EAP.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

You Don't Need to Be a Doctor

Hey, you don't need to be a doctor to help employees learn how to take care of their heart, and you don't have to be a lawyer to talk about reducing the risk of lawsuits to an organization. "I am not a doctor, but you shouldn't eat a lot of chicken skin." Is this how you tell your brother in law to lay off the excesses? No, so let's not get all panicky about talking about employment practices liability and reducing the risk of lawsuits in companies. You don't have to wheel out an employment law attorney to educate supervisors and management. You can do the research and claim the high ground on this risk and loss prevention strategy for the companies you serve. There about 40 different risk areas that can get companies sued. A quick look at will lead you to lots of sources. One of my favorite authors in this area is not an attorney at all, he is a human resources manager. Sometimes these folks know more than attorneys when it comes to employment law because they are living it on a day to day basis. My favorite author is Joseph D. Leveque, and he wrote the book The Human Resource Problem Solvers Handbook. The book is 300 pages thick, but you can get it for $1 at the link on this page.

Remind Supervisors to Keep Mum

Many supervisors are not aware of the legal implications for disclosing personal and confidential information to others who do not have a right to know it. Personnel files are confidential. Medical files are confidential. And, of course EAP files are confidential. But which of these three are the most confidential and have the biggest fines if violated?

You are right if you guessed EAP files. EAP files are governed by federal confidentiality laws when they manage alcohol and drug abuse information and especially if they receive federal funding indirectly or directly. You would be surprised how many EAPs fall under this ruling. EAPs have to use a release for each person. Personnel and medical releases can employee blanket releases for more than one person. It's prohibited with EAP records management.

Most EAPs don't promote these nuances about confidentiality, and they should because doing so will help win more clients. All EAPs should declare that they follow these stricter guidelines for managing information. A supervisor who discloses to other employees, or announces without authorization that an employee has gone to the EAP is guilty not of violating a confidentiality law, but reckless and improper discloser and violating the employee’s privacy.

The Privacy Act protects privacy rights. Personal information and medical records and EAP records are covered by . Supervisors who blab about employees referred to the EAP are damaging the perception of the EAP as a confidential service. And, they are holding themselves out at risk for a lawsuit for reckless and improper disclosure. Talk about these supervisor risks during supervisors training. You can learn about the most comprehensive supervisor training ever produced for EAPs by going here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Where Have All the EAP Posters Gone...Long Time Passing

If you put up EAP posters in office buildings and/or plant or industrial locations where employees gather, that's great. But are you keeping the garden weeded?

Chances are if you don't go visit those posters, they're getting taken down, covered up by other announcements, and at the very least are becoming invisible to potential clients who've seen them 400 times walking past them.

You have to refresh your posters. When I was Division Chief for Occupational Alcoholism Programs overseeing the U.S. Department of Agriculture EAP, I think my staff counted 47 bulletin boards at the headquarters of USDA on Independence Avenue in DC. Bulletin boards were a valuable tool for us in promoting the EAP, but we knew we didn't have a big budget to replace those posters. They were getting old, forgotten, and dog-eared. Our solution was to rotate the posters from one bulletin board to the next. Instantly we had refreshed posters.

So, if you want to keep visibility up, simply assign a number to each of the bulletin boards that you have access to, and then walk from one bulletin board to the next moving the posters at you go 1 to 2, 2 goes to 3, 3 goes to 4, etc. Do this about every four weeks. This will also get you out of the house. Here's a very cool poster I created for you. Use it in good health. It's part of the editable set of posters at (Hey...I know it will be tempting to hang it on the wall in your office, but it's for employees!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

EAPs AREN'T Wellness Programs: Don't Let'm Say So

A new study released by HR benefits research group Hewitt Associates reports that employers are failing to engage employees in Wellness Programs to any significant degree and that employees really don't want their employers involved in their personal lives telling them how to manage their health. You can read about the research study here at the Hewitt Associates Press Release. Ouch for Wellness. What are the implications for managing EAPs and behavioral risk, which of course have nothing to do with this report. Just that: Don't let management pull the EAP into the vortex of program cuts and lump you in with the "Wellness Program" folks down the hall. EAPs are management tools, pro-employee and pro-company management tools. They aren't part of a Wellness Program, but the folks not like to remember this are the top management decision makers who look for places to cut fat. It ain't you if your running a functional employee assistance program.

Wellness programs sound great, but when reduced to a survey of popularity, only 17% of employees say they want their employer to get involved in their personal lives.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Test Your EAP IQ: Who Should Be for EAP Services

Which of following policy statements supports the view that an EAP is a benefit to employees like any other, and which one supports the view that an EAP is a comprehensive, loss prevention and behavioral risk management tool to control costs, preserve human resources, reduce employment practices liability, and help employees be healthy, happy, and productive.

Policy Statement A: The EAP is available to all full and part-time employees as part of their benefits package offered by the company.

Policy Statement B: The EAP is available to all employees, part-time employees, their immediate family members, all employees paid as contractors, temporary employees (IRS Form 1099), and volunteers.

The limited view is Statement A. The comprehensive view is Statement B.

Statement B costs a company more, but it will protect the organization more.

Statement B will affect the bottom line more in terms of "dollars recovered from loss". The afforded protection will be unknowable because the loss events that may have occurred, won't. There is a way to identify cost-benefit however. That is to look at property casualty losses and claims from on comparable industry to the next, and over a series of years in the company that has decided to make its EAP a loss prevention program.

EAPs: Don't Get Accused of FMLA Abuse Helping the Down Trodden

In your effort to support employees and help them find relief for mental health conditions that affect them, do not fall victim to encouraging employees to seek a doctor's verification of their need to take medical leave for simply feeling "stressed out." It may not hold up under scrutiny and if you are found to have collaborated with the employee to take off work for what management may later determine as a "mental health vacation", you could regret it. Employer's will know intuitively if you are involved in this sort of thing.

The FMLA provides job protection for employees who are sick and can't work for up to twelve weeks per year, if they must care for a family member who is ill. However, have you had an employee client without any sick leave or remaining vacation leave visit your EAP office to discuss taking off work for "mental stress" while having it covered by the FMLA so the absence from work does not jeopardize the employee's employment? Feeling empathy for an employee's plight could make some fall victim of this collusion if you don't stay on your toes.

Be aware that encouraging an employee to seek a medical certification for stress and having it appear as an illness, perhaps by a licensed health practicioner certifying it when everyone knows this is not a bona fide condition, will not endear you to the employer hosting the EAP.

A quick digression and philosphical discussion: As an employee assistance professional, your customer is the employer. (Some folks hate it when I say this. They want it to be the employee.) Your service is employee assistance. The client is the employee, manager, or organization being serviced at any particular moment, but the employee is not your customer. The definition of a customer pertains tp that who purchases a commodity. EAPs exist because of their econonmic cost-benefit justification to employers and employer patronage as customers. If it was not for this purchase, EAPs would not exist. Many employee assistance professionals lose cite of this because they knowingly (or unknowingly) want to see themselves as advocates for the little guy and in their view of the world--not necessarily publicly stated--the employer is considered the power and abuser. More precisely, some EA professionals have bought into the "corporation bad" mentality.

Back to the topic: When you service an organization with an EAP, it's great to act in the "broker" role and help connect clisents to services, but be cautious to avoid the role of "employee advocate." Seek to connect employees with resources, even resources that provide employee advocacy, but don't enter this realm as an employee assistance professional to argue the employee's cause with the organization. If you were trained as human services professional, you've had this lecture in a sociology class along the way, I know, but many employee assistance professionals without formal human services professional training haven't heard this distinction before. (So I'm blogging, man!)

So, my argument is to think in terms of what is best for your client in the context of what is best for the employer, not the other way around. To do otherwise can jeopardize your job security, reputation, and the employee assistance profession in general.

A recent court ruling three weeks ago, in favor of the employer, found that the employee didn't have sufficient justification to take FMLA leave because they felt "stressed out." This case has implications for EAPs. You can read about here: Lackman v. Recovery Services of New Jersey, Inc

Friday, March 21, 2008

Let Drug Treatment Programs Boost Your EAP Utilization

Alcoholism, drug addiction, and psychiatric treatment programs always know who the employers are of their patients. It's one of questions on any intake or admission form. But I bet these treatment programs aren't calling you to let you know that an employee of yours was admitted to the treatment program, right? Why not? Do not say it is because the patient didn't want to sign a release! The reason is because the treatment program didn't ask the patient if they wanted support and help from their EAP--you. The treatment program isn't "thinking" about how you can help the patient (employee), how it can have less program stress by you assisting with follow-up, and how it can reduce recidivism while creating a win-win through collaboration. You will have to teach them. And if you do, you will raise your utilization rate with your most valuable clients -- alcohol and drug addicted employees in recovery.

Imagine that anytime an employee from one of the major companies you service with an EAP was admitted to an addiction treatment program, that the treatment program would look to see if the patient had an EAP, who the contact person for that EAP was. They would then encourage the employee to use the program and then incorporate the EAP in the discharge summary.

You would then be called and included in the important follow up information pertaining to the employee's recovery. Employee referrals to you of this nature will increase your utilization rate by becoming clients so you can do follow up. When you contact addiction treatment programs, provide them with a list of the organizations you serve. Let the treatment program know that you are willing to follow patients (employees) discharged from treatment, and assist them in remaining motivated to follow-through with their recovery programs while problem-solving workplace issues.

Addiction treatment programs are more than willing to ask patients for permission so you can be contacted. You can then involve the employee with the EAP and schedule post-discharge follow-up at the EAP office. This approach improves success rates of patients because the treatment experience becomes less isolated; the EAP is involved and a linkage to the job setting is established. In some cases, employees have been enabled for years, and return to the workplace is a complete set-up for relapse without your help. The EAP can play a mitigating role with a back-to-work conference, and other support. You can purchase for a specially designed set of "back-to-work" conference guidelines for EAPs at the web site. Find it on this page below along with other fact sheets for EAP managment.


Friday, March 14, 2008

It’s OK to Telephone the EAP

If you are an EAP with a face-to-face operation, inform employees through your communication channels, EAP orientations, and supervisor training’s, that you can help employees by telephone if they do not want to see the EA professional in person. Don't overlook this promotional strategy. Many EAPs miss a unknown percentage of potential clients because they do not specifically promote this option.

The bottom line – you don’t want to lose employees who need help, and who could improve your utilization rate just because they didn’t want to be persaonally seen. Many employees have never seen a mental health professional, let alone an EA professional. They may have no intention of doing so, and yet they still have personal problems.

You will need to give these folks plenty of permission to call you. Top managers are also skittish about visiting EA professionals. You’re likely to attract more top managers with this approach. Don’t lock yourself out of these referrals by being rigid about this additional method of helping employees. (This is NOT an endorsement for a telephone EAP model.)

Don’t think you will see fewwer employees in-person if you mention occasionally that you can still help them by phone. Just the opposite is true. Once “gun-shy” employees call, the ice is broken. You are made more familiar, and the employee is a step closer to accepting an in-person appointment.

Many of you have experienced a call from an employee, who you asked to come to the EAP office in person to better discuss a personal problem. They then agreed, but that’s because the employee got past the first mental roadblock--feeling comfortable with the person at the other end of the phone. Do not let administrative or secretarial staff manage these calls and attempt to motivate an in-person visit to the EAP by the caller. Have them referred to the EA professional to take the "sale" the rest of the way. It takes counseling skill to avoid losing some of these calls.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bullying More Harmful that Sexual Harassment says APA

MARCH 8, 2008


Workplace bullying, such as belittling comments, persistent criticism of work and withholding resources, appears to inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment, say researchers who presented their findings at a conference today.

“As sexual harassment becomes less acceptable in society, organizations may be more attuned to helping victims, who may therefore find it easier to cope,” said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the University of Manitoba.

“In contrast, non-violent forms of workplace aggression such as incivility and bullying are not illegal, leaving victims to fend for themselves.” This finding was presented at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health, co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology.

Hershcovis and co-author Julian Barling, PhD, of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that compared the consequences of employees’ experience of sexual harassment and workplace aggression.

Specifically, the authors looked at the effect on job, co-worker and supervisor satisfaction, workers’ stress, anger and anxiety levels as well as workers’ mental and physical health. Job turnover and emotional ties to the job were also compared.

The authors distinguished among different forms of workplace aggression. Incivility included rudeness and discourteous verbal and non-verbal behaviors. Bullying included persistently criticizing employees’ work; yelling; repeatedly reminding employees of mistakes; spreading gossip or lies; ignoring or excluding workers; and insulting employees’ habits, attitudes or private life. Interpersonal conflict included behaviors that involved hostility, verbal aggression and angry exchanges.

Both bullying and sexual harassment can create negative work environments and unhealthy consequences for employees, but the researchers found that workplace aggression has more severe consequences. Employees who experienced bullying, incivility or interpersonal conflict were more likely to quit their jobs, have lower well-being, be less satisfied with their jobs and have less satisfying relations with their bosses than employees who were sexually harassed, the researchers found.

Furthermore, bullied employees reported more job stress, less job commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety. No differences were found between employees experiencing either type of mistreatment on how satisfied they were with their co-workers or with their work.

“Bullying is often more subtle, and may include behaviors that do not appear obvious to others,” said Hershcovis. “For instance, how does an employee report to their boss that they have been excluded from lunch? Or that they are being ignored by a coworker? The insidious nature of these behaviors makes them difficult to deal with and sanction.”

From a total of 128 samples that were used, 46 included subjects who experienced sexual harassment, 86 experienced workplace aggression and six experienced both. Sample sizes ranged from 1,491 to 53,470 people. Participants ranged from 18 to 65 years old. The work aggression samples included both men and women.

The sexual harassment samples examined primarily women because, Hershcovis said, past research has shown that men interpret and respond differently to the behaviors that women perceive as sexual harassment.

Presentation: Comparing the Outcomes of Sexual Harassment and Workplace Aggression: A Meta-Analysis, M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Julian Barling, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada; Saturday, March 8, 8:00 – 9:30 AM, Regency Ballroom – B6 M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD can be reached by email at or by phone at (204) 474-9951

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students.

Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare. # # # Pamela Willenz Manager APA Public Affairs Office 202-336-5707

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Significant Study on Bullying in the Workplace Coming

My inside sources have asked me not to report information until Saturday March 8th, but a landmark study is due out on workplace bullying that will capture the national news. You'll get the information here first. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, March 1, 2008

More on Mandatory Referrals

Did you know that Mandatory Referrals to EAPs are illegal in Australia according to a representative from the largest EAP in Australia? I am waiting to hear back more from this person soon so I can pass along the information. It could very useful in this discussion.

Is it true that there may really be no such thing as a "mandatory referral"? They are called that, but it is often a misnomer in many cases. There is a difference between "a referral to the EAP is mandatory" and "it is mandatory to go to the EAP", correct? The former is what the these types of referrals are usually all about.

Actually, many of us believe that mandatory referrals are an unethical and problematic practice in EAP programming. Where they exist, they are often not part of EAP policy per se. Instead, they are part of the sponsoring/customer's policy on dealing with specific matters of performance and behavior. They are requirements for management and how employees will be treated in the face of egregious violations of specific work rules.

For example, a mandatory referral mean that the supervisor must prepare to terminate an employee for cause, but at the same time, offer the employee a one-time opportunity to be accommodated for the existence of a personal problem if the employee wishes to accept it. That opportunity comes in the form of a traditional, formal, supervisor referral to the EAP the acceptance of which will be the only thing that can prevent termination.

This is a win-win. The employee keeps their job for now, gets the red carpet treatment, is guaranteed that their promotional and job security will not be jeopardized simply because they go for help, and that the employee will be supported, and accommodated later as appropriate. If they don't accept this support and accomodation, the alternative is the opposite--the employee picks up their last pay check and is fired for the infraction. This is tough love. Most employees choose an EAP referral and cooperation with its recommendations. This is a compassionate move to help any employee with a serious personal problem confounded by denial.

Unfortunately these referrals are frequently not communicated much tact . They are made to sound harsh and punitive. More employees would enter treatment and be salvaged if they were. What a mandatory referrals really is--although it gets lost in the translation--is a supervisor referral in the face of termination for cause with the employee being given the opportunity to avoid termination, if he or she decides it would be a good thing to find out if a personal problem contributes performance issues. This is also called performance-based intervention.

Many EAPs reject mandatory terminology entirely. That is why I said they remain controversial in the flash <--click to see again. The flash, which is part of the EAP Refresher Training for Supervisors series #1 (there are three refresher courses) only received a two comments so far.

Personally, I think using the term mandatory referrals in promotional literature and employee orientations is very damaging to to EAPs. They are square pegs being shoved in the round holes of the core technology and EAPs should help organizations "re-word them" so DOT regulations requiring referral to the EAP for a positive drug test are upheld, but at the same time different language is employed in the process that does not undermine EAP's value and destroy the program's ability to attract employees, especially self-referrals.

Unfortunately, many EAPs unfamiliar with EAP history, and EAP theory (as I like to call it), or client self-determination principles in the helping professions, incorporate 'mandatory referrals' in their policies and procedures only because management has said "make this happen" and EAPs comply to please the customer, rather than say, "Hey, wait a minute, let's not have you shoot the EAP (and your investment in this loss prevention program) in the foot with this language." Let's re-word this to help you, the EAP, and the employee. Let's not align the EAP with language that makes this process appear punitive.

Tough love must communicated more with the love than the "tough" part. That's what makes it work. Indeed, this is why EAPs have been so successful where they have been thoughtfully established to help troubled employees.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Muddiness of Mandatory Referrals

Remember the 1970's--there was no such thing as a "mandatory referral" back then. There was only "Self" and "Supervisory" referrals. Mandatory referrals kneaded their way into the EAP field later, and they remain controversial.No doubt you've wondered whether "mandatory referrals" can damage the perception of EAPs as safe and non-disciplinary programs of attraction. Well, it depends.Mandatory referrals (often required after a positive drug test or other infraction) can work wonderfully and help your EAP, or they can reduce your EAP's utilization by damaging its perception among employees by making you appear aligned with management. There are safeguards that need to be put in place if your EAP is going to interface with mandatory supervisor referrals. They involve training managers.
I have assembled a short flash movie-link in this article that I believe explains mandatory referrals in a way that will help EAPs educate supervisors. It was produced for's Supervisor Refresher Training series. I think you will like it.
To keep mandatory referrals from damaging the EAP's reputation, help managers not stumble over the process of making these types of referrals. Include within your supervisor training an explanation of what a mandatory referral is, what it means, and how to do it correctly—not just that they exist.
Mandatory referrals are more than a “type of referral.” And here’s the part that may seem weird to understand: They have more to do with supervisors than employees. Mandatory referrals are policy directives. They do not change the voluntary nature of EAPs.
EAPs aren’t EAPs if they aren’t voluntary, right? (Say yes.) Voluntary is part of the EAP standards. So how does this little gremlin called a mandatory referral fit into the EAP picture? By the way, voluntary help is based on a bedrock principle, present in any helping profession, called “client self-determination.”
After speaking with many EA professionals and hearing their thoughts about this subject, I put together a Flash presentation included it within the Refresher Training series from
I hope you find this interesting and that you will give feedback on what you think about it. There's always room for refining it.
TURN YOUR SPEAKERS UP...Click link below to view the Flash movie:
Go here to learn more about the Supervisor Refresher Training series

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Maybe We Should Be Talking about "EAP Theory"

The EAP Core Technology describes the elements of what constitutes an effective Employee Assistance Program. EAPs have been around long enough that they have established specific ways of operating that are almost universally accepted. That's because they work. Many of these "understandings" and "ways of doing things" are not recognized absolutes, but they are almost universally practiced by EAP core technologists (EA professionals practicing within the spirit and intent of the EAP core technology.) This is an important discussion because these ways of doing things consistently make the EAP core technology practicable. Many are passed from one EA professional to the next, without any other rationale except for "this is how it's done."

This discussion of why EAPs work and how they work in concert with the core technology is really a discusson of EAP theory. For example, the idea that a trouble employee with job performance problems can't be helped by the supervisor, and cannot help him or herself (because of illness and its consequent affect on insight and the ability of the employee to self-diagnose) dictates that a supervisor referral to the EAP will work in almost every circumstance where is properly employed. But it has to be done a specific way, or it will fail in almost every instance. This specific way is not relugated to a "Theory and Operations Manual".

In this instance, the choice of accepting a supervisor referral, or accepting appropriate and legitimate disciplinary action, almost always drives the employee--no matter what level of denial--to visit the EAP with the hope of "escaping" the less preferred alternative. It is there that the EA professional will act on behalf of the employee's well-being and that of the organization. This process only works with EAPs. No other occupation within the workplace can be, or ever has been assigned this unique role. It only first emerged in the late sixties, discovered by the late occupational alcoholism pioneer Lewis Presnall. (Who also established this mechanism very successfully within the occupatonal alcoholism program at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency which had at one time one of the highest self-referral rates of occupational alcoholism I have ever observed.)

This application of leverage and use of a helping resource, combined with skills of a helping professional obligated to the employer, that also produces a motivated employee with a severe personal problem only operates within the EAP core technology. This is "EAP Theory" in practice. Consider the definition of theory from Webster's.

"THEORY" -- the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice. A particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles."

These rules and principles are found scattered throughout the EAP literature, but there is no "book" on these principles. Old timers know them by heart. If ever such a collection of principles and practices is produced, it may--may--serve the purpose of shining a brighter light on many non-effective EAP paradigms that, in part, keep EAPs from becoming a household word they should be by now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Drive EAP Utlization Up with the Smallest Things

It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to get word-of-mouth publicity and build credibility fast for your EAP is to return phone calls to potential employee clients and supervisors quickly. Instant gratification is what people want. (Yes, it’s tough, I know.) The 21st century is the era of high-level customer service, and customers have expectations that are no less for EAPs. But how do you respond quickly when you are so busy doing more with less? Here are a few ideas from EAPs in the trenches: 1) Leave appointment times in your return messages for your callers to select. It will reduce telephone tagging. They’ll call back with a chosen time. Place a star in your appointment book to indicate the times you gave out so you don’t fill them with other clients. 2) Unless it is an emergency, develop the habit of returning voicemail messages in the order that you receive them--first in, first out. Don’t mentally categorize messages into several layers of importance. You’ll reduce your stress by having stored 40 voicemails, later having to go back and search like a madman for the one you want. 3) If you promised a client to do research on some issue, like searching for a special topic 12-step group--after a day or two, call the client to update your progress. Don’t keep a client wondering, even if you have no information yet. This is tantamount to a waitress in a restaurant walking past you because they aren't ready to serve you. It's the acknowledgement you want, not the food.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The Department of Labor says the FMLA is expanded immediately (1-28-2008) as a result of President' Bush's signing of the Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4986). Specifically the FMLA will now cover eligible employees, allowing them to take job protected family medical leave due to exigencies (anything that is urgent that calls employee away from work due to the absence of another family member on military duty) or to care for a family member who was injured while serving in the military. Contact the Department of Labor. The Office of Personnel Managment is drafting the language governing the ruling as this is being posted.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

FMLA Leave for Alcoholism - When Treatment Starts

The doctor of an alcoholic employee argued that his patient was due FMLA leave from the time he took off work to phone his doctor and arrange an assessment to enter treatment. Treatment admission took a couple of days. Was he drunk or in withdrawal? It may not matter, FMLA leave was denied for any days prior to the admission date. The feds meant to say that treatment for alcoholism begins upon entry in to treatment or the day treatment begins. What was the patient's condition during those two days? How functional would he have been at work? Good questions. Will this discourage people from getting help if they wake up in the morning and can't be admitted at the time they are motivated with a hangover? The symptoms of alcoholism, and the dynamics that force a person with the disease to enter treatment are unique for this drug addiction or any other. The courts still aren't seeing alcoholism for the complex illness it is, it seems.

Read about it here!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Workers Comp for the Effects of Horrible Knowledge

Lincoln, Nebraska. A proposed new law in the State of Nebraska will allow first responders to obtain workers' compensation for posttraumatic stress resulting from their witnessing criminal acts that are so traumatizing as to create "mental effects."

Proactive EAPs in Nebraska should use this window of opportunity to discuss the helpful role they play, or could better play, in mitigating the effects of horrible knowledge by being available to employees who are affected by trauma.

This proposed law will begin a community dialog on how to help first responders. EAPs should move quickly to position themselves as best able to respond to these needs. Why? CISM requires peer debriefers of course, but mental health professionals also participate in CISDs.

Afterwards and beforehand mental health professionals play consultative roles in helping guide and support CISM programs. They know the culture wherein first responders work. And this provides an unmatched ability to help the first responder because the nuances of the organizational context are known and incorporated into the helping process.

The sooner CISM is started, the better its outcome. Emergency services can use EAPs to help employees and reduce the costs of workers comp, employee turnover, and lost time just name a few. The link below explains more:

Friday, January 18, 2008

UK Cites EAPs as a Key to Reducing Absenteeism

Wow. I must have been clairvoyant a couple days ago because the HRZONE.COM, a Web site in Great Britain, cited EAPs as a major player in reducing long-term absenteeism. I picked up the story while researching Workers' Compensation news reports.

See this link:

Print the study. It's not a bad one to have in your marketing arsenal.

I released the 2008 EAPTOOLS.COM Catalog. Did you get it? If not, send
me an e-mail at, and I'll pop one in the mail to you along with a gift certificate.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Drunk, Injured, and Fully Qualified for Workers Compensation

In many states, if you get injured on the job and your drunk or using drugs, it is assumed that your injury is a direct result of your being intoxicated or under the influence. Hence, no workers' compensation. Well, South Dakota has a whole new reason to fire up its efforts to get EAPs in every workplace.

You see, the State tried to reverse this doctrine, but the legislature didn't go for it. It said "NO!" When you're drunk on the job in South Dakota and get injured, you still get workers' compensation. Being intoxicated is not relevant, unless the employer can prove it was the direct cause of your injury. You don't have to prove that the drinking or drug use was not the cause of your injury. It's assumed. The State of South Dakota tried to reverse this rule and make injured employees prove the drug or alcohol use were not the cause their injury.

Link to the article:

It is still the burden of the employer to prove that the employee's alcohol or drug use was the cause of the accident. If they can't prove that a drunk or drugging employee's behavior caused the injury (that can be tough) then the Workers' Compensation still pays.

Ouch! So, what is the solution. The answer lies in having decent EAP services with strong core technology integration (integration in my book means integrated within the organization's system, not an EAP mixed with an insurance product) that provide tons of supervisor training and good supervisor referral procedures. Drug testing? Well, what about the alcoholic with a .00 BAL who is hungover and shaking and at greater risk in withdrawal than if was at a comfortable .15 BAL? His belligerence is the gateway to intervention, not intoxication. He won't look, act, or possibly smell intoxicated. In fact he may be the most well-liked, compentent and socially accepted employee in the company unless he's not drinking! Business and industry is still not getting the EAP message. They got the managed care message. The EAP message is still asleep. Or those in control of the EAP message are asleep at the switch. That's us. Me. You. EAPA.

Why are we still talking about these basic issues of EAP theory and the core technology? Why is South Dakota--today--not in the headlines with a massive effort to get EAPs into every business in the State? The rate of alcoholism in the workplace there is enormous because it has a high native American population with biogenetic susceptibility to addictive disease.

Stay tuned to this blog. I am going to discuss new frontiers of the core technology and unexplored galaxies of EAP opportunity. Ever here of something called EAP Behavioral Risk Mapping? Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

FREE Workplace Violence Video from Feds (Click Here)

Folks, this is great. You may have missed this FREE resource in between appointments and workplace crises. Your tax dollars are working, it's just you don't always get notified effectively. A FREE training and educational DVD is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that provides employers, employees, safety professionals, and others with information for preventing work-related homicides and assaults.

VIOLENCE ON THE JOB discusses practical measures for identifying risk factors for violence at work, and taking strategic action to keep employees safe. It is based on extensive NIOSH research, supplemented with information from other authoritative sources.

Anyone-- HR manager, EAP, or Occupational Health Professional, citizen---can download the movie in any of several different formats. You can put it on a CD or load it to your Web site, view it online, whatever. You could even email a link to supervisors and employees throughout the company.

"The DVD format offers exciting new capabilities as an engaging, interactive, and effective tool for safety and health education in the workplace," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "We are confident that this new DVD will help meet an ongoing demand by businesses and employees for information they can use to keep their workplaces safe from acts of violence."

Included in the new DVD are:
A 21-minute training and education program designed to engage a wide variety of workplace audiences.

A bonus video on a program in New York State for preventing workplace violence in state drug treatment facilities. The case study includes discussions by a labor representative and a management representative who were instrumental in developing and implementing the program.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) guidelines for preventing workplace violence in health care workplaces, late-night retail settings, and taxicab services.

Access to additional materials and resources on preventing workplace violence. Here is where to get. (Click the title of this post to reach the NIOSH page.)

Here is where to get it the video. If you can't see the link below, click the title of this post. It's a live link to the video page at NIOSH.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

DUI Clients = More Alcoholic EAP Clients

Employees of your company, or the companies you serve may get arrested for drunk driving. How many do you find out about? And how can these employees become clients of the EAP, thereby boosting EAP utilization with every EAP's most valuable client--an alcoholic in recovery?

This year, establish a relationship with your local Alcohol Safety Action Program affiliated with the court. Build a relationship and encourage them to contact you directly when an employee of a company you serve is arrested for DUI. Let them know what companies you serve. You can use the referrals, manage treatment, and these folks will love you for it because they are always swamped. Being swamped and under-staffed means alcohol troubled DUI clients fall through the cracks. If they work for a company you serve behavioral risk continues.

Some ASAP offices will accept the EAP's assessment, recommendations, and with the client's permission, allow the EAP to do the follow-up. Most employees will readily accept a referral to the EAP when the ASAP counselor says, "By the way, we know you have an EAP with your company. The EA professional is so-and-so. We would like you to take advantage of the EAP's services. It's confidential."

The chances are that employees arrested for DUI are alcoholics. (Like you needed to hear that one.) This means your addiction utilization will go up. There is nothing more valuable to EAPs longevity and survival than helping alcoholic employees. Most EAPs don't see as many as they used to, and it is frustrating. As you know, ASAP clients don't usually end up in treatment. Education, yes. Treatment, no. Many get missed, or there is little incentive to deal with the full problem. That changes when you come into the picture.

If these DUI arrested employees do enter treatment through ASAP, it is usually a half-measured attempt that includes no follow-up worth a hoot, failed antabuse use, and the effectiveness of many treatment programs is poor without good follow up. Relapse is virtually certain. Alcoholics, and addicts are the most costly employees on a company’s payroll. So be a hero and start getting these referrals. I've done it. It works.

Call your ASAP office today. Meet to set up a cooperative relationship with staff, and test this utilization improvement strategy.