Thursday, January 14, 2016

You're Nothing Without Confidentiality

As an EA professional, do you acknowledge clients in the hallway when they say hello? What about public settings like groceries stores? If a client approaches you in the hallway, do you fail to minimize the amount of time engaging with him or her? Do you accept invitations to Christmas parties? Are you an assistant Scout Master with the local Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troop that happens to be the same troop where an employee (not a client) in your organization also volunteers? Would you attend the wedding of an EAP client--you know, the one you helped get sober three years ago who is now an outstanding worker and is so grateful for you "single-handily" saving his life?" There is nothing inherently wrong with engaging clients in the community, but this activity--the appearance, no matter how slight, of having a different kind of relationship with one employee over another can destroy your EAP's confidentiality in a flash, demotivate and cause would-be clients to stay away, and increase risk to your organization because these same employees might also be the most at-risk. There are only three types of employees in the entire world of work on planet earth--supervisors, employees, and employee assistance professionals. This metaphor exaggerates the point I am trying to make here. You can't afford to look and be more friendly or emotionally close with clients or potential clients in your organization. And every employee is a potential client. Doing so creates a dual-relationship that undermines your appearance of neutrality-a source of confidential help. This happens because it instantly appears that you a have closer non-professional relationship with some over others. This makes you suspect as to being unable to keep a secret to some employees who have different or no relationship with those same employees. The thought will cross an employee's mind, "Can you be trusted?" Being friends or having informal social engagements with clients, employees, or supervisors is a recipe for frightening away potential clients and undermining your program. If employee X does not trust employee Y, but you appear to be friends with employee Y, what happens? Answer: X stays away from the EAP. The dominoes fall from there.

#eap employee assistance program