Wednesday, December 12, 2018

EAPs Helping Customer Service Employees Deal with Angry and Hostile Interactions on the Job

Few events cause employees more distress and contribute to more fantasies about quitting
Customer arguing. EAP training can help employees
than frequently encountering irate customers in a job. 

Does the company EAP have a role in reaching out, helping these workers, and in effect, claiming the high ground associated with this area of behavioral risk and exposure that can affect a company's bottom line? 

I say yes. And it fits the EAP core technology perfectly.

Violence in the workplace, verbal assault, morale issues, turnover costs, team degradation, employee-victims blowing off work the next day and calling in sick (aka "taking mental health days"), physical illness, and lower productivity -- all of these metrics can be adversely affected by a poorly managed "customer aggression intervention education program" in the workplace.

Never heard of such a program? You have now. I think you should consider starting one.
This is fertile ground for EAP work. There is plenty of research on the impact of aggressive customers and the consequences of their behavior on employee wellness. But there are few programmatic intervention approaches run by those with behavioral health knowledge and experience.

Frankly, hopes of the employee self-referring to the EAP are not really going to cut it as the only way to deal with customer service stress. A more proactive approach is needed.

I am developing a tip sheet on this topic and will make it available to you soon, but at least for now, let's discuss some of the ways employees can cope with this common workplace issue of customer service stress vis-a-vis the angry customer, and bit about the EAP role.

Customers Can Turn on Employees

Customers can turn on employees, dehumanize them, and treat them with hostility because they represent the organization to which their fury is targeted. An employee representative is the company or business. Without customers seeing employees in this fashion, they can't act out successfully. This gives a strong clue to intervention - humanness. [Suggested EAP Resource for customer service 1 of 3 ]

A recent study released this past summer found that consumer bargain hunters, for example, treat store clerks "as less than human." It's almost as though they go into "a zone" that turns employees into objects. Here's the study.

You can assume there are customer service employees who, after dealing with an irate customers, desire nothing more than to drive home, jump back into bed and hide under the covers. These workers are your target audience for offering additional support from the EAP.

Add value to your EAP by developing referral funnels that spot these workers, discover their needs, and turn them into thankful clients. This is truly "value-added" EAP at its finest.

Help employees discover the tricks of the trade for dealing with angry customers. Here are a couple ways to counsel these employees so they develop more resilience and are able to help themselves face hostile customers.

Listen first, speak later

employee listening to customer with empathy to reduce stress
Help employees understand that the initial burst of anger from customers will almost always be the most intense. From there, things are going to go downhill (in a positive sense.)

This is a powerful awareness, and like the other tips that follow in this post, helping employees "reframe" their experience is critical in order to help workers feel more empowered.

Because it’s so stressful for the person on the receiving end of the hostility, many flustered employees mistakenly try to end confrontations a bit too quickly in order to ease their own discomfort associated with the behavior of the customer. This is a tactical mistake. But, of course it is understandable. [Suggested EAP Resource for customer service 2 of 3 ]

Ironically, quick intervention leads to escalation of the angry and hostile customer reactions. The missing link? It's empathy. Coaching employees to resist the urge interrupt, argue, or engage in problem solving immediately is key to helping reduce customer agitation.

Remember those counseling interview courses or social work interviewing courses you took in school? You undoubtedly learned about the levels of empathetic response that professional counselors use to help clients feel heard. This is an excellent model of communication that customer service employees can also learn. And you can teach it to them.

Learning the levels of empathetic response will be fun learning and it will also be appreciated as a way of helping employees remain calm and keep their cool when customer aggression ramps up and the pressure is on.

You want to help employees develop better reflexes and actually relax in the face of customer agitation. Teach them to slow down their breathing and listen intently without fear -- help employees become fearless customer service honey badgers as they maintain eye contact with their customers.

Apologize and Empathize

Employees should learn that the angry customer eventually runs out of steam and pauses to collect his or her thoughts. When this happens, you've got them -- right there, take the opportunity to apologize. This is the employee's  "in."

Apology is an art, and it is well worth learning. So, the EAP should do a couple presentations or role plays. Not difficult, but important.

Apologies can reduce the customer service employee's stress, as well as the customers'. Help employees learn the art of an effective apology because it goes right to the heart of what has upset the customer.

For example, a customer who is displeased about an undisclosed $10 service charge is more likely to be angry about feeling deceived than about the fee itself. Help employees understand that this is the crucial link to address. Addressing this anger specifically and empathizing with it will be powerful. [Suggested EAP Resource for customer service 3 of 3 ]

Remember above when I discussed the "levels of empathy" that you may have learned in professional counseling courses in college? Draw on this material. It is a good place to practice these skills. Here are the levels in response to the above. You may have to create your own examples, but follow this model below and you will do great.

Issue: "Customer is angry and shocked at a $10 service charge."

Empathy 1: "Don't blame me."

Empathy 2: "I can't do anything about it."
Empathy 3: "Sorry you are just finding out about this." 
Empathy 4: "Your reaction to this charge justified."
Empathy 5: "I must feel blindsided and taken advantage of by this."

As you can see, the above can create a lot of discussion in a seminar setting with customer service employees, but who better to help them deal with stress, understand empathy, gain resilience, have a bit of fun, and experiment with empathetic responses and customer than you as the EAP?

A mistake but often seen as an easy out for customer service employees that actually makes problems worse is resisting the anger and blame. Employees often attempt to shift or pass the buck to others in the organization so one does not feel targeted. In your customer’s eyes, you are the company, so don’t take anything that’s said to you personally. (Admittedly, this is easier said than accepted at an emotional level, but with practice and tools, it eventually becomes part of the employees "tool box."

Reflection and Clarifying

More customer service training for employees that you can consider is helping them understand is how to immediately, after apologizing, repeat the customer’s complaint to him or her.

This reflection and clarification assures the customer that the employee is concerned about the problem and will help the customer avoid further misunderstanding that may incite anger again. This is the part of the proof that things are going to get better.

Maintain a calm, positive tone
Employees have tremendous influence over their customer’s emotional state. This is the key point in any seminar to assist them in stress management. For example, something like lowering the voice and speaking slowly and calmly in a pleasant manner relaxes and disarms most angry customers.

Taking immediate action

The longer customers wait, the more they seethe. It is a simple strategy to make the unhappy customer the employee's top priority. This is in fact, the first rule to reduce one's personal stress. Avoid delay and denial. Help employees understand that the goal is ultimately to have the customer see the customer service employee as not just an employee, but an advocate. Without this goal in mind, the default position is "opponent." Once empathy is shown, a quick pivot to a discussion resolution the customer is looking for is the correct path.

When an employee can't find an immediate answer or solution, then what? The best answer is usually taking charge, promising to follow up later. Take down the customer's contact information and outline the corrective steps one is going to take. This part is critical in order be believed. The employee risks escalation without this "part B" to the follow up promise. Include the names of everyone who will be involved in the solution.

Example: “I’m going to send this purchase order to Sarah, our inventory manager. She’ll order the correct part for you. It should be here on Tuesday. She’ll call you at the number you provided”

“If you have any problems, please contact me immediately and I’ll help you resolve it. Here is my card.”

One of the biggest drivers of customer anger is feeling like they’re getting the runaround. Taking these steps assures your customer that:

  • She is valued.
  • You have a plan.
  • She won’t be abandoned.
  • You will be accountable and available for follow up.

Follow up

Don’t write them off! An angry customer is not necessarily a former customer.

A follow up phone call or message a few days following the resolution of a complaint sends the message that the customer service worker cares about delivering satisfaction. Most customers just want to feel valued. Small considerations build loyalty.

Employees who are customer service workers can’t please everyone, but they can improve and enhance company’s image and responsiveness in every dispute. The more they practice these above techniques, the more success they will have in calming customers and winning them over. And of course, less stress is the big payoff.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Download Reproducible Holiday Stress Tip Sheet

Download Reproducible Holiday Stress Tip Sheet: Free holiday stress tip sheet and reproducible handout for workplace wellness, free to distribute, editable, web usable.

Holiday stress and family conflicts are a common concern among employees. They can add to the difficulty of the season. We we decided to create this reproducible and editable tip sheet for workplace wellness.
Holiday Stress Free Tip Sheet to Reproduce and Distribute
We think it hits all the right spots, including thinking ahead and preparing a personal care plan; understanding and responding to triggers; letting go of resentments; practicing mindfulness; having a "go-to-friend" for support if needed; recognizing that no one is alone with this problem or issue; focusing on the fun and valuing loved ones. We also included a special section on the political divide we all only know too well!

Click here to download JUST THE PDF or go here to download 

This workplace wellness tip sheet is yours to copy and distribute without attribution, but if you put it on a Web site, please place a "back-link" someplace on your Web site--even in the farthest corner--where it is viewable by search engines --  [ ]. This will cause search engines to rank us higher and it helps us create more free tip sheets for you!

Other key links to explore . . .

1. See the Online Catalog--flip the pages!

2. Download the PDF catalog - it takes 20 seconds

3. Shorty Catalog, like #2 above, but on two sheets

4. Download everything you ever wanted to know about our "flagship" product FrontLine Employee Editable Wellness Newsletter-- here.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Women in the Workplace 2018 PDF (Download)

There's a lot of critical information in this new report on women in the workplace.

Despite the push to grow more diverse and inclusive workplaces, African American women in top management are still quite rare.

And there are more findings in this report critical to workforce management.

The new 2018 Women in the Workplace Study is a document you should read for three important reasons:

1) awareness for the problem of barriers to gender diversity that still exist;
2) the reliability of the information found in the document that discusses many aspects of modern day institutional discrimination; and
3) ideas about how you can make a difference in your role no matter what it might be.
The study was conducted by the prestigious accounting firm of McKinsey and Company.

Women in the Workplace 2018 PDF (Download)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Download a New Reproducible Wellness Tip Sheet

Download a New Reproducible Wellness Tip Sheet

Loneliness is become a national health problem, but if you are a professional counselor or EAP, you are on the front lines in making a impact on this killer health condition.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Download a New EAP Workplace Wellness Resource and Health Tip Sheet: "Overcoming Loneliness"

Download, reproduce, and distribute this new workplace wellness tip sheet from on "Overcoming Loneliness."

If you get FrontLine Employee, you saw the article on loneliness that we authored for the June 2018 issue. This tip sheet gives the rest of the story and offers more direction for employees.

You will make a big impact, help your program's visibility, increase referrals, and demonstrate value with resources --especially tip sheets and newsletters: Keep people thinking about what you offer with our help. We are now in our 25th year.

Follow this this link to learn more and download the tip sheet.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Try this Stress Management Training Technique: Forward Thinking to More Awesome Moments

Cold and rainy. Nope, doesn't get any worse. If only there was a way to change our attitude
stress management training in PowerPoint and other formats
in a second because coffee barely scratches the surface. A book should be written about stressmanagement techniques and tips for Monday mornings, but it doesn't exist yet, how about this idea.

Remember the relief and positive feelings you experienced during the week just before you went on your last vacation? No matter how stressful it was, you found an oasis in your mind when you thought about what was coming soon. Read more... 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

​Effective Workplace Communication that Reduces Coworker Conflict: Stop Reading Minds and Start Checking In: - WorkExcel

​Effective Workplace Communication that Reduces Coworker Conflict: Stop Reading Minds and Start Checking In: - WorkExcel

Is your coworker driving you nuts? If so, you may be making it worse by suspecting ulterior motives and hidden meanings in what they do or say. Does this experience sound familiar? If it does, know that you’re not paranoid. This hyper-vigilance is explained by nothing more than stress and the “fight or flight” syndrome all of us experience when we feel threatened. Gaining control or at least having awareness over this phenomenon is in part, key to overcoming workplace conflicts. 
As natural as your response is to your work nemesis, hyper-vigilance can get out of control and create a lot of . . .
read more.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Premarital Counseling and Marriage Counseling Outreach for Employee Assistance Programs

With half of all marriages ending in divorce (remember when it was a third?), premarital
employee assistance program counseling topics on marriage
counseling is not such a bad idea. It takes a brave couple to explore key issues that can affect the long-term outcome of their relationship. Learning to address these issues head-on could make the difference between whether a couple celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary or ends up in divorce court.

The most effective premarital counseling includes an honest evaluation of compatibility around six issues that can throw a marriage overboard. They include: 1) communication; 2) religious orientation and beliefs; 3) in-law relationships; 4) affection and sexuality needs; 5) money management; and 6) children and child-rearing philosophies. Exploring these issues can help couples pinpoint trouble spots in their relationship.

If you are an employee assistance professional, be sure to perform a brief assessment on these six areas of trouble that many couples wrestle over. To reach out, you may want to have employee explore the video program you can upload to your internal EAP server that discusses marital counseling in general. It is a highly motivational piece, and your employees will not forget the lessons it teaches. Read more . . .

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

De-escalation of Tension and the Prevention of Workplace Violence for Employee and Supervisors

Workplace violence happens for many reasons. Are there intervention strategies that can be used to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence? The answer is yes. This PowerPoint product (which is editable, with sound or available as a Web course, DVD, or MP4 video) may help you complete or add to the continuum of education efforts you want to consider in having a better more complete violence prevention program.

You can find this product at the following link. You may add your logo, add slides, delete slides, shorten, amend, or place program resource information on it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Free Newsletter Article: Fatigue Fighting Food Facts for Employees


TITLE: Fatigue Fighting Food Facts

BODY: There is a lot to know about food and its relationship to the prevention of fatigue. Because chronic fatigue illnesses are common, nutrition research is plentiful. Here are a few key tips if you are looking to fight the “three o’clock energy droop”: 1) Try vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for adrenal gland functioning. Under stress, these glands emit hormones that fight fatigue. Try supplements and natural foods. 2) Drink more water. Fatigue can be an early symptom of dehydration. Drink water periodically during the day, even if you aren’t thirsty. 3) Go easy on the coffee in the morning. It can reduce your desire to eat breakfast. By lunchtime, it could be 18 hours or more since your last meal — definitely an energy zapper. You need most of your calories during the day when you are most active. Appetite suppression can also contribute to overeating at dinner. 4) Snacking in the afternoon is good, but think fruits, vegetables, low-sodium juices, and foods with whole grains. Source: Eat to Beat Fatigue by Joan Slage Blake, M.S., R.D. (

To get 24 more articles go to

Friday, August 17, 2018

Respect in the Workplace Training: What About Non-Verbal Behaviors

Respect in the Workplace: Exhibit appropriate nonverbal cues 

Sometimes what you don’t say conveys more than what you do say. A single gesture or
image of making a newsletter with frontline employee
Try our editable, reproducible, EAP Newsletter
facial expression sow seeds of doubt and distrust.

People will more readily believe what they see you do than what they hear you say.

Adopt a listening posture that communicates your openness and curiosity. Keep your hands at your sides, rather than rubbing your scalp or eyes.

Avoid resting your head in your hands or folding your arms across your chest like a drill sergeant. 

Don’t doodle, twist a rubber band or glance repeatedly at your computer screen while someone is talking to you.

Maintain a neutral facial expression, especially if you disagree. Beware of letting your negative emotions (such as anger, dismay or fear) dictate your nonverbal conduct. You may alienate people just by glaring at them or with a dismissive wave of your hand.

The proper nonverbal response to a speaker can enhance your ability to build rapport. Signal your interest with friendly eye contact, nods of understanding and genuine looks of concern or surprise. Speakers confide more frequently in listeners who seem actively engaged in the conversation.  

Here's a tip. Ask a trusted friend to observe you for a week and keep a record of your body language. Then ask for a report. Having a supportive ally give you feedback on your mannerisms and expressions can increase your awareness of both appropriate and inappropriate nonverbal cues. 

So, if you’re impatient, you may keep bobbing your head up and down while someone speaks. Don’t overdo it. Research shows that most people will interpret your first two or three head nods as genuine. After that, your nodding can appear phony and make others feel patronized.  

Question? If you disagree, you should shake your head while the person talks to show that you object. Nope. Many speakers dislike addressing someone who’s shaking their head back and forth.

It’s distracting and polarizing. A better approach is to keep still while you listen. When it’s your turn to respond, you can politely raise your concern.]  can send a loud and clear message.

That’s why even if you speak respectfully, your sloppy or hostile body language can work against you. Saying, “I think you’re making a good point” while rolling your eyes and shaking your head in disapproval will 

Experience this 35 Minute Respect in the Workplace Training Program. You may want it for your workplace.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Motivating Employees Starts with the Supervisor and the Relationship

Productivity is everything to a business. You can't remain
a supervisor and employee in a relationship
productive unless your employees are motivated. If you are a supervisor, chances are you have not had a formal course in how to motivate employees, so let's discuss your role in the process and how you can be more influential in motivating your employees.

It’s been said that motivating a large group of employees can be like herding a group of cats. Each one is an individual, and therefore you must look at employee motivation in much the same way.

Motivating the employees you supervise starts with getting to know them as individuals. There are no parlor tricks in motivating employees. You conjure up magical and inspirational speeches that will cause them to be motivate. The problem of motivation goes much deeper, and for each of your employees it is a different formula for what does the trick.

Building a relationship with the employees you supervisors does not mean that you probe them for personal information and get involved in their personal business. However, it does mean you speak with them regularly, engage in real small talk and discuss what they do an their goals.

It means spending time with them individually, getting to know them at work, and discovering their likes and dislikes in the general course of a workplace relationship.

Once you begin to "profile" your employees in this positive way, you will learn what "turns them on" and you will think about how to develop resources or opportunities that motivate them to achieve more on the job.

Through this process, your employees will perceive that you care about them. You won't have to worry about whether they are thinking positive thoughts about you. They will. Your goal is to create an atmosphere where motivation flourishes.

Eventually you will get a strong feel for the ways each of your employees can be motivated, and you can plan opportunities and rewards that fit these unique aspects of their motivational profile and personality makeup.

To help supervisors and increase your EAP utilization 20% guaranteed and it's free to do it... fax this form to  843-884-0442 AND MARK ON IT "FREE TRIAL ONLY" -- you will not get a bill or a phone call, etc. If you are a new subscriber...and wish to pay now, we will give you 18 months instead of 12...(Sorry, new subs only.)  FRONTLINE SUPERVISOR EAP NEWSLETTER

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Show You’re Confident (An EAP Office Counseling Tip to Help Employees)

Confidence is the belief in oneself or one’s abilities. We don’t always feel confident in what
Image of person being confident in a speech
we are facing, but there is a way to feel and appear confident in job interviews, oral presentations, sales pitches—almost any personal challenge.

The secret is taking the focus off your awareness of feeling deficient or lacking in ability and shifting it to the people or situation in front of you.

How? Ask yourself questions that cause you to shift your focus: Think “What does this person need?” or “What are these people’s needs?” or “How can I discover what’s important to them?” or “What do we have in common?” or “What is the mood of my interviewer or audience?”

Any question that helps you empathize and reach out to discover more about what you’re facing will change your behavior--you will shift use of your brain from right brain to left—the more analytical side—reducing fear and altering the way you appear, speak, and project confidence to those in front of you.

Did you like this “EAP Office Counseling Tip?” Look for more tips by following on LinkedIn. Share with new staff. Coming soon . . . "Follow Up Tip for Supervisors After EAP Referral" (Feel free to copy the above, use, and share.) Follow me on LinkedIn to also see more tips at

Monday, March 19, 2018

EAPs: Education Employees and Help Workers Build Family Resilience

Topic for a Brown Bag:

Personal resilience means the ability to bounce back from adversity
—tough times and tough events. We know this means for individuals, but the concept also applies to families. Families can be resilient too, and they can become more resilient to weather stressful events.

Seek to build resilience within your family and you can weather tough times and improve your chances of thriving despite it all. If you answer no to the following questions, consider how you can build these traits, each one of which reinforces the other. (1) Do individual family members feel confident in their abilities to cope with change? (2) Do family members not shy away from hard work? (3) Do family members demonstrate the ability to cooperate with one another, despite the minor squabbles most families experience? (4) When wronged, do family members forgive each other? (5) When stressful events happen, does your family adapt? (6) Do family members nurture one another? (7) Do family members stick up for one another other? (8) Are family members open and honest with one another other? (9) Does the family interact and build relationships within its community?

We often address topics similar to this one in Frontline Employee..Get a subscription for your EAP and increase your utilization, value of your program, and offer your organizations reduced risk, and better integration....all of which can keep your program thriving instead surviving.

Family resilience has earned its own place in the Wikipedia. I bet you did not know that. So important is this topic that it is examined in many respects. See it here:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

[Valentines Day News] Helping Employees and Their Relationships

suppose this research below on predicting fidelity (or infidelity) in
relationships is appropriate for Valentine's Day. I saw it in my news
feed this morning. But does have some workplace implications for
education and wellness.

Essentially, the research shows that a spouse or
partner's natural inclination to glance away faster and to subjectively
"devalue" an attractive potential sexual partner predicts higher degrees
of fidelity. The longer the look, the more likely the individual was to
participate infidelity. The shorter the look the less likely fidelity
will be a couple's issue.

Here is the research summary.

See the program: "Giving Couples Counseling a Try"

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Revisiting Depression in the Workplace and Helping Employees

All mental health professionals conduct assessments and/or treat people for depression from time to time.

Some who suffer with this illness may experience such chronic long-term sadness that they barely understand any more what it is like to feel normal.

When depressed employees find relief, it is not unlike those who are able by a medical procedure to hear or see for the first time.

You probably have employees on payroll right now who suffer with chronic depression. They function with depression, but they are not firing on all cylinders. Productivity losses for this group of employees is enormous.

Employees with depression may not look "depressed", sulk at their desk, or behave sluggishly. Still, depression is one of the most costly illnesses to employers at a whopping $75 billion in lost productivity and absenteeism alone.

Consider educating employees about depression periodically so those who suffer from it have the chance to self-diagnose, rally with motivation, seek help. This is easy to do, and the payoffs can be great.

Here's a tip: Educate employees about depression in an article, and refer to a term called "bottomless sadness" associated with depression, and normal sadness. Google this term, and wrap a 150 word article around it. Put it in your health and wellness newsletter (or wait until March when I will do it in Frontline Employee.) You will be surprised at the impact this article has employees. Some who need help right now may reach out.

Don’t do a one-shot educational presentation or brown bag on depression. Instead trickle the information out in chapters with your newsletter, fliers, or another wellness tips program. You will see people move toward getting help after awareness builds after about six messages.

Consider this reproducible and editable tip sheet called “Understanding Depression.” Or Google for one like it somewhere on the Web. There are many. But, begin educating employees about this brain disease if you have not done so in a while.

Note, the tip sheet above also is available as a
Video, Web Course, DVD, and PowerPoint. All have professional narration.