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Blog - Page 2 of 7 - Fully Effective Employees

16
May

Combating Workplace Negativity

Businessman Looking Suspiciously Over His ShoulderNegativity is a habit. It is contagious and quite common in many workplaces and can easily become part of a company’s culture. Negativity can include gossiping, poor morale, badmouthing management or the company, lack of enthusisasm, bullying, harassment, and lack of loyalty to the employer.  Restructuring a negative workplace can take years.  Therefore, it is better to prevent negativity from occuring in the first place and when it does arise, recognize it and nip it in the bud.

According to Cheryl DeMarco http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Cheryl_DeMarco, some business consequences of workplace negativity can be:

Customer complaints

Errors and poor work quality

Increased employee turnover

Absence and tardiness

Pesonality conflicts

Poor morale

Loss of loyalty to the organization

Decreased creativity

Negativity has a tremendous impact on a company’s bottom line. It will also affect the worker, emotionally and physically and when employees work in a negative environment, it is hard not to take it home with them.

As a manager, be consciously aware of someone’s attitude when determining if you wish to hire them.  Look for hints of negativity and if you pick it up, listen to your gut and don’t hire that person.  Also, carefully listen  for negativity when requesting references.  If you have an employee who has become negative, react quickly. Meet with the employee and discuss your observations and concerns. Sometimes the reasons may be justifiied and you should acknowledge that and help find ways to resolve the cause, if possible.  Help this person take responsibility for their negativity.  Even if there are valid concerns for one’s feelings it is not appropriate to express them negatively at work. You may not be able to change someone’s point of view but you can influence behavior during work hours.  Describe exactly what you expect.  Tell the employee exactly what you have observed and how if has affected the company and co-workers.  Help the employee replace negative behaviors with more positive ones.  Negative behavior is a performance issue and it may be very approprate to refer the individual to the EAP as a management referral.  When you use the EAP as a partner with management, you can monitor an employee’s motivation to improve and their progress, while staying out of the personal issues or details.

If the behavior has been ocurring within a group of employees, it would be advisable to consult with the EAP about how to handle the situation. Depending on what is happening and the causes for the negativity, it may be appropriate to meet with the group together or to meet with individuals separately.

Unfortunately, sometimes you will have no choice but to fire a really negative person.  As a leader, you model by example and if you allow a negative or inappropriate employee to remain, it sets a bad tone.  Be the change you want to see.

For information on preventing or dealing with negativity in your workplace and how the EAP can help, contact us at 425-557-0907.

 

 

24
Mar

Coaching Your Employees

workingCoaching your employees can be a very worthwhile venture.  As company owners, managers and supervisors, we are often looking for ways to increase revenue and manage costs.  Sometimes we overlook our greatest assets- our employees.  In order to build loyalty and morale, employees must feel they are a valuable and important member of the organization in which they work.   When employees and supervisors communicate well  and work together towards the common goals of their organization, productivity and morale will improve and employees will be happier. Keeping long term, loyal employees is far more cost-effective than recruiting and retraining new employees who have replaced burnt out, unmotivated, unproductive employees.  Well coached employees are creative forces who can be counted on to provide solutions their supervisors may not have considered.  As an employer, you may want to consider training supervisors to coach their employees.

Supervisors can become good employee coaches by learning and engaging in the following:

1. Learn your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This helps the coaching relationship create positive results.

2. Identify barriers to success.  These barriers can be limitations such as a lack of resources or education, information, training, a positive attitude or more.

3. Determine what motivates your employees. There are many types of motivators and different things work for different people. Once understood, motivators become powerful tools for helping employees remain enthusiastic about learning and coping with chage. One of the the most important and overlooked motivator is good communication between the supervisor and employee.  Employees appreciate knowing what is going on in their organization and having an open door policy with their supervisors.

4.  Communicate your organization’s strategic direction and the company’s goals.  Helping employees to understand the “bigger picture” is very beneficial to the coaching process.

5.  Learn when it is appropriate to intervene with an employee when an error could create substantially negative consequences to the employee or the company as a whole. The supervisor must learn when to avoid a pattern of rescuing or jumping in too early which can undermine the employee but also when to step in.

Successful employee coaching helps employees understand goals and expectatons to that they may act instead of waiting for instruction.  Because coached employees don’t have every solution dictated to them from above, they tend to take greater ownership of their work and demonstrate greater responsibility than employees who are not coached.

Coached employees are also better prepared to maximize their potential. With that, everyone wins.

This blog article was written  from excerpts of an article written by Daniel Feerst, LiCSW,-CP   www.workexcel.net

If you would like more information about how we coach managers and supervisors, please contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

17
Mar

“Free” Employee Assistance Programs

“Free” employee assistance programs have become more and more prevalent.  EAPs are often included as part of other core services such as health insurance, disability carriers and even payroll companies. These providers and the employers and benefit brokers they market to rationalize “why not throw in a free EAP?”  However, as a consumer of employee benefits, employers must understand what they are getting.  First of all, nothing is really free- the cost of the EAP services are covered by the carrier and as a result, often the cost is embedded and passed onto the purchaser of these services. Second, do you know who your provider is and just what you are getting?

Ron Holman wrote an article titled “Free Employee Assistance Programs, You Get What You Pay For”  in the California Broker back in 2003 as free EAP’s were just emerging.  It appears as though “free” is here to stay.  However, many of these providers offer very little.  Holman wrote “When a company chooses to offer its employees a “Free” EAP, they may not be invested in who utilizes the plan since they are not paying for the EAP.  However, one very important quality of the EAP is the ability to detect any patterns within the employee population regarding drug and alcohol use, personal problems, legal or financial problems and issues with childcare and eldercare and  to identify any necessary assistance…. Because many “free EAPs” do not provide employers with utilization reports, company executives are not able to understand their employee’s needs.”

The more employees use the EAP, the more it costs the provider.  Therefore most  free EAPs are not motivated to promote and provide awareness of the program because it costs them.  As a result, some employers don’t even know the name of their EAP company and rarely use it.  Usually on site services, critical incident debriefing, management consultation and management referrals and case management are either not provided or rarely used.  All of these services are essential elements of a high quallity EAP which are also required under the “Standards and Guidelines for EAPs” according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

Employee assistance programs that are offered as stand alone services are far more beneficial to employers.  Many companies change their insurance providers frequently based on the most favorable rates they can obtain.  If the EAP is included, it too will have to change which can be confusing and may discourage use by employees.  If cases are managed for a long time then they will need to be transferred mid-stream to another provider that is unfamiliar with the case, which can be especially problematic for positive drug tests,  management referrals and complex cases.

As an employer, you should be looking for a locally based EAP provider;Business Team one that knows the treatment facilities, the community resources and the nuances of your company.  Your EAP provider should be able to assist you with the specific needs of your company and have regular contact with you.  It should be able to provide trainings, management consultation, critical incident debriefings, assist with management referrals and drug testing policies.  It should provide yearly utilization reports and assist you in promoting and increasing, rather than avoiding utilization of the program.

If you have a free EAP or one that is not meeting your needs, it may be time to evaluate what you need now.  For more information contact Fully Effective Employees at 425-557-0907.

 

 

9
Mar

EAP and HR for Small Businesses

Business HandshakeEmployee assistance services are available for small businesses through our EAP and HR Partnership Program. 

It is very difficult for small employers to obtain quality, personalized EAP services because the majority of Employee Assistance Programs cater to the larger employer.
We have developed a program to assist very small employers (10-25 employees). For one low flat rate, we will provide one (1) face to face counseling session for clients who reside within the Puget Sound, WA area.  If clients are outside our local area, we will provide a comprehensive telephone assessment with one of our in-house professionally trained EAP staff members.  We also provide unlimited management consultations, telephone counseling and support to employees and their dependents and access to our password protected website.  Our comprehensive website includes self-assessment tests, articles, resources, newsletters and much more.

The cost of this program is very minimal and can provide peace of mind to employers who have concerns about how to handle difficult employees or situations. It is always more cost effective to help current employees than to replace, recruit and retrain a new one.

If you have employees with:

  • Performance issues
  • Attitude problems
  • Absenteeism, tardiness
  • Poor moral
  • Personal problems
  • Drug or alcohol issues  and more…

We can help! The EAP can increase employee loyalty and performance.  It will improve your company’s bottom line with reduced health care costs, workers’ compensation claims and reduced absenteeism and turnover.

Because we do all the EAP work ourselves, we get to know the key players within our clients companies and we understand the company culture.  If you are a small business owner, you have may have questions about how to handle difficult employees and may need a professional to consult with about a certain employee or problematic employment situations.  We can advise you on assisting employees with personal and or performance related issues.

 If your company is too small for your own HR staff,  we can refer you to our Human Resource partner who can provide you with some of the following:

  • Creation or revision of your employee handbook
  • Assistance with forms, procedures and compliance issues. 
  • Assessment of your company’s needs
  • Assistance with recruitment, difficult terminations

If warranted, we can also refer you to employment attorneys and we will provide ongoing case management with difficult situations.

Examples if situations where we can help small business are:

1.  A long term employee died over the weekend.  Since the group of 12 co-workers had worked with this individual for many years, they were all very upset and had a tough time getting their work done.  In addition, this employee had a specialized position that no one else could do.  Our EAP provided a critical incident debriefing to the whole company to help them process their reactions and grief.  We met with the company owner to allow her to process her grief, to help her plan a memorial for the employee and to make plans to replace the position that was difficult to fill.

2. An employee tested positive for drugs after a pretty serious workplace accident.  We were able to provide an initial drug and aclohol assessment and then referred him to a treatment agency where he was able and willing to enroll in so that he could keep his job.  We assisted the employer with a return to work agreement and monitored the employee’s progress in treatment. We have been following up with him for the past year and he has remained clean and sober and is thankful that his employer offered the EAP for help.

3.  A long-term highly skilled supervisor had been accused of harassing and intimidating a subordinate.  The subordinate employee complained to management. In the course of the investigation, the employee informed management that two previous employees had left because of this supervisor. The supervisor was very hesistant to reprimand the supervisor because his position was so difficult to replace.  We consulted with management, helped them document the issues and they  referred the employee to the EAP as a management referral.  We  referred the employer to our HR partner for one on one harassment training with the supervisor and she assisted the employee and employer with a performance improvement plan.  We also provided support to the subordinate employee.

For more information about how we can help your small business, contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

6
Feb

Retirement Coaching- Is it Time to Retire?

seniors coupleRetirement coaching is an important employee benefit. Making the decision to retire can be very difficult for many employees.   Sometimes life doesn’t give us much choice about when to retire.  An injury at work or a serious illness might force some to leave work early.  While these people may not be able to perform the same job, they may need to continue to make money or keep busy.   These troubled economic times have forced many to work longer than they had planned just so they can continue to make contributions to their dwindling retirement accounts.  Others have lost considerable value in their homes or other investments and consider extending their working years, a necessity.  These workers may be just “doing time”, feeling burnt out or resentful that they cannot leave work as early as they had planned.  You may not be getting the same productivity or enthusiasm from these employees as you had in the past. 

As an employer, you  may be facing the need to downsize or encourage employees to take an early retirement. These employees may not be ready to stop working or to leave their jobs, either financially or emotionally. As an employer, how can you help them make a transition to retirement?

For a large number of employees, work is a big part of their identity. Who someone is may often be a relection of what they do. Work provides social interaction, a sense of community and creates structure and routine in our lives. Many of us have worked with those who have little else in their lives besides work. For these people, retirement can be downright scary. These individuals may be able to retire financially but not emotionally. They need to replace the function that work plays in their lives with new hobbies, interests or a different kind of work.

What happens for people when they retire before they are ready or prepared?  For men, the number one malady in retirement is depression.  When leisure activities are always available, they may be less pleasurable and most people need more in their lives to keep them happy and busy. Couples may face a difficult adjustment to spending more time together and they may not agree on how and where they want to spend their retirement years.

The people who retire “successfully” tend to share the following characteristics:

  • Being socially engaged and active in their community
  • Volunteering or assisting others
  • Participating in a new hobby, interest or activity
  • Working part time or in a new career
  • Financially prepared for retirement
  • Physically active and working on wellness

We can help you prepare your employees for retirement. We offer group sessions for small groups of employees as well as individual coaching. Our progam includes a retirement readiness assessment and then we work with clients on the areas that may need some focus.  Retirement coaching is a great return on investment. When employees can feel positive about entering the next phase of their lives, they will be more productive during their last few months or years as an employee.

For more information contact Audrey at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

22
Dec

Anger Management at Work

angermanagement2Anger is a normal human emotion.  However, when it is expressed inappropriately or when it involves threats, intimidation or acts of verbal or physical aggression, it is a significant workplace and societal issue. Often the first response an employer may take with an angry employee is to refer him or her for anger management counseling.  However, each situation should be assessed individually to determine how an employer should proceed. An employer must determine if the individual is prone to outbursts of anger at work or if, believe it or not, the person may have significant anger issues that may be protected by various laws, if the anger is caused by or related to a medical condition.

Some employees may have angry outbursts that are not directed at anyone but they are still intimidating and inappropriate. Others may be harassing or bullying co-workers. This behavior may have been occuring for a long time because co-workers are afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation.

Workplace bullying as defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute is …”repeated, health harming mistreatment of one or more persons… one or more perpetrators… in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating or work interference-sabotage- which prevents work from getting done.”  Obviously, this definition covers someone who behaves badly at work but also may describe someone with a serious psychological problem.

So, what should an employer do?

First of all, someone who has an inappropriate or unpleasant demeanor at work should be confronted as soon as possible to prevent escalation in the future.  The longer an employee is permitted to get away with negative behavior, the harder it will be to confront.  It is crucial that employers have zero tolerance policies for harassment, bullying, threats, or acts of physical or verbal aggression toward anyone at work.  Clear expectations should be given about interpersonal interactions and behavior at work. Consequences for failing to improve negative behavior should also be addressed.  If an employee makes threats of violence, these threats should always be taken seriously and investigated immediately.  It may be necessary to call law enforcement or remove the individual from the workplace until the investigation or assessment has been completed.

It is also not advisable to refer an employee for specific treatment, anger management or counseling because creating a diagnosis or the inference of one, could trigger certain issues and protections with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  According to Sara J. Fagnilli, an attorney with Walter & Haverfield LLP in Cleveland,OH,  requiring an employee to obtain counseling could be found to be equivalent to requiring a medical exam.  In order for an employer to avoid a violations of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA), it must demonstrate that such an exam (or counseling) is job related and a business necessity.

We are always available to consult with you about angry employees and to assist you with a management referral to the EAP based on performance. In certain situations, we may advise you to consult with legal counsel early in the process.

Stay tuned for our in-person harassment training in early February!

 

 

19
Nov

Decriminalization of Marijuana in WA State- Will it Affect You?

On November 6, 2012, Washington state voters passed Initiative 502 which regulates and taxes sales of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Under the soon-to-be implemented Washington state law, adults in the state may now possess up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products and 72 ounces of liquid infused marijuana products. The initiative passed with a 55 to 45 percent margin.

Because of the obvious conflict between the federal Controlled Substance Abuse Act and the new Washington and Colorado laws, we can expect more developments shortly as these newly authorized state-regulated marijuana markets begin to take shape. Although the Administration (e.g., the Attorney General, etc.) remained silent on the marijuana-legalization initiative throughout the election cycle, it has opposed legalization in the past.

A legal challenge to the Washington and Colorado laws is expected.

How does this affect employers? Neither initiative changes the ability of employers to maintain their current employment policies, nor does it prevent them from creating whatever policies they see fit. If employers do not currently allow off-site marijuana use by employees, they can continue to prohibit it. Neither requires employers to accommodate the use of marijuana by their employees.  A recent Washington State Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Teletech, clearly stated that Washington State employers didn’t even have to accommodate workers with a doctor’s authorization to use marijuana under Washington’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA).

Does this affect your current drug testing policy? No. The drug testing that your company and millions of employers around the world have been doing for decades was never based on the assumption that the user was doing something illegal under a criminal law – instead it has always been based on SAFETY and the efficiency of your workforce. No one who has failed an employment drug test has been reported to the police or charged criminally. Nothing changes after I-502 or Amendment 64 as far as workplace drug testing. You may be interested in reading this synopsis and legal review “Don’t Fear The Reefer: Legalization of Marijuana To Have Little Effect on WA Employers”

Here are some additional reasons why you should continue prohibiting the use of marijuana and continue drug testing for marijuana (THC):

1. If you are subject to the federal drug testing requirements – nothing has changed. The Dept. of Transportation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy drug testing programs still require that you prohibit the use of marijuana and continue to test for marijuana.

2. If you have or want to be eligible to receive federal contracts or grants, the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 still applies to you – and this includes most state and local government agencies, school districts, etc. This Act requires that your written policy must prohibit ALL illicit drug use as defined by the federal Controlled Substance Act. There is no exception for “medical marijuana” or any other marijuana use. The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989, declares that colleges or schools that allow illegal drugs on campus face the possibility of losing federal funding. Many different states have similar laws which will apply to you if you want to work or do business in those states.

3. Smoking pot doubles the risk of serious crashes.”Cannabis consumption – Motor Vehicle Collision Risk”

4. Because you are concerned about liability and risk management, you are probably aware of various courts and Supreme Court decisions that say an “employer can be held liable in such cases if it failed a duty to prevent foreseeable injury”.  So, since everyone knows that marijuana use can severely impair, if you allow these people to work at your company or on your job sites, expect to be held responsible for injuries, accidents, and deaths that they cause – basically it’s the same logic as to why you don’t let someone work under the influence of alcohol, even though alcohol is a legal drug.

Every employer should have a drug and alcohol policy. The responsibility to provide a safe workplace and the potential liability from negligent hiring and retention require that employers be aware of and take steps to control work-related substance abuse. The components of a drug-free workplace program, especially drug testing of employees, may raise legal issues with a risk of legal liability if conducted improperly or in violation of federal, state or local laws. Recommendations given are intended to provide reasonably accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is furnished with the understanding that we are not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

This article was written reprinted with permission by Tom Pool, Executive Director, Drug Free Business.  If you would like more information about drug testing, please contact me at audreyr@fee-eap.com

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10
May

Do Your Employees Have Financial Problems?

While there are signs the economy is improving, people continue to experience unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy and credit card debt. Many Americans live well beyond their means and survive from paycheck to paycheck.  Financial problems create stress, anxiety, relationship issues and depression. As a result, employees may have a difficult time keeping their financial problems separate from their work lives.  Stress and emotional difficulties can lead to absenteeism, accidents and performance issues which will affect an employer’s bottom line.

Although the economy has been the primary source, there are other reasons employees may be experiencing financial difficulties.

These include:

  • Gambling
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Depression
  • Poor money management
  • Divorce

The following are some signs that employees may be experiencing financial difficulties:

  • Requesting paycheck advances
  • Requesting an employer loan
  • Often volunteering to work overtime
  • Taking out 401K loans or discontinuing contributions
  • Calls to verify employment or wages by lenders
  • Garnishment of wages
  • Change in work peformance, attitude or behavior
  • Frequent phone calls
  • Overly emotional behavior

Employers can take a proactive approach to help employees with personal and financial problems by providing a good employee assistance program.  You can actively encourage the confidential use of  the program for employees and their families by distributing promotional materials, linking the EAP website to the company’s Intranet, and reminding workers about the EAP in meetings, company newsletters and emails.  Fully Effective Employees provides an optional legal and financial assistance program which allows employees the opportunity to speak with an attorney or CPA about their financial situation.  We can also arrange to have financial planners provide financial seminars at no additional cost.

If personal problems have begun to affect performance, you should refer the employee to the EAP for the performance issue and if you suspect financial issues may be the reason,  you can share that information with the EAP counselor.  Investing in your most important asset- your employees makes good business sense.

 

 

12
Apr

Ten Reasons to Have an Employee Assistance Program

Most employers retain the services of an Employee Assistance Program to help employees and their families with personal and work related problems. If employees function well at work, they contribute to the well being of an organization as a whole.  Most EAP’s help with a wide range of problems including stress, depression, anxiety, family or relationship difficulties, work issues, financial, legal, worklife, work problems and more.  An EAP can be highly effective at reducing employee problems and increasing the bottom line.  However, there are many choices in the EAP market and like all services, it is important to understand what you need and what you are receiving from your current or potential vendor. The following is a list of the top ten reasons to have an EAP:

1. Increase productivity

When employees are faced with personal problems, their concentration, focus and motivation are all negatively impacted so an EAP can help them deal with these issues which will improve productivity. An EAP reduces absenteeism, accidents and turnover, thereby making employees more productive.

2. Reduce Company Costs

Employee problems are costly.  Troubled employees take more sick days, have more accidents, and make more health insurance claims. When employees suffer emotionally, their work and productivity also suffer.  An EAP will improve work peformance and help increase the bottom line.

3. Confidentiality

When a third party company provides EAP services,  employees are more likely to seek help, when they know their employer is not privy to their confidential personal information. Employers are not put in the position of assisting employees with personal problems when they are not trained or equipped to do so. They are able to manage people but not their problems.

4. Aids in the Recruitment and Rentention of Valued Employees

An EAP is a value-added benefit for employees and their families which provides confidential access to counseling and resources they might not otherwise have. It builds morale and loyalty when employees know their employer supports their physical and emotional well being.

5. Resolution of Work Related Problems

EAP’s help employees deal with personal problems that have begun to affect work peformance which will hopefully prevent termination and get the employee back on track. The EAP can also help the employee  to develop skills to deal with work related stress and problematic work relationships.

6. Assistance in Getting the Right Help

When left to their own devices, employees may be confused or overwhelmed about how to access services, treatment or counseling in their own community or may not even know where to turn.  The EAP counselors sort out the issues and assist with appropriate referrals and resources for ongoing support and problem resolution.

7.  Management Assistance

Managers and supervisors may need help confronting and dealing with problematic employees or workplace situations. The EAP provides management training, coaching and consultation. The EAP can also assist with drug testing, harassment and potential workplace violence.

8. Drug Testing Programs

The EAP can assist employers with their drug testing programs by providing assessments, referrals, case management and assistance with Return to Work Agreements when employees test positive for drugs at work. Drug testing prevents serious accidents, injuries and fatalities and the EAP can help employees get back on track without losing their jobs.

9. Training

The EAP can provide online and onsite training to employees and supervisors on a range of topics. Training also increases awareness of the EAP. Most EAP’s also provide critical incident debriefings after a traumatic event has occured at the worksite.

10. Resourcs and Referrals

The EAP can be a wealth of information for employers, employees and their families. Not only can the EAP counselors assist with the pyschological well being of employees, they can also assist with legal issues, childcare and eldercare referrals, treatment programs, community resources, human resource assistance and much more.

For information on how Fully Effective Employees can help your company, contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

 

1
Mar

Managing the Workplace After the Death of an Employee

As a manager, one of the most difficult situations you may face in your career is managing the aftermath of the death of an employee and the multiple repercussions that may affect your work group or department. Because a critical incident of this nature may be traumatic for co-workers of the employee, it is recommended that you, or your Human Resources support person contact your Employee Assistance Program to assist you. It is helpful to schedule a debriefing session after news of the employee’s death has been received. Your EAP specialist will be available to facilitate the session once it can be arranged. Research has shown that early intervention with the affected work group, within 24 to 72 hours after the word of a death arrives, reduces the stressful impact of the news. Co-workers have the opportunity to volunteer expressions of grief and time to share thoughts in remembrance of the person. Plans for gestures of condolence to family members can be completed and satisfy the general need to do something to commemorate the loss. Effectively managing what may be an extremely emotional situation for you and your work group may mean delegating certain duties associated with the death to those who are more detached from the situation.

Because an incident of this nature can result in a traumatic stress response, it is recommended that you or Human Resources contact the EAP to facilitate a debriefing session for all affected employees within 24 to 48 hours after learning of the death. Research has found that early intervention with a work group reduces the possibility of delayed stress responses and enables the work group to return to their normal level of productivity sooner. Another benefit of the debriefing is that the organization and its management staff are viewed by employees as responsive and caring people.

Since each member of the work group may grieve the loss of their co-worker in individual ways, it makes sense to recognize that need. Provide ways for these emotions to be channeled and recognized. There is a wide range of normal and appropriate reactions to grief and loss.

When you contact the EAP, you will be asked to provide whatever relevant information is available regarding the death of the employee and your assessment of the work group’s reaction to the situation. A one to two hour debriefing session or meeting for employees should be scheduled as soon as possible. This meeting should be voluntary; interested employees are encouraged to attend. Individuals may choose to speak or not speak. There may be individual employees, identified by you or by the EAP counselors, who may need one-on-one attention, due to the severity of their grief reaction.

Listed below are subject areas to be considered when trying to effectively manage this kind of workplace situation. You will not be able to think of everything or meet every need – this is an unusual work situation where there are few protocols. You will, however, want to thoughtfully consider the following steps:

First Things First

Get all of the assistance you feel you will need to effectively manage the situation. Assess your own reaction to the news in order to anticipate the need to involve other resources within the organization.

Staff Notification

There is no way to anticipate how you will learn of the death of one of your employees. You may be the first to know from the family, but often the news will travel a more circuitous route and another employee may alert you. No matter how you learn of the incident, react quickly by notifying immediate staff and close work friends directly, and the rest of the company through written communications, such as an email or memorandum. Remember to contact staff who are away or on leave. Share whatever information you have and explain that more details will be forthcoming.

Attending the Funeral or Memorial Service

Arrange time for your staff to attend the funeral or memorial service if they would like to do so. You may need to hire a temporary worker to answer phones for a few hours so that everyone can attend. Attending the memorial service is an important part of the grieving process.

Remembering the Deceased Employee

The relationship the employee had with co-workers will often determine how the workplace decides to remember the deceased. Examples of work group responses include: creating a memorial bulletin board with photos and other meaningful images, holding a workplace event such as a luncheon or reception to honor the deceased employee. Invite family members and close friends outside of work to share their memories with the group. You might also: create a memory book filled with stories and sentiments from co-workers to give to the family, have a fundraiser to give a financial donation to a chosen charity organization, or write an article about the employee for the in-house newsletter.

Other Workplace Issues

Some of the more concrete issues which you, as the manager, will need to address are:

Desk and personal belongings.

Family members or a close work friend may want to handle the task of boxing up the in dividual’s personal belongings.

Changing the voice mail message, retrieving messages (voice mail and email), handling inquires intended for the deceased employee.

These tasks could be shared or rotated among staff to ease the emotional burden of having to tell callers that the employee has died. Prepare a brief statement to assist those who reply to calls.

Staff coverage for unfinished or future work assignments.

A temporary, short-term plan can be put into place until a more permanent decision can be made. It is best to put a temporary plan into action as soon as possible to lessen the level of anxiety that is already present among the staff. Make it clear what is needed and who is responsible.

Office space.

It is best not to make any abrupt moves in regard to space changes; people need time to grieve the loss of their co- worker before seeing his or her workstation dismantled. In a month or so, there will be more acceptance of the changes which come from the loss of the co-worker.

The replacement employee.

Under the best of circumstances, a new employee needs to be prepared for possible negative comparisons with the deceased employee. If the deceased was particularly well-liked, the transition will be even more difficult. It is advisable to give staff notice of the new employee’s start date, relevant work background and to prepare them for the change. It is a normal part of accepting a loss to welcome someone new.

Loss of work productivity and motivation.

As the manager, expect the death of an employee to result in lower productivity and motivation for a brief time. The debriefing held soon after the announcement will ease the impact of loss, but it cannot be avoided entirely. Eventually, the work unit will return to its normal level of functioning.

Referring to the EAP.

If one to two months pass and you notice that one of your employees has not returned to his or her normal level of functioning and appears to still be grieving, talk to that employee, give them feedback on what you have observed and share your concerns about them. You may suggest that they seek counseling from your EAP. Often, a loss in one area of someone’s life, as in the loss of a co-worker, triggers unresolved feelings about previous losses or anticipated losses. This person may need extra assistance in coping with these feelings.

This article was written by Nancie Bowes Kenney, M.S.W. Edited by Mary McClain Georgevich

CopeLine is published by: COPE, Inc. 1120 G Street, NW Suite 550 Washington, DC

Additional Resources

Necessary Losses, The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow, Viorst, Judith, Fireside, 1998. Section IV, Chapters 16 through 20 are particularly significant in regards to loss and grief.

Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, Scribner, 1997.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner, Harold, Avon, 1997.